2021 Audi SQ7 first drive: powerful engine and sophistication

2021 Audi SQ7 first drive

If you want an Audi that can reach 60 mph in less than 4.5 seconds, your local dealer will have exactly one model: the company's new R8 supercar, which packs a 4.2-liter V8. And a six-digit price. Today, the same salesman might unexpectedly drive you to the 2021 Audi SQ7, if only to watch your brain turn into a salted piece. Like an Audi mid-engine supercar now

This all-new SUV has arrived to fill the TFSI V8 and with a price tag that, yes, can go over six figures

This three-row utility vehicle has a lot more power, torque and it gets better fuel economy

2021 Audi SQ7 depends on luxury and technology

Believe it or not, the heavyweight crossover seen on these digital pages would actually give Audi's first-generation sports car a serious run for its money from stoplight to freeway merge. Packing 500 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque from its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, the SQ7 even has a vastly more power-dense engine -- the naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V8 in Ye (Not So) Olde 2008 R8 Coupe only mustered 420 hp and 317 lb-ft and that powerplant, friends, was a landmark moment in metallurgy

2021 Audi SQ7

Today, Audi offers a whole range of models capable of trouncing the original R8's performance figures -- most for much less money. Of course, none are as incongruous as this 5,300-pound SUV, let alone as capacious. The German automaker says this seven-passenger express can hit 60 mph in a scant 4.3 seconds -- a tenth quicker than the original R8 -- and power to a top speed of 155 mph on its 21-inch summer tires. (Optional all-seasons bring a major v-max haircut, all the way down to 130 mph.)

Those performance and consumption figures paint a visceral picture that's underlined -- somewhat -- by a model-specific multi-mode exhaust. Poke the starter button and the Q7's V8 barks briefly before quickly settling to idle. You'll know right away that this isn't a garden-variety four- or six-cylinder Q7, but even with SQ7's more assertive tone, it's still not particularly vocal by default

To change that, you'll have to cycle through the Drive Select menu. Putting the SQ7 into Sport opens up the exhaust valves while amplifying other performance attributes like steering weight and transmission programming. Alternatively, you can call up more sound specifically by tailoring the exhaust setting in the Individual mode. The touchscreen preset for the loudest option is called Present, which reads a bit like a grade-school suck-up during attendance roll call

That 'teacher's pet' imagery seems apt, because despite possessing a more strident soundtrack than its European counterparts (owing to different particulate filters), this SQ7 could arguably stand to be a bit more vocal still. Performance models from AMG or Jaguar's SVR are significantly more declarative inside and out and even BMW's non-M specials can be, too. Yes, I know this isn't an RS Q7, but in the absence of such a model, it'd be nice to have an even more socially reprehensible setting, if only to blow out mental cobwebs on lonely winding roads. As it is, the V8 makes a fine sound, it's just a bit too muffled by the time it makes its way inside
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