Australians appetite for hot versions of cars shows no sign of abating, particularly in upmarket German vehicles. Even SUVs are getting the treatment these days, with the just released Audi SQ7 TDI a striking example. Only a few weeks after the launch of the standard Q7 SUV the warmed over S version has arrived.
Note the ‘TDI’ in the title indicating this Q7 has turbo-diesel power. This will come as no surprise to motorsport followers given that Audi diesel-electric hybrids dominated the prestigious Le Mans 24-hour race for many years. Lessons learnt from that ultra-tough event have obviously been integrated into the SQ7 TDI.
Indeed, the Audi SUV can almost be described as having a micro-hybrid powerplant that’s related to the Le Mans cars.
The SQ7 is powered by 4.0-litre V8 engine with two variable-geometry turbochargers that can produce up to 2.4 bar of boost pressure. The bane of any turbo engine, especially one with a large capacity, is the time it takes for the turbine wheels to get spinning to full effect. So the SQ7 engine uses an electrically powered compressor (EPC) to blow air into one of the diesel turbochargers to reduce turbo lag.
The 48-Volt EPC spins up to its full 70,000 rpm within about a quarter of a second and nudges the exhaust powered compressor up to speed with the added air.
It all works pretty effectively, though we have to say there was still a little lag before the full effect of the turbos blasted us forward during our extended drive program in the Snowy Mountains region from Canberra to Tumult – the long way around.
By the ‘full effect’ we mean a glorious 900 Newton metres of torque was there for the taking from as low as 1000 rpm, remaining at that level until 3250 revs.
This sort of torque lets the transmission hold onto high gears for longer than usual, resulting in easy relaxed driving and officially measured fuel consumption of just 7.2 litres per hundred kilometres.
Maximum power is 320 kilowatts, but it’s the torque that does the talking.
This 2.3-tonne SUV can leap from rest to 100 km/h in just 4.9 seconds. That’s if you go for the seven-seat version, which almost all Australian owners have done in the past. If you only need five seats, the SQ7 is a little lighter and can drop the zero to 100 to 4.8 seconds. Which is crazy stuff from a big family station wagon.
During cornering the Audi SQ7 is just as phenomenally sporting as in a straight line. Audi’s sophisticated quattro all-wheel-drive system gives the correct torque to each wheel. Four-wheel steering helps provide further cornering stability. But there’s more … our test car was equipped with adaptive air suspension featuring roll minimisation for flatter cornering.
If you get into trouble in this big Audi SQ7 you really have done something very silly. Naturally there is a plethora of safety systems to aid you in the unlikely event of a crash.
Our testing was all done in a seven-seater. The front seats are large and comfortable, the centre row of three seats is easy to access and the rear two pews aren’t too hard to get into if you move the centre-row backrests out of the way. But it’s still best left to lithe children rather than grandma and grandpa.
Interestingly Audi recently announced its withdrawal from the endurance series, which includes Le Mans, to take part in Formula E racing. These highly specialised cars look like regular open-wheel racers but are powered only by electricity.
We have already sampled several vehicles in the Audi e-tron range and look forward to getting into the driver’s seat of the Q7 version when they arrive in Australia at a date yet to be announced in 2017.