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This is a story about a bus embarrassing a sports car and yes, this bus will soon be in India. Meet the Audi SQ7. It is the biggest, baddest Audi around and it brings with it its own Star Wars programme. You see, it’s got a 4-litre, tri-turbo diesel V8 kicking out 430bhp and, get this, 900Nm of torque. All of this designed to hurl 2330kg of SQ7 down the road as fast as possible.
Just another fast SUV?
Not at all. There are two electrical systems – the regular 12-volt system that powers all the conventional stuff and a new, first for a production car, 48-volt electrical system. The second system is interesting because it powers a, first for a production car, electric turbocharger and an electro-mechanical active anti-roll system. The former helps the Q7 get to corners faster and the latter helps it carry that speed through the corner. The SQ7 also gets four-wheel steering (like on the Nissan GT-R) and a torque vectoring sport differential at the rear.
What about the other two turbos?
It works like this. When you start off, the electric turbo charger wakes up. It spins to 70,000rpm in a quarter of a second and fills in the gap in initial power delivery that turbo-diesels are known for. It then cuts out and hands the game over to the first of the conventional turbos that kicks in for strong mid-range kick. If you push on, the bigger, second turbo joins the party and starts blowing hard for a mad rush to the engine’s 5000rpm redline.
It sounds complicated and it probably is but from the driver’s seat, it is all normal. Well, if you can call a punch in the kidneys normal.
With your foot flat on the throttle, Audi claims a 0-100kmph time of 4.9sec. Remember, this SUV weighs the better part of 2.5 tonnes. More telling is how terrifying it is when you are driving normally – it gets to 180kmph like a normal car gets to 60kmph and it is always pushing the limits of your license’s poker face. It is totally effortless and that engine is a beast because it actually starts its shove soon after 1000rpm and will sustain that shove all the way to 5000rpm through every one of the eight gears in its torque converter transmission. It is nuts. It is mental.
What is it like to chuck 2330kg around a corner?
Absolutely loony. Audi will tell you that active anti-roll system cancels body roll but in truth there is a bit of it. Just a bit mind you. There’s tremendous grip from the Quattro system, that engine is ever eager to power out of a corner, no matter what speed or engine revs and the steering is, well, lifeless. Yes it is sharp and quick but for something that claims to be sporty, it falls short in terms of feel and engagement. So, what the SQ7 ends up being is a big bruiser that muscles Newton’s laws into submission. You can confidently chuck the elephant into a corner knowing fully well that you will come out the other side in one piece and much faster than you expected.
Ok. There is one thing though. The brakes are the first to throw their hands up. No, they don’t give up completely – far from it –but the pedal does get soggy after a hard run down a mountain. That aside, the SQ7 is a great long distance car. Give it a road like the Pune-Bangalore highway and it will get you there double quick. After driving it on the hill roads in France and on their highways I got the distinct feeling that it is much better at the latter. Though it will go up and down a hill road like nothing its size should rightfully do but it does also tell you it likes long, open corners and straight stretches. A Porsche Cayenne Turbo this is not.
Is it comfortable?
Yes. The seats are superb (yes the third row is for kids), you get an indoor arena to stretch out in and like all of Audi’s new gen interiors, the Q7’s will gob smack you with its quality. It rides a bit firm (even on the softest suspension setting) but that’s understandable. I think I’d rather prefer the feeling of control the firm suspension gives as opposed to heading warp speed for a tree.
Hear one while it goes past you and you will be forgiven for thinking there is a petrol V8 under the hood. In ‘Dynamic’ mode there’s real American muscle in its soundtrack. It isn’t very loud in the cabin but it will leave passers by in no doubt that this is a sporting Q7.
Oh, the 48-volt system’s 13kW lithium ion battery is very compact. In length and width, it is about the same size as a regular battery but it isn’t as tall. It is why it sits unobtrusively under the boot floor. It doesn’t need to be plugged in to be charged – the car’s electrical systems take care of it and Audi says that during testing, the none of the systems used enough juice to run the battery flat. The regular 12-volt battery sits under the front passenger’s footwell by the way.
Should you buy one?
Ok so when it comes to India, the SQ7 will stand out from other fast SUV’s in India because it runs on diesel. If anything, it should have a better chance than the giants from AMG, M, SVR and SRT because of that. Also, Audi claims it will go a 1000km on its 85-litre tank and on our drive, the range readout did show 490km on half a tank. Jetta economy with vRS performance. Nice.
Audi is coy about talking about prices yet but expect it to cost around Rs 1.5 crore when it is launched here soon after the new A4.