SQ7 Has It All

By Derek Price

Press the start button on this three-row family hauler, and the sound that blurts out is the first clue that it’s anything but ordinary.
The exhaust pops, rumbles and snarls with the unmistakable roar of a V8 engine, delivering instant auditory proof that the 500-horsepower Audi SQ7 needs to be taken seriously on its grocery run.
A sporty, high-octane variant of the luxurious and roomy Q7, the SQ7 is tightened up, powered up and dressed up for driving thrills. It offers all the road-trip-friendly amenities of the Q7 — heated and cooled seats, a fantastic multimedia system and one of the best premium audio systems I’ve ever heard in a car — with the added bonuses of extreme speed and sparkling handling.
The speed wasn’t a surprise to me. With 500 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque on tap from its twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8, one would expect it to be quick. It accelerates from 0-60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, Audi claims.

Larger air intakes and unique lighting are subtle clues to the SQ7’s high-horsepower performance.

Its handling, though, was a complete shocker. I’ve never before driven a three-row vehicle that feels so right in corners.
On the highway, it drives like a large, spacious, comfy luxury SUV. On twisting roads, though, it seems to magically shrink and hunker down, taking on the spirit of a small sports sedan more than a roomy family vehicle. It’s remarkable.
The handling sorcery comes from some clever engineering. An air suspension constantly and dynamically adjusts to varying road conditions, driving input and the electronic settings you pick to deliver a ride that’s both magic-carpet smooth on the highway and sports-car precise when cornering. In sport mode, body roll is almost nil.
It also comes with all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering. At low speeds, the front and rear wheels turn in opposite directions to tighten its turning radius. At high speeds, they turn in the same direction to make it feel exceptionally stable.
Despite being packaged like one of America’s favorite vehicles — the gigantic SUV — a lot of things about it don’t feel very American at all, which shouldn’t be a surprise in a vehicle engineered by Germans and assembled by Slovakians.

The SQ7 offers three rows of spacious seating with a decidedly sporty look, including Audi’s famously clean, modern, tech-focused dash design.

Storage space in the center console, for example, is laughably tiny compared to big American vehicles. So, too, are the cup holders, which are big enough for 12-ounce cans but not much more.
From an appearance standpoint, it’s also not as outrageously ostentatious as its price would suggest.
Bigger air intakes and four exhaust tips make the SQ7 look more aggressive than its plebeian-in-comparison Q7 sibling, but it’s also not flashy enough to make the driver look like a self-centered jerk. The SQ7’s appearance is subdued and socially conscious, even if its drivetrain is deliciously rebellious.
Overall, this is a vehicle designed to strike a balance between wants and needs. It has the roomy seats, practical storage capacity and creature comforts families need for nice everyday transportation, plus it adds over-the-top performance for drivers who aren’t satisfied with the ordinary.
Pricing for the SQ7 starts at $87,500, exactly $30,000 more than the base Q7. With options, including the spectacular Bang & Olufsen sound system for $5,000, my tester rang up over the psychologically important $100,000 mark.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Audi SQ7 ($87,500). Options: Premium paint ($595), Bang & Olufsen sound system ($5,000), prestige package ($5,000), luxury package ($2,900), laser headlights ($1,250).  Price as tested (including $1,095 destination charge): $103,340
Wheelbase: 118 in.
Length: 199.6 in.
Width: 87.1 in.
Height: 68.5 in.
Engine: 4.0-liter V8 (500 hp, 568 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 15 city, 21 highway

Style: 9
Performance: 10
Price: 7
Handling: 9
Ride: 8
Comfort: 9
Quality: 8
Overall: 9

Why buy it?
This is an all-around amazing three-row SUV. It offers power, handling, space, comfort and style in spades to drivers fortunate enough to afford it.

Posted in Uncategorized

Efficiency and Value

By Derek Price

In a hotly contested market for small crossovers, the Seltos plays perfectly into Kia’s top strength: value.
This is a crossover Kia released in 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, a reason many people still aren’t familiar with it. Despite its unfortunate timing and awkward name, the Seltos has grown into one of Kia’s fastest sellers.
It’s designed to slot neatly between two other crossovers in the brand’s lineup, the slightly smaller Soul ($19,790) and slightly bigger Sportage ($25,990). Its starting price, unsurprisingly, is smack dab between the two.
Despite being a few inches shorter than the Sportage, the Seltos doesn’t feel that much smaller on the inside, especially in the cargo area. The rear storage space seems especially generous in a category that tends to skimp on it.
In fact, the Seltos doesn’t skimp on much. The hard interior plastics and numb driving feel could both be improved, sure, but that also leaves room in the production budget for things that matter more to today’s buyers.
It’s chock full of content for the price.
Every single Seltos, including the base LX trim, comes standard with collision sensors that can detect pedestrians, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, lane following assist and even automatic high beams and a warning if the driver stops paying attention.

The Kia Seltos is a small crossover that offers a lot of features for the price, including standard all-wheel drive on most trims.

Those are all things that used to be the exclusive domain of pricey luxury cars, but now the Seltos hands them out for free.
Every trim except the LX comes with some nice convenience features, too: a 10.25-inch touchscreen, automatic climate control and remote start from a button on the key fob.
Two different four-cylinder engines are available.
Most buyers will be happy with the base, 146-horsepower engine that’s paired with a continuously variable transmission. It’s not fast, but it’s smooth and efficient, rated for 29 mpg in city driving and 35 on the highway with front-wheel drive.
The majority of Seltos models come equipped with all-wheel drive, though. That’s a good thing for driving on wet roads or loose dirt, but it drops the gas mileage down to a still-respectable 27 in the city and 31 on the highway, according to government tests.
My Seltos loaner was the new Nightfall Edition, which comes with the more powerful turbocharged engine. With 1.6 liters of displacement, it cranks out 175 horsepower while still earning a decent 30-mpg highway rating.
Having more horsepower is almost always better for someone like me who loves driving, but the Seltos is one of the rare exceptions. I like the base engine better.

The Seltos has a boxy, SUV-like shape that makes its cabin feel bigger than it is.

The turbo engine, paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, both sounds and feels rougher than a modern car should. If this were designed to be more of a driver’s car — lower to the ground, a firmer suspension, tighter steering — the turbo Seltos would make more sense, and the fast-shifting but occasionally jumpy transmission would be an acceptable tradeoff.
For this car’s mission, though, efficiency and smoothness are the goals, and that’s what the base version does well. The Seltos is about getting stuff and people to their destination safely, quietly, comfortably and cheaply, and the base engine does that just fine.
In addition to its bang-for-the-buck appeal, the Seltos’ styling is another high point. I thought my Nightfall tester’s white roof and black wheels were classy and eye-catching for such an affordably priced car.
Pricing starts at $22,840 for the LX and ranges up to $28,340 for the feature-rich SX.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Kia Seltos Nightfall Turbo AWD ($26,690). Options: White roof paint ($345), cargo mat ($95), carpeted floor mats ($130).  Price as tested (including $1,175 destination charge): $28,435
Wheelbase: 103.5 in.
Length: 172 in.
Width: 70.9 in.
Height: 64.2 in.
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged four cylinder (175 hp, 195 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy: 25 city, 30 highway

Style: 7
Performance: 6
Price: 8
Handling: 7
Ride: 6
Comfort: 7
Quality: 7
Overall: 7

Why buy it?
It offers handsome looks and a whole lot of content for the money, including a generous cargo area and long list of driver assistance features as standard equipment.

Posted in Kia

A Grand Achievement

By Derek Price

Between turning on the passenger-side touchscreen and reaching for an iced tea in the center-console refrigerator, it struck me.
This may be the best road-trip vehicle I’ve ever driven.
I drove the Grand Wagoneer, Jeep’s ostentatious caricature of a luxury SUV, from Dallas to San Antonio, two bodacious Texas cities that seemed charmingly provincial from my wide, electronically massaging driver’s seat.
I can’t imagine a better SUV for traversing wide-open spaces than this one, as ridiculous as its price tag and gas mileage may be.
The Grand Wagoneer is rated for 13 miles per gallon in city driving and 18 on the highway, figures not likely to bother folks who pay nearly $90,000 for the biggest, flashiest, most sumptuously comfortable Jeep ever sold. Options can push the price tag even higher, well into the triple digits, as seen on my $112,000 tester.
Interestingly, you won’t find the Jeep logo anywhere on a Grand Wagoneer. With a seven-slot grille up front and trail-conquering 4×4 system underneath, it’s not necessary.
You can get a Wagoneer, sans the “Grand,” for under $60,000, but it doesn’t have the same over-the-top swagger as this one.
A 6.4-liter V8 makes 471 horsepower in the Grand Wagoneer, a nice bump over the standard version’s 392 horses but not enough to make up for the fact that it’s a 6,400-pound land yacht. It moves like a Royal Caribbean oceanliner in parking lots.

The Grand Wagoneer revives a classic Jeep name with a fresh mission: opulence, size and capability.

On the highway, though, the cruise-ship feeling is heavenly.
It’s hard to decide what I like most about piloting a Grand Wagoneer for hours on Interstate 35: the cave-like spaciousness of its silent cabin, the endless parade of doodads designed to pamper everyone inside, the acres of digital screens to keep children entertained or the sheer excess of the whole experience.
If I had to pick, it would be the excess.
No one needs an SUV like this. It can ford water two feet deep, tow 10,000 pounds and lift itself up and down on an air suspension, all while practically drowning its passengers in an overwhelming sea of leather, buttons and screens.
In a world of minimalism, it’s a proud maximalist, the automotive antithesis of Marie Kondo.
A few crazy people may buy a $100,000 vehicle to go off-roading, but the Grand Wagoneer — like the Range Rover, Land Cruiser and similar luxury utes — is more about the idea that you can, not that you necessarily will.
Jeep’s rugged reputation delivers confidence in spades.

The Grand Wagoneer’s cabin seems to cover every available surface with digital touchscreens, including in front of the passenger seats.

The Grand Wagoneer’s Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system includes an electronic limited-slip differential that automatically finds traction when it’s in short supply.
An electronic traction control system lets you choose the right setting for rock, sand, mud, snow and — somewhat hilariously — sport. Most drivers will find the automatic setting more than adequate, even on loose rocks or steep terrain.
I’m a huge fan of the Grand Wagoneer’s air suspension, which plays a lot of roles simultaneously. It can lower the vehicle for loading cargo or passengers, raise it higher for off-road ground clearance and seems to make potholes magically disappear on city streets, much like its Ram 1500 pickup-truck cousin.
I could write more about its 120 safety features, real walnut wood in the cabin and ability to drive itself hands-free, but I’d rather sip ice-cold tea from the refrigerator in the center console while floating across Texas like a railroad tycoon.
Pricing for the Grand Wagoneer starts at $88,640 and tops out at $107,995 for the Series III, before options.

At A Glance

What was tested? 2022 Grand Wagoner Obsidian 4×4 ($97,995). Options: Preferred Package 23T ($5,495), convenience group ($3,795), heavy duty trailer tow package ($995), rear-seat entertainment group ($2,195).  Price as tested (including $2,000 destination charge): $112,475
Wheelbase: 123 in.
Length: 214.7 in.
Width: 94 in.
Height: 75.6 in.
Engine: 6.4-liter V8 (471 hp, 455 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 13 city, 18 highway

Style: 8
Performance: 10
Price: 5
Handling: 6
Ride: 9
Comfort: 10
Quality: 8
Overall: 8

Why buy it?
The Grand Wagoneer is an over-the-top celebration of American luxury and go-anywhere capability.

Posted in Uncategorized