Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The diesel V8 found under the vast bonnet of the previous-generation Audi SQ7 was an absolute powerhouse of an engine and felt perfectly in keeping with the car’s continent-crushing demeanour. However, the moment you thumb the starter button in the latest SQ7 and hear the rumble of that characterful twin-turbocharged petrol V8 (which is also used in the Porsche Cayenne GTS), all thoughts of the old engine are banished.
Put your foot down in any gear and the mighty forward thrust is akin to surfing a tsunami. Maximum grunt is available from just 2000rpm and doesn’t let up until the power band takes over at 4000rpm. That surge of power is complemented by the silky-smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox. In the previous diesel SQ7, there was a noticeable lag when you put your foot down, but that has been ironed out. Even around town, gear shifts are only perceptible because of the change in the engine tone.
Part of that is down to the fact that all SQ7’s come with four-wheel steering. At slow speeds, the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to the front ones, helping the big seven-seater turn into tighter corners with the enthusiastic character of a hot hatchback. When you're going faster, the rear wheels turn in the same direction, giving the SQ7 more stability. The steering is nicely weighted to give you confidence in what the front wheels are up to, although you do get more feedback in a Cayenne.
The standard fit adaptive sports air suspension has a selection of driving modes to soften or stiffen the set-up, helping to broaden the SQ7s repertoire. When you pop the suspension into its softest Comfort setting, ride quality is as good as it gets in a super-fast SUV. Yes, the regular Audi Q7 is even more supple, but the SQ7 still breezes over all manner of lumps and bumps. Even the Black Edition and Vorsprung models, which roll on whopping 22in alloy wheels as standard, are remarkably comfortable, although they do pick up on surface imperfections a little more.
Sit at a steady 70mph in the Audi SQ7 and there's a little more roar from the fat tyres than you’d hear in a Q7, but the car suppresses tyre and wind noise incredibly well – better than a Cayenne and on a par with the limousine-like X7 M50i. Unlike the discontinued V8 diesel, the petrol V8 sounds fantastic at all speeds, whether it's bumbling around town or right at the top of the rev range.