by Michael Butler
Audi builds some of the best premium SUVs in the business, and it makes up the majority of its sales in the US. Ever since the launch of its SQ range, people can't seem to get enough of these performance-orientated SUVs, and the Audi SQ7 represents one of the best-balanced luxury SUVs in its class. Its twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine produces 500 horsepower, making it more than powerful enough to stick with rapid rivals such as the BMW X5 M50i and the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53. As per Audi's usual standards, the interior is exquisite, and the level of tech is impressive. What gets us about this SUV is just how well-rounded it is: it's practical, powerful, fun to drive, and is brimming with advanced tech. The Audi isn't perfect, though. The third row is cramped and, at $88,500, it's more expensive than both of those aforementioned competitors.
Not much changes for the 2022 model year. Audi has added a few notable driver assistance systems as standard, including lane assist with emergency assist, and adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist. New owners can opt for a set of red brake calipers as a standalone option on both trim levels.
See trim levels and configurations:
Modern performance SUVs have come far in terms of how they drive and handle, and Audi has achieved excellence in how the SQ7 is set up, even if it's no RS6 Avant through the corners. The chassis has been fitted with all the right ingredients to make it perform like a much smaller and much more traditionally athletic car; it features all-wheel steering and an electromechanical progressive steering system. A five-link independent suspension with adaptive air suspension is found in the front and back. All these advanced bits and bobs come together to deliver a ride that is supple and forgiving in town but lively and sharp when pushing a bit harder.
The Audi SQ7 quattro is amazingly responsive to quick direction changes despite weighing over 5,000 pounds and will show impressive grip no matter the condition of the road. Steering feedback isn't as sharp as you'd find in more traditional sports cars, but it offers seriously impressive handling when you consider what this vehicle was initially intended for. If you're really into driving, the top-spec SQ7 is offered with a $5,900 Sport Package which adds active roll stabilization and a quattro sport rear differential. To 90 percent of drivers, the effects of these added performance elements will be negligible, especially since the SQ7 will live the overwhelming majority of its life sticking to the speed limit, but if you happen to be on a track, it does make the SQ7 feel more nimble.
The SUV market has become such an important part of most manufacturers' product offering, and performance SUVs make up a significant part of that market share. Audi knows this all too well, which is why its family of Q cars continues to sell well. They're well balanced in terms of performance and luxury, and the SQ7 is one of the best examples of how far the modern SUV has come. Under the hood, this Audi packs a tremendous punch and should feel quick enough for the vast majority of public road users, but it's not the sheer speed that gets you; it's the way this brute drives. The SQ7 feels like a much smaller car and is still fun to drive, despite its size and weight. The interior is typically Audi - sleek and sophisticated with a mountain of displays and futuristic tech. The SQ7 is still a practical family car with three-row seating and decent trunk space. So it's fast, packed full of tech, fun to drive, and practical. It seems like we're onto a winner here.
The Audi SQ8 is one of those weird coupe-style SUVs that are so popular with city-slicking accountants these days and is the largest of its type in the Audi stable. The SQ8 shares its twin-turbo V8 engine with the SQ7 and produces the same amount of power and torque. Both are supremely capable cruisers and feel as sharp in the bends. Interior quality and spec sheets are also similar, as are package options. The most significant difference here is practicality. The SQ7 offers more of it thanks to a third row of seats and a roofline that doesn't slope as much as the SQ8. If you're a family person with lots of kids, the SQ7 will be more suited to your needs. We do like the sleek look of the SQ8, though, despite it being a few thousand dollars more to buy at a starting price of $93,500.
BMW has always built natural athletes, even in SUV form, and the X5 range has a bit more heritage behind its name, but Audi has come a long way, and the SQ7 is now a solid rival to the superbly capable X5 M50i. This brawny BMW is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8 engine with 523 hp and 553 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to sprint to 60 mph in a rapid 4.1 seconds. It might be more powerful, but the BMW is also slightly more fuel efficient. The Audi does offer more passenger space in the front and rear, but the BMW has more maximum cargo space with the rear seats folded. The interior of both cars is gorgeous and packed with the latest tech. With standard M-tuned suspension, the X5 M50i is a pleasure to drive, but on a daily basis, you can't go wrong with either of these SUVs. The choice here will boil down to what badge you'd want to see on the front grille.