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.
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.
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
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.