2018 Audi SQ7 Vorsprung FIRST DRIVE review

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We test the ultimate version of our favourite fast SUV, the new Audi SQ7 Vorsprung. Is it worth the extra outlay?

*** Note : £1 = $1.31 (correct at time of post)

  • Price from £89,905
  • Release date Now

Type the words ‘all the car you’ll ever need’ into Google and you’ll be met with more than two billion results – proof enough that said phrase deserves to be consigned to history, alongside other motoring journalist clichés such as ‘falls easily to hand’ and ‘corners like it’s on rails’.

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But before we place those six words into Room 101, perhaps we should use them one last time to describe a car that truly can do it all: the Audi SQ7. Based on the truly fantastic Q7, a car we rate so highly that we named it the best Luxury SUV you can buy, not only do you benefit from seven proper seats, a luxurious interior and class-leading refinement, but with a whopping great 429bhp 4.0-litre V8 diesel engine up front you also have access to sports-car-shaming straight-line performance.

And yet, despite the SQ7 doing a great job of being ‘all the car you ever need’, Audi thinks there is still room for improvement. Cue the new SQ7 Vorsprung. According to the company, the Vorsprung variant “narrows the margin between luxury limousine and SUV even further” by introducing an exceptionally comprehensive list of standard kit.

And we really do mean comprehensive. Huge 22in wheels, a titanium black styling pack, matrix LED headlights and LED rear lights give the car a more dominant stance, while the interior benefits from sports seats in premium leather, extended LED lighting, a full leather package for the dashboard and doors, plus black Alcantara headlining. There’s also a punchy 558W Bose 3D sound system and a whole host of driver assistance technology.

However, all of this comes at a price, with the Vorsprung model costing an extra £15,520 over the standard car. So, is the upgrade really worth the cost of a well-specced Volkswagen Up GTI and some change?

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2018 Audi SQ7 Vorsprung on the road

To create a more focused version of the SQ7 would be to miss the point of this continent-crushing machine, so it’s no bad thing that the Vorsprung model is mechanically identical to the standard car. Indeed, it only takes a few minutes behind the wheel to fully understand the SQ7’s modus operandi: to be an effortlessly quick and luxurious people-hauler.

For example, despite having a razor-sharp accelerator response and a colossal 664lb ft of torque (that’s more shove than you get from a Ferrari 488 GTB), the way the engine actually delivers that grunt is linear and entirely predictable, ensuring that the car never feels frenetic or unbalanced. In fact, we’d go so far as to say the SQ7 is one of the most relaxing performance cars to drive at normal road speeds.

And this effortlessness doesn’t simply fade away if you decide to deploy all 429bhp of the engine. Even under full acceleration (when this near-two-and-a-half-tonne SUV can accelerate from 0-60mph in just 4.6sec), the SQ7 simply surges forward, with the eight-speed gearbox delivering smooth yet snappy shifts. From behind the wheel, this effortless thrust is somewhat reminiscent of a fully loaded 747 trying to claw its way into the air.

However, where the SQ7 really sets itself apart from other quick SUVs is in the way it hides its weight. Our test car unfortunately came without optional active anti-roll bars, but it still resisted corner lean in a way that should not be possible in a car that weighs the same as two Audi A3s. Combined with steering that is nicely weighted – if a little devoid of feel compared with a Porsche Cayenne’s – it’s very easy to place the SQ7 exactly where you want it on narrow B-roads.

But what about the ride, we hear you ask? Has it been ruined by those colossal wheels? Well, put simpy, no, it hasn’t. Granted, sharp-edged potholes and expansion joints do send more jolts through the interior than you’d get in a regular SQ7, but the suspension never crashes or bangs and it ultimately feels more pliant over scraggy roads than either the Range Rover Sport SVR or BMW X5 M50d.

2018 Audi SQ7 Vorsprung interior

One criticism of the standard SQ7 is that the interior is very similar to the cheaper Q7 – a complaint that can’t be levelled at the Vorsprung model. From the diamond-stitched front sports seats to the Alcantara headlining and panoramic sunroof, the interior finally feels comparable to the Range Rover Sport SVR and Porsche Cayenne Turbo in terms of wow factor.

And, unlike those two competitors, you won’t need to specify any options, since the SQ7 comes fully loaded. To mention just a few standard options: there are heated rear seats, a head-up display, manual rear sunblinds and an Audi phone box with wireless charging.

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The driver and front passenger also benefit from a standard memory function that’s a must-have in a car that also comes with an electrically adjustable steering wheel, an extendable seatbase, adjustable side bolsters and four-way lumbar adjustment. Unsurprisingly, with such a wide range of adjustment, it’s easy to find your ideal driving position regardless of your height.

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For safety-conscious families, the wide range of driver assistance kit should appeal. Not only do you get an exit warning that alerts your occupants to approaching vehicles before they leave the car, but you also get adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, turn assist (which also monitors approaching vehicles and primes the brakes), cross traffic assist and the Audi pre sense rear system. Euro NCAP awarded the standard SQ7 a five-star safety rating, so you can rest assured that the Vorsprung model is one of the safest ways to transport your children.

In terms of outright practicality, the Vorsprung variant is identical to the standard SQ7; that is to say, it isn’t short of space.

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We can’t say with any good conscience that the SQ7 Vorsprung offers buyers good value for money. And yet, once you examine its lengthy equipment list and that of its closest rivals, it’s hard to conclude anything but.

If you chose to spec an SQ7 up to the same level as a Vorsprung, not only would you need to pay more than £15,520, but you’d also miss out on those fantastic 22in wheels. And with a similarly equipped Porsche Cayenne Turbo or Range Rover Sport SVR coming in at around £20,000 more, it looks like Audi has a truly competitive luxury SUV on its hands.

Audi SQ7 Vorsprung front parked

However, if all that power sounds a little OTT (and, let’s face it, it does), there is another luxury SUV on the market that offers still-impressive performance, seven seats and even better refinement – all for £35,000 less. That’s right, our current Luxury SUV of the Year, the standard Q7 3.0 TDI quattro 272 S line.

2018 Audi SQ7 Vorsprung specs
  • Price £89,905
  • Engine 8cyl, 3956cc, diesel
  • Power 429bhp at 3750-5000rpm
  • Torque 664lb ft at 1000-3250rpm
  • Gearbox 8-spd tiptronic automatic
  • 0-62mph 4.9sec
  • Top speed 155mph
  • Official economy37.2mpg
  • CO2, tax band 199g/km, 37%

(whatcar.com, http://bit.ly/2Ahzxte)

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