The Audi SQ7 TDI isn’t really my kind of car. For a start, I don’t have £95,000 lying around.
Nor do I need anything in my life that weighs almost two-and-a-half tonnes (if I did, then it would be Unimog-shaped).
And yet it is hard to dismiss cars like the SQ7, if for no other reason than they are so toweringly competent: nothing that weighs this much or occupies such a vast swathe of tarmac should handle so well or go so fast.
It would also appear that I am in a minority. The marketplace is full of six-figure four-wheel-drive vehicles that will never see even a light dusting of dirt much less full-on, axle-deep mud.
In the same way as a Rolex doesn’t need to be waterproof to a depth of 100m, cars like the SQ7 are all about the image they project and the ambience they endow rather than any practicality they might confer.
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Exceeding usual high standards
And what an ambience. No one does interiors like Audi and the SQ7 is head-and-shoulders above even the German company’s usual high standards.
The Range Rover Sport might feel slightly more cossetting but for faultless ergonomics and bank-vault build quality nothing beats the SQ7.
But it comes at a price; the basic list price of the V8 diesel might be £69,785 but my test car was fitted with over £25,000 worth of optional extras. Thus a reasonably priced car was turned into a nigh-on £100,000 one in the blink of an eye.
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Factor in the extras
The leather sports seats alone added £2,000 to the final bill and if you want the front pair to have an electric memory – and why wouldn’t you? – you’ll need to stump up another £550. Plus £280 for the ambient lighting pack, £400 for the electrically adjustable steering column, £150 for a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and £1,700 for a panoramic sunroof.
Oh, and another £350 for rear side airbags, £800 for carbon trim inlays, £1,100 for a Bose stereo, and £1,180 for the Audi ‘entertainment mobile’.
Oh, and another £450 if you want to be able to connect your mobile phone to your new executive toy.
If you’re in the marketplace for a car like this then I’m sure you’ll factor in the cost of the extras too but I bet it’d leave a bitter taste, nonetheless.
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The SQ7 is fabulous to drive, in a rather detached way. While no one needs a V8 turbocharged engine or 663 lb ft of torque, both are very, very nice to have at your disposal.
The diesel engine benefits from a clever little electric turbine that spools up the turbocharger at low engine revs, the very time when a conventional turbo can be slow to react. Two conventional, exhaust-driven turbines feed the turbo at higher revs. It’s a clever solution and an effective one; acceleration, whether from a standstill or overtaking, is utterly effortless.
For a car of this size – and the SQ7 is a full seven-seater – to reach 62mph in less than five seconds is astounding and it does so with little apparent effort.
Other than a lovely noise, of course. The Audi SQ7 delivers what must be the best engine and exhaust note ever to come from a production diesel car. Hang the fuel consumption; I think it would take several months for me to get tired of listening to that engine under full-throttle acceleration…
The handling is brilliantly understated. Width aside, the SQ7’s handling never intrudes on your consciousness; it simply goes where you point it and stops when you tell it to.
Motorway schleps are undertaken in almost complete silence and while the Audi’s sheer size makes city work slightly worrisome, country lanes are despatched with aplomb thanks to £5,700-worth of optional four-wheel steering, sports differential, and a 24-volt electromechanical body-roll control system.
Of course, the flipside to all this high technology is that driving pleasure comes a distant second to lofty contempt. Others might have to worry about potholes but for the SQ7 driver they simply cease to matter; you’ll feel them – this is an Audi, after all - but you’ll never worry that they’re going to break anything because the SQ7 bulldozes its way through life’s everyday petty obstacles with a disdain I wish I could muster.
With five adults aboard and the rearmost seats folded the available boot space is very good. It suffers, of course, when those extra two seats are in use but the payoff is that they’re fine for shorter adults as well as children, even on longer journeys.
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An impressive package
All in all, the Audi SQ7 TDI is an impressive package and the perfect halo model to the rest of the Q7 range.
If you can afford one then you are unlikely to be disappointed but you must accept that few companies are as adept as Audi at extracting money from your bank account by way of the options list and the V8 engine would be an unnecessary extravagance for most.
Mind you, reason does rather fly out of the window once you hear that glorious engine note…
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Power – 429bhp
Torque – 663 lb ft
0-62mph – 4.9 seconds
Top speed – 155mph
Kerb weight – 2,330kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 37.2mpg
CO2 emissions – 199g/km
VED class – Band J
Towing capacity (braked) – 3,500kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 750kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £69,785
Price as tested - £95,160
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The Range Rover Sport might have patchy reliability but it is probably the best all-purpose car in the world for anyone who needs genuine off-road ability and on-road pace.
The best of the rest
The Audi SQ7 TDI sounds incredible, goes like stink but gets very expensive very quickly.
The Volvo XC90 isn’t as upmarket (although it’s close) but the T8 is stonkingly quick and almost as profligate as the SQ7.
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