Forget the bells and whistles: our new Audi SQ7 is the full symphony.
A harmonic of soft hide, brushed metal, muted ambient lighting, brute power and high-end tech. Lavishly equipped as standard yet laden with more than £24,000 of extra kit, it’s plush and then some.
For starters on the ‘included’ list of our super-SUV, there is the wondrous 4.0-litre V8 diesel, complete with three blowers. Yup, three. But you probably know that since we talked all about it in the Autocar road test, where it got 4.5 stars. I won’t dwell on it long here. Suffice to say that in the brief time I’ve had the car, the stupidly potent ocean of torque and the menacing burble from the exhausts are things of which I will never, ever tire. I’m also impressed at how well the car rides on the standard adaptive air suspension, even on the optional (£500) Tornado 21in alloy wheels.
It’s not only the mechanical bits that are impressive as standard. Also thrown in is the full-fat sat-nav and multimedia system, digital dials, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, four-zone climate control, LED headlights, all-round parking sensors, a reversing camera, automatic lights and wipers, powered bootlid, keyless go… you get the picture. Frankly, it’s an achievement to have found more than £24,000 of equipment that can be added to a car as generously equipped as the SQ7, but that’s what has been achieved here, and we’re hardly complaining.
If I were to actually dwell in detail on all the options, we’d be here for the entire six-month duration of the car’s loan. So we’ll address the highlights now and touch more on the rest throughout the Audi’s stay.
The most expensive extra is the £5700 Driving Dynamics Sports Pack. All-wheel steering, sports differential and active anti-roll bars are all to be found in this pack and – again, read more in the road test – it certainly works.
A panoramic sunroof – always a popular addition in this class of car – comes in at £1700. To further keep the kids happy, two removable tablet screens adorn the back of the front seats (called Audi Entertainment Mobile and priced at £1180), while a Bose 3D sound system (£1100) takes the SQ7 a step closer to being a mobile music and entertainment magnum opus. Something called an Audi Phone Box – not, in fact, a phone box – will wirelessly charge your phone, should your phone be newfangled enough. That costs £450.
Giving the SQ7 the ability to steer itself into parking spaces costs £1500 and having a key that can tell the car who’s driving and activate their saved seating position is £950.
Tick the £1705 Tour Pack box and the car gains mystical, preemptive skills. The big Audi will autonomously stop and crawl in time with sluggish traffic, automatically stop from 19mph if it senses a collision and even apply steering force to try to point the car away from the potential accident if a suitable escape route is spotted by the allseeing radar eye. You also have to add this package option if you want the relevant speed limit beamed onto your dashboard. That seems a shame, because some buyers might want the traffic sign recognition without all the rest of it.
This autonomous driving technology has made a dramatic leap forwards of late. Only a couple of years ago, I was adamant that most of it was more interference than assistance. Then I drove the new BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Gone were the sometimes erratic braking responses and unsettling beeps, flashes and steering inputs, and in their place was a reliable, intuitive array of tech that genuinely took the stress out of mundane driving situations. The Audi has made just the same leap, so don’t discount this safety kit. These days, it’s actually useful and effective.
The Audi Matrix LED headlights are another remarkable feature. As with the autonomous driving features mentioned above, it seems to me that automatic high-beam headlights have gone in a very short period of time from being something verging on a dangerous pain in the proverbial to being utterly superb. Audi’s set-up (£950 on the SQ7) is the best I’ve experienced. It’s genuinely extraordinary to see it in action (you can watch the lights shadowing oncoming traffic from the dazzlingly bright lights) and I’ve already come to appreciate it as the days get shorter.
It’s not unreasonable to mention the S-Class and 7 Series in our introduction to the SQ7. These days, upmarket SUVs often tread in much the same buyer demographic as luxury limos, and I have an inkling that the Audi is a more worthy adversary to those ‘proper’ luxury cruisers than any SUV apart from the Range Rover.
So this is something we’ll investigate during the rather enviable task of running the SQ7. We know it drives well, but does it live well? Does it live up to the price and the world-class luxury metal that you could also have for your mountain of cash? On top of that, there’s the family question. It seems pretty obvious that a seven-seater of this size will be ideal for any family purposes, but it’s amazing how hefting baby seats and buggies in and out of a car every day can reveal all manner of weird niggles and flaws in a car’s packaging.
In short, to fulfil its brief, the SQ7 needs to be an ideal combination of family runabout, sports SUV and luxury car, with little or no compromise on any of those roles. Only mileage and real-world use will tell how well it truly covers that broad-ranging remit, but if you’ll forgive the vaguely sickening smugness here, I’m already pretty sure that daily use of our big, posh Audi is going to be no chore at all.
AUDI SQ7 4.0 TDI QUATTRO
Price £70,970 Price as tested £95,160 Options Driving Dynamics Sports Pack £5700, black Valcona leather S Sports Seats Plus £2000, Tour Pack £1705, panoramic glass sunroof £1700, Parking Pack Advanced £1500, head-up display £1350, Trailer Pack £1300, Audi Entertainment Mobile £1180, Bose 3D Sound System £1100, Advanced key £950, Audi Matrix LED headlights £950, Carbon Atlas inlays £800, Sepang Blue pearl paint £675, front seat memory function £550, 21in Tornado alloy wheels £500, Audi Phone Box £450, red brake calipers £400, electrically adjustable steering column £400, rear side airbags £350, ambient lighting £280, heated, electrically folding and auto-dimming door mirrors £200, three-spoke flat-bottomed Sport steering wheel Economy 29.6mpg Faults None Expenses None