Let’s face it, regardless of how much patience we claim to have; none of us really like to wait. Queues bring on sighs, the revolving wheel or hourglass on the computer sparks anger and frustration and don’t get me started on the endless wasted hours shoe shopping with the wife. On the flipside we do like to achieve things. Winning awards, getting promoted, even just getting to the next gaming level, fill us with a sense of pride – however there is an underlying ‘provided it doesn’t take too long’ clause (or we lose interest). I guess what I’m trying to say is ‘we all like INSTANT gratification’.
Small sports cars are not en vogue at the moment and although big diesel engine’d SUVs are incredibly functional (able to tow boats and transport the family anywhere they care to go) they are not exactly quick off the mark – that is until now. Audi’s new SQ7 boasts of being the World’s most powerful Diesel SUV and took us to the Meremere Dragstrip to prove it – but not before teasing us at the heliport. The launch invite asked us to meet them at head office where we would be transported to the heliport in Onehunga. Ok so I jumped to conclusions but when you put Luxury SUV launch and heliport on the same invite… Anyway, Audi had something better in mind.
First the briefing. They showed us the dramatic video of the SQ7 racing a jet to instantly grab our attention and then talked us through the changes. By now most of us are aware of how capable and electronically advanced the new Q7 is, but Audi (bless them) felt the need to rev it up a little both in terms of looks and performance – let’s start with the aesthetics.
The SQ7 has a sportier body kit upgrade which includes the grille having bars, spoilers, a rear diffuser and sports exhaust. The already plush interior (full of Nappa leather and Audi wizardry) has been treated to and spoilt by their Aluminium team (the product not the people); the result is an even more refined cabin. To top it off (should you need to) there are 2 upgrade packs available – Lux (Heated Wheel and seats, power assisted closing doors, panoramic roof) and then there’s the most excellent Performance pack (Active roll stability, All Wheel Steering, Sports Diff and Red brake calipers). Now on to the main event what lies beneath. Running concurrently to the SQ7’s 12v system is a 48volt sub system that allows the big SUV to really stretch its legs and in turn the vehicle’s boundaries. First and foremost the engine – it has a 4Litre (hot V) V8 TDI brute that has DLC (Diamond Like Carbon) on all friction surfaces and weighs in at 320kgs. It has three, yes three turbos (two 'regular plus one partial electric driven compressor) that step up from one to the other as the revs grow and are effectively ‘always on’ producing near mind blowing numbers. 320kW of power, 900Nm of torque from as little as 1000rpm, the spooling compressor takes revs from 5-7000 in .3 of a second, 0-100 arrives at a reported 4.9seconds and it has a combined boost pressure of 3.6bar – what these figures all add up to is Immediate power, Instant Gratification and Instant Wheeee.
To test out all the added power and handling we drove to the Meremere raceway dragstrip for a couple of exercises – a drag race and a slalom run. Drag racing is a funny old sport, two quarter mile lanes side by side, mano a mano, with nothing but first past the line being the intended result. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of skill and nerve needed (especially as you move up the ranks) but strip it all back and it’s about raw power being laid down on a track as effectively as possible and the buzz is exceptional. We lined up our SQ7’s both Lux and Performance and raced down the rubber laden tarmac to the end, swapped cars and did it all again. Watching the amber lights drop down to green, getting the timing right and speeding off the line is a thrill and it didn’t hurt that the SQ7’s are quick, not just quick for a large diesel family SUV but simply quick full stop. The reported best time was 13 seconds and a top speed of 105mph (169kph). The 48v subsystem also drives the SQ7’s eARS (electromechanical Active Roll Stabilisation) system. Without getting too technical, it’s a coke bottle sized tube of genius that (using speed vs wheel turn data) applies torque to the roll bars, stabilizing the ride and literally prevents roll.
With the exercises over, we headed off to Tauranga via the back roads to really get a taste of the how the SQ7 handled the NZ pavement. There is power underfoot constantly and the boost line on the electronic dash is seldom under halfway – this is a vehicle that you would be well advised to set the speed limiter on if you want to retain your license. The ride itself is comfortable and luxurious but also tight on the turns, especially for this size of vehicle. It doesn’t seem too big to drive and overtakes other road users with ease (I refer you back to setting the speed limiter). There is a bit of road noise but possibly more apparent for this ride as I had the stereo down low to listen to the V8 heart. We spent the night at mighty fine Trinity Wharf and got the chance to chat with the Audi team about what was in store for 2017 – it appears quite a lot; but I won’t give the game away just yet. Then it was dinner, laughs and bed. Up (relatively) early the next morning for a hearty breakfast and a more direct route back home. It was a good chance to use the SQ7’s driver’s aids (such as adaptive cruise) and adopt a more leisurely drive back.
I will be getting behind the wheel of the SQ7 again in the weeks that follow and it will be good to see how it slots into family life – can’t wait in fact. From straight line speed to unyielding cornering this ‘World’s most powerful Diesel SUV’ really does offer up Instant Wheeeee!
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