Audi SQ7 (2017) review: Is this sporty Q7 the best SUV you can buy?

Price when reviewed

Twenty years ago, SUVs were a strange new thing, but in 2017 there are loads of them. Nowadays, they’re separated into different sizes, too, so you’ve got hatchback-sized ones like the new Volvo XC40 and Audi Q2 and then behemoths like the superb Volvo XC90.

Audi, who seems to have a model to suit everyone, has four SUVs alone – and the Audi Q7 sits at the very top.

Like the Volvo XC90, the Q7 sits at the heavyweight end of the scale. It can seat seven with room to spare and, like the Volvo XC90, it claims to be the most advanced SUV you can currently buy. That’s a bold claim to make, because the XC90 is great and, having tested the T8 Twin engine R Design XC90, I think the Q7 has its work cut out for it.


Audi SQ7 review: Design

If you’ve seen an Audi Q-series car – or any Audi for that matter – the Audi Q7 will look familiar. I drove the SQ7, a sportier version of Audi’s flagship SUV but the broad strokes of the car remain the same. If grilles indicate status within the Audi range, the Q7 is the Godfather of the model line up. Around a third of the car’s front nose is occupied by a mammoth, polished grille – and it’s something you either love or you hate. I’m in the former camp.

Look around the rest of the car and you’ll find the same design cues as the rest of the Audi range; it’s rather slab-sided and not particularly exciting to look at. And, try as it might, the Q7’s design accents aren’t enough to veil the sheer size of the thing. Unlike the Volvo XC90, which is somehow able to disguise its heft, the Audi Q7 still looks and feels like a tank of a car.

Audi SQ7 review: Interior and performance

However, step into the Audi and you’ll discover that its size is put to good use. The cabin is huge, but everything in here is in proportion, in particular, the car’s big 8.3in infotainment screen. This runs the same “MMI” system you can see in everything from the Audi A5 to the Q2. Just like those cars, and the Audi TT RS, the Q7 also comes with the fantastic 12.3in Virtual Cockpit system. If you can afford it, the Q7 also comes with rear-screens for second-row passengers, too.

The model I drove came with Audi’s Technology Pack, which combines Virtual Cockpit, a Head-Up Display and Audi Phone Box. The latter is a unique system that instantly pairs your phone to car, while also wirelessly charging it if it’s Qi compatible. Brands such as BMW offer a similar option, and although it doesn’t offer additional functionality, it does make your life slightly easier.

Audi’s current satnav system is an impressive performer, too, and the menus of the Q7 are simple and effective to use. General UI is an area where the Audi MMI infotainment system has always excelled, so it’s welcome here in the Q7, too. Like Audis – apart from the new A7 and A8 – the Q7 shuns a touchscreen in favour of a more mechanical setup.


Look closely, however, and you’ll find one major difference to the rest of the Audi range. Instead of the standard seven-way control dial, the Audi Q7 uses a smaller knob, and combines it with a large touchpad, complete with two buttons for selection.

Despite the change in interface, the Q7’s touchpad is intuitive to use and its large surface area makes scribbling characters while entering addresses, for instance, as straightforward as you like. Is it better than the standard Audi system? That’s hard to say but it does work well.

One area where you might think such an unusual control system might come a cropper is when using Android Auto and Apple Carplay; however, both systems are easy to use once you get the hang of things.

The Audi SQ7 I drove was also fitted with an incredible Bose 3D sound system and it sounded just as impressive as in other Audi models I’ve driven. It’s a £1,100 upgrade option and isn’t the most high end of Audi’s audio options, sitting just below the premium Bang and Olufsen system, but it still pumps out a balanced sound that’s as clear and controlled as you’ll find in most rivals. Okay, it can’t quite match the Burmester system in the Mercedes S-Class but it still delivers a comparable performance to the Bowers and Wilkins system in the Volvo XC90 T8 R Design I drove earlier this year.


Audi SQ7 review: Autonomous functions

Cars as big as the Q7 are often a pain to manoeuvre, but thankfully the Audi features a range of autonomous and warning technology to make life easier.

As you’d expect, the Audi SQ7 has parking sensors and adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping functionality, too. The SQ7’s cruise control has its very own stalk under the steering wheel, and although it’s fiddly at times, it’s nice to have everything in one place. It’s not as good as Volvo’s steering based solution, but it gets the job done.

What’s more, the semi-autonomous functions in the SQ7 work as promised. Lane-keeping is confidence inspiring, and the car will consistently keep the required distance between you and the car in front. My only issue? The SQ7 will often read signs and automatically set your cruising speed to reflect them.

Doing 72 mph and feeling the car drop down to 70 mph is irritating, but having the car mistakenly “see” a 40 mph sign in a 70 mph zone is both unnerving and worrying. Thankfully, you can turn it off – but it’s a shame it’s not a bulletproof feature yet.

Audi SQ7 review: Drive

The SQ7 I drove is a tuned up, high-performance version of the standard Q7 and, as strange as the idea of a tuned SUV sounds, it all makes sense when you get behind the wheel. Simply put, the SQ7 is faster and more agile than it has any right to be at this size.

Most of that performance comes from a 429bhp high-voltage V8 diesel engine, which pushes the SQ7 from 0-60mph in less than five seconds.

Those numbers look great on paper but it’s the sheer instantaneous acceleration of the SQ7 that’s most impressive. The SQ7’s power plant works in a similar way to a modern F1 engine: thanks to an electric motor that spools up the turbo in advance, there’s no turbo lag at all and that means engine response is instant.

The handling of the SQ7 betrays its size somewhat but the brakes on this car are incredible. The model I drove was fitted with ceramic brakes similar to what you’d find on the Audi RS5. They’re a pricey £8,000 option but they bring the bulky SQ7 to a halt with scarcely believable speed.


Audi SQ7 review: Verdict

If you’re in the market for an SUV you could do worse than Q7 and, if you want practicality with an element of the insane the SQ7 is a great choice. However, when compared with the Volvo XC90 the Q7 becomes less of an obvious choice. It’s a great looking car and, like most Audis I’ve driven, it’s executed perfectly. However, it’s hard to put ahead of the XC90, a car that might not have the same performance Q7, but does have the tech and a little more style and character. 

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