You know you’ve got a road trip on your hands when you’re forced to attach a roof box to a car the size of the SQ7.
It’s a bit like NASA deciding to build an outhouse on the side of its Vehicle Assembly Building. But even for a car of the Audi’s size, a snowboarding trip presents a challenge – especially when there are going to be five of you. Driving 12 hours with three a breast in the back means footwells have to be for feet, hence the aerodynamic hindrance attached to the SQ7’s roof.
Other sacrifices had to be made, too. The rear seat entertainment tablets had to come out (there was nowhere to put them when not in use, and anyway, conversation would have likely stopped dead). Plus we had to rotate the middle seat incumbent in the interests of fairness (even in the SQ7, the transmission tunnel limits leg room). With the boot full to bursting, we had to rely on the reversing camera for backing up – although the 360deg view on the car is so good that this becomes second nature almost by default.
Nevertheless, even with it stuffed like an après ski dessert bowl, the big Audi has a knack of letting you stretch out inside. None of us is under 6ft tall, and yet save for the poor chap whose turn it was to knock the transmission tunnel cubbyhole to bits with his size 11s, we all felt there was sufficient room for us not to feel hobbled by journey’s end.
To ensure the car wasn’t hobbled, Audi had previously fitted a set of winter tyres, which had the effect of making the SQ7 feel invulnerable in the way a Panzer tank driver must have felt fairly invincible. Sadly, France (in historically apt fashion) barely bothered to throw down the gauntlet, and unseasonably warm weather ensured that we had to go looking for the snow that adorns the photographs. Not the car’s fault, of course; its only blemish was the smell of warm brakes on a decline filled with hairpins. And for that, I think, we can forgive it. LUC LACEY
Imagine my horror when I realised my first experience of this big SUV was going to be driving it down from the top floor of a tight multi-storey car park. But it was a doddle, aided by its all-wheel steering system, which tightens the car’s turning circle. As a £1100 extra, it’s a smart addition if you’re likely to spend a fair bit of time in narrow city streets.
The past few weeks with the Audi SQ7 have been mostly about fluids.
The windscreen washer fluid warning light was illuminated for more than a fortnight before I got round to sorting it, at which point it still hadn’t actually run dry despite heavy use. With a 7.0-litre washer fluid tank, at least it shouldn’t need refilling too often.
Around the same time, the AdBlue warning light came on, also with a healthy notice period of 1500 miles before the car would run out of the emissions-reducing exhaust additive completely and refuse to start.
I had never filled an AdBlue tank before, but I had been told that the urea-based fluid can damage paintwork if you spill any on it, so I invested in a funnel and a 10-litre bottle of AdBlue for £13.49. I’ll happily carry out this minor chore every 6000-odd miles if it helps keep the nitrogen oxides emissions of our sub-5.0sec V8 SUV in check.
Our managing editor, Allan Muir, has spent a lot of time in the SQ7 of late. He said the optional all-wheel steering actually makes ‘Big Blue’ pretty wieldy at low speeds for such a huge car; enough to make fairly easy work of Autocar’s laughably tight multi-storey car park.
Muir had some quibbles with the ‘virtual cockpit’ digital driver’s display: “The dials themselves are great, but the space between them is under-utilised. I chose to put the sat-nav map in there, but then I also have the map showing on the main screen as well, which is pointless, really. Also, I object to the fact that it doesn’t keep your settings after you’ve switched the engine off.”
He’s got a point about the car not remembering your settings, but I disagree with his opinion on the space between the dials. I prefer to have the main display folded down, with the sat-nav map on the driver’s display and a prompt for the next direction on the head-up display.
Perhaps the real point here is how impressive it is that the SQ7 offers such a variety of display layouts.
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1300-mile road trip
We’ve been piling on the miles in our Audi SQ7, mostly thanks to a trip to see family in Coburg, Germany.
It speaks volumes of how much I’d already enjoyed the SQ7 that I was relishing the 1300-mile round trip, and it didn’t disappoint. That monstrous torque, that loping suspension, that high seating position, that refinement, that sound system… they all made big miles seem small, and the other half and I loved every minute. It even did more than 30mpg when we weren’t using the autobahn to sample its top-end performance, which is startling for such a behomoth. The SQ7 is always stable, always slick, always in its comfort zone, always rampantly fast.
Interior space was a boon, too, with plenty of space for our luggage, or – as one random occasion required in Germany – a bale of hay for the sheep.
The sheep-feeding trip also took the SQ7 down a farm track that was covered in soft, tractor-churned mud beneath its leaf cover. The Audi’s quattro drive and raised Off Road setting came into play and it clawed its way along what proved to be a very low-traction surface. I’m not saying it’s a Land Rover Defender, but it did dig itself out of the occasional dodgy, axle-meets-mud moment with impressive surefootedness, even on road-biased tyres.
The whole trip proved how broad the SQ7’s talents are, to balance excitement and autobahn effortlessness so brilliantly and then turn farm vehicle and mobile entertainment unit when required.
The more miles I do, the more I struggle to find criticism of the SQ7. Maybe among the short local trips and jaunts down the M3 to Dorset I’ll be doing regularly for the next few months, I’ll find something to be annoyed with and won’t be so gushing in my next update. Or maybe not.
Price £70,970 Price as tested £95,160 Economy 30.1mpg Faults None Expenses None Last seen 30.11.16
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