Audi SQ7 is big
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Christmas has come early for owners of the first 50 of the pre-ordered SUVs
Audi's new SQ7 is the world's most powerful SUV and, despite the $170,000-plus cost, New Zealanders have been queueing for them.
The first of 50 pre-ordered V8-powered SQ7s were being delivered to customers throughout the country this week.
With 320kW of power and a massive 900Nm of torque, the seven-seat SQ7 delivers instant sportster-like performance, with the luxury, comfort and convenience of a seven-seater SUV.
Most of the pre-ordered models were bought sight unseen, such was the pent-up demand for a luxury vehicle with exceptional power and towing capacity.
The top-of-the-range SUV delivers a smooth, comfortable ride, with handling characteristics that belie the vehicle's size.
A test drive through secondary roads in the Waikato, over the Kaimai Ranges and back to Auckland through Waihi and the Karangahake Gorge, demonstrated the SQ7's agility.
A short slalom course and standing-start runs at the Meremere Drag Strip illustrated the brute force, instant acceleration and sophisticated handling characteristics.
The seven-seater is the first Audi production vehicle to offer an electric powered compressor and 48 volts electrical subsystem.
It has a 3.5 tonne towing capacity, and accelerates from 0 to 100km in just 4.9 seconds.
The SQ7 is priced from $175,900 plus on-road costs, and is loaded with 15 driver assistance systems and other driver aids.
"A number of our Audi customers were waiting for a V8 engine," Audi New Zealand general manager Dean Sheed said.
"That shows the confidence in the brand, that they were prepared to commit to buying sight unseen."
Sheed said Audi New Zealand was bullish about prospects for the SQ7, aiming to sell about 100 of the vehicles in the next 12 months.
"We will be halfway to that number by Christmas -- that shows how confident we are in the vehicle," he said.
The newly developed 4-litre eight-cylinder diesel engine generates 320kW of power and a maximum 900Nm of torque between 1000 and 3250 rpm. Engine output is bolstered by two turbochargers and an electric powered compressor (EPC) that provides the engine with dynamic boost pressure in less than 250 milliseconds.
In other words, there are effectively three turbos operating sequentially, delivering the power almost instantly and yet smoothly through the rev range.
Audi engineers have delivered the immense amount of power while also achieving astounding economy for a V8 model. The SQ7 consumes just 7.2 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres travelled.
Even with off-road standing starts and slalom runs, we achieved close to this figure during the demonstration run, even while the vehicle was in "dynamic" driving mode most of the drive.
Handling is good in the standard SQ7, especially for such a large SUV. But for an additional $16,000 about 40 per cent of New Zealand buyers are opting to include the Performance Package on their vehicles.
This includes all-wheel steering, a sports differential, and an electromechanical active roll stablisation system, all of which improve what is already an excellent driving proposition in standard mode.
The package helps flatten the ride even further, and helps ensure the 5.07m-long vehicle handles corners without unduly disturbing the ride.
It was clear when driving through a slalom at Meremere that the system keeps the vehicle flat and stable, even when driving relatively fast between cones.
Although the package changes the driving characteristics of the model, it provides agile precision-like handling, not to mention a smoother ride for passengers.
There is also a $10,000 Luxury Package available for the SQ7, which includes individual contour front seats, ventilated and massaging front seats, a panoramic sun roof, heated steering wheel and power-assisted closing doors.
The 15 driver assistance systems that come as standard on the SQ7 include traffic jam assistance, which can take over steering at speeds of up to 65km/h, clearly a pre-stage of piloted driving. It also has Audi active lane assist, which helps the vehicle to stay in its correct lane.
The standard model comes on 20-inch wheels, and there are optional 21-inch and 22-inch options available.
Sheed said the SQ7 TDI was the pinnacle of Audi's SUV range, featuring segment-leading technology and power, and he predicted it would quickly become one of Audi's most revered models.