AUDI is turning up the heat in its bid to top the luxury SUV league.
With new Q7 just out of the blocks, Audi has delivered a double broadside with a stonkingly quick SQ7 and a hybrid Q7 e-tron.
The techno packed SQ7 is the headline grabber boasting the title of fastest and most powerful diesel SUV.
Yes, SQ7 will outdrag a BMW X5 M50, Range Rover Sport and Porsche Cayenne with a sprint to 62mph taking 4.9 seconds, the first diesel SUV to break the magic five second barrier.
Even more significant is the 900Nm of torque, a humungous figure that is heaps more than BMW and Range Rover and 50Nm up on Cayenne.
The beating heart is a burbling 4-litre bi-turbo V8. What gives it a performance edge is an electric powered compressor that snuffs out turbo lag. Power for the 7kW compressor comes from a 48-volt electrical sub system. Well I did say the car was packed with technology.
It has the SQ7 off the line in a flash and there’s more to come with the first turbo kicking in at the low end of the rev range, building to a crushing finale thanks to the second turbo.
Everything happens smoothly and quickly, and the biggest challenge is to keep the beast inside the speed limits.
Official figures show the car will average nearly 40mpg but I can’t imagine anyone getting remotely close to that. You don’t buy a supercar and drive it with a light foot do you?
This sort of performance in a big seven seater demands better than average handling so Audi has mustered every techno aid in its armoury. As well as a variety of drive modes the quattro SQ7 is beefed up with a complex anti-roll system, sport differential controlling torque between the rear wheels, and all wheel steering which basically helps the car to corner faster.
Basic price is £70,970, £15k below a top Range Rover, although in true Audi tradition extras can bump up the price to around £100,000. The ultimate sports package is £6,000 and then there is the 1,920 Watt Bang and Olufsen sound system with 15 channel amplifier and 19 speakers.
It bangs out eardrum shattering volume but without distortion, great for saving on hiring a DJ for an outdoor party.
So what do you get for £71,000? Audi says it has bumped up the spec list which is quite long. Among the standout features are full leather, the now famous virtual cockpit with a 12inch screen covering the instrument binnacle showing everything from Google Earth navigation to fuel level, all in a size of your choosing.
Seven seats with power lift for the third row, a mind boggling variety of connectivity options, 4-zone electronic climate control, air suspension, keyless go, powered tailgate, hill descent control, 8-speed automatic gearbox with steering wheel paddle shifters... I could go on.
If all this SQ7 power is a bit daunting then a calmer option is the e-tron plug in hybrid. This is only Audi’s second hybrid and a first for the Q family.
A 3-litre TDI engine is mated with a 94kW electric motor pumping out 365bhp. If everything goes to plan the car can travel 34 miles on its electric motor and ultimately return 156mpg.
I am yet to achieve the predicted average mpg in any hybrid car but a 30-mile country drive in the
e-tron returned just over 70mpg which was pretty damn good for a car that hits sixty in six seconds and has engine emissions of just 48g/km, so running costs will be a lot lower than SQ7. Asking price is £64,950. A full charge takes two and a half hours.
Can SQ7 really take it to Range Rover? It wins on outright performance and I rate it ahead of R-R Sport on handling.
Make no mistake Audi has come up with a beautifully balanced SUV with aggressive driving dynamics.
Everything about SQ7 is pristine, the dashboard laid out with the precision of a surgeon’s instrument table but somehow it still doesn’t have the luxury penthouse suite aura of a Range Rover.
Will that will be the job of the even more sporty Q8. Watch this space...