A more powerful engine, bigger wheels, stiffer suspension, some body addenda: these are the mechanical ingredients commonly used to differentiate top-of-the-line performance SUVs.
World-first engine technologies and expensive specially engineered electrical architectures – the technical stuff of this SQ7 – are not typically on the menu.
But Audi has gone above and beyond what might have been expected of it in engineering this car, with a legacy in mind that has already benefited the Bentley Bentayga and will go on to the improvement of the next SQ5, the new Porsche Panamera and plenty of others to follow.
Based on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB Evo platform, the SQ7 is directly related to the models above. Like a standard Q7, it features mixed-material monocoque construction, an aluminium body and height-adjustable, adaptively damped air suspension.
And, like a standard Q7, it offers four-wheel steering as an option. But unlike the lesser model, the SQ7 gets a specification that can also include an optional torque-vectoring ‘sport’ rear differential for its quattro four-wheel drive system and the electromechanical active roll cancellation system we first sampled on the Bentayga.
Those active anti-roll bars are not only exceedingly clever but also necessarily powerful, charged with the not insignificant task of keeping upright a high-riding car weighing no less than 2270kg in five-seat mode. Powered by the bespoke 48V electrical architecture that also runs the engine’s electrically powered induction compressor, the anti-roll bars actively decouple to allow a more compliant ride when the car is tracking straight, only to recouple (under up to 885lb ft of electric motor torque, no less) as the car corners, to the benefit of handling response.
They can even ‘recuperate’ electrical energy from long-wave ride inputs and store it up in the car’s lithium ion high-voltage battery to deploy later.
The 90deg, 3956cc V8 diesel engine under the SQ7’s bonnet is designed with its pair of turbochargers in a ‘hot inside vee’ layout, like the similar-sized twin-turbocharged petrol V8 that powers the RS6.
But upstream of those sequential turbochargers, on the intake side of the cylinder heads, it has a supplementary electric motor-driven induction compressor that can be spun up to 70,000rpm in just a quarter of a second, charging the engine with enough boost pressure to produce its 664lb ft torque peak from just 1000rpm. This is also the first Audi diesel engine to use variable valve lift technology.