Do you hear that? It’s the sound of Audi capitalising on Australia’s ravenous demand for SUVs with two high-riding flagships: the updated SQ7 and brand-new SQ8.
This pair are twins under the skin: the SQ7 taking the edge in practicality thanks to a third seating row, and the frameless-window-toting SQ8 playing the role of style leader as Ingolstadt’s answer to sporty crossovers such as the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.
Both offer V8 diesel engines, a point of difference in a world where big SUVs using petrol or hybrid drivetrains are becoming more common. Each is also loaded with the very latest cabin tech, safety features, and dynamic driving aids that the four-ringed brand can muster.
This story is based off a single-day launch experience, so we’ve combined them into one. More detailed garage reviews will follow in due course.
How much do the Audi SQ7 and SQ8 cost?
The SQ7 is an unchanged $161,500 before on-road costs but gets an additional $15,000 worth of features as part of its 2020 update, according to Audi.
Despite having two fewer seats, the SQ8 is pricier at $165,500 before on-road costs. That’s the price of style…
The SQ7’s most obvious rivals are fellow go-fast seven-seaters, the BMW X7 M50i petrol ($171,900) and less powerful Mercedes-Benz GLS400d ($153,300).
The SQ8’s nemeses include the BMW X6 M50i ($155,900) and Porsche Cayenne S ($166,200).
What do you get?
A better is question is what don’t you get.
Both have 22-inch wheels, rear-wheel steering (opposite direction at carpark speeds, same direction at higher speeds), selectable driving modes, and adjustable air suspension.
Add to that a panoramic glass sunroof, power-operated soft-closing doors, and HD Matrix LED headlights with sensor-based high beam.
Each comes with seats trimmed in Valcona leather pinched from the A8, an electric steering column, four-zone climate control, seat heating up front (seat ventilation is standard on the SQ8, optional on the SQ7), and changeable ambient LED interior lighting.
There’s also the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster augmented by a projecting head-up display (HUD), a 10.1-inch centre display with acoustic and haptic feedback, satellite navigation and Google Earth overlays, a 360-degree camera, a wireless phone charger, wireless Apple CarPlay, speech recognition, four USB ports, and digital radio.
Each also has a supplementary 8.6-inch haptic touchpad display underneath that houses all ventilation controls, and a few other shortcuts, such as HUD adjustments.
The SQ7’s 3D sound system comes from Bose and has 19 speakers, a subwoofer, a 15-channel amplifier, and 558W of power. The SQ8’s is sourced from Bang & Olufsen and has 17 speakers, a subwoofer, a 16-channel amp, and power of 730W.
There aren’t all that many options, and even the metallic paint is free.
There’s a Sensory package that adds a 23-speaker, 1920W B&O sound system, Alcantara headlining, front seat massagers (and ventilation on the SQ7), rear seat heating, leather dashboard, an air ioniser, and fragrance dispenser. It costs $13,300 in the SQ7 and $13,900 in the SQ8.
There’s also the $10,900 Dynamic package that adds electro-mechanically actuated active-roll stabilisers at each corner, and a quattro sport differential that controls the torque distribution across the rear axle (up to 85 per cent of engine torque can be sent rearward), and which augments the existing brake-torque-vectoring system.
Are the Audi SQ7 and SQ8 safe?
The SQ8 received the maximum five stars from ANCAP in 2019, and the Q7 in 2015 when the pre-updated model launched. Euro NCAP updated its Q7 five-star rating by re-testing it in 2019, and the scores apply to Australia.
Both get autonomous emergency braking (AEB) designed to mitigate collisions with other cars up to 250km/h and with pedestrians below 85km/h, collision avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist with steering intervention, blind-spot monitoring, automated parking software, rear cross-traffic assist, adaptive active cruise control, and a system called ‘exit warning’ that alerts you if you’re at risk of opening your door into the path of a cyclist.
What are the Audi SQ7 and SQ8 like on the inside?
There is an attention to detail evident that Volkswagens don’t display, and even by Audi’s lofty standards these interiors feel a bit special. Each button, switch and dial feels expensive.
The leather on the seats and contact points is soft and the stitching immaculate, the metal and suede trims scattered about are quality, and the steering wheel with electric reach and rake adjustment is beautiful. It feels like every aspect has been carefully considered.
It’s also a technology showcase. The digitised instrument display is adjusted by steering wheel buttons, brims with information like zoomable maps, and both loaded and operated without lag. The lap-timer seems extraneous though!
The centre screen no longer sits atop the dash reliant on a rotary controller and trackpad, but is rather a touch surface integrated in the horizontally laid-out fascia. Each touch point also gives haptic feedback, so you feel some reassuring resistance to your finger.
It swipes and loads like a phone, and the operating system is simple. The voice control won’t respond to requests until you press a button, unlike BMW and Mercedes systems summoned by key words, but it’s a helpful shortcut for audio, navigation, and telephone calls.
If you prefer phone mirroring you get wireless Apple CarPlay or wired Android Auto, and a charging pad in the disappointingly shallow centre console. The felt-lined glovebox and plastic door bins are more capacious.
You control ventilation or heating through a second touchscreen with haptic feedback situated below the infotainment display. I also like the fact this lower touchscreen has shortcut menus to control the HUD settings and ambient lighting setup.
If there’s a gripe, the proliferation of glossy black surfacing and double screens attract fingerprints, dust and sun reflection to the point of becoming an irritant. The fact our press car came with an Audi offical cleaning cloth says a bit, doesn’t it?