Big performance SUVs are all the rave nowadays, strangely enough. Logic would dictate that if you want a performance car, buy something small and lightweight. Well logic clearly loses this battle, as for some reason everyone wants performance cars that are as large and heavy as medium-sized apartment buildings and to have as many seats as one. And despite the inherent silliness of such vehicles, they sell faster than mustache wax in Portland, Oregon. So naturally, Audi wants in.
At the moment, BMW and Mercedes are the leaders of this segment. They’ve both been making high-performance variants of their largest SUVs for quite some time now. BMW with its X5 and X6 M and Mercedes with its ML63 (now called GLE63) and GL63 AMG. These mammoth peasant crushers all have massive twin-turbocharged V8’s and enough horsepower and torque to tow planets out of orbit. They also have price tags as ludicrous as their power figures, yet they still sell out. No wonder Audi wants in on the action, there’s a boatload of money in it.
Audi has dabbled in this segment before, making cars like the SQ5 and what not. But the Q5 is relatively small and not difficult to make go fast. A Q7 however is massive. The previous generation model was a big hulking brute that had no business going fast. Audi did make a V12 TDI version of it, back in the day, but that was just really fast in a straight line and didn’t particularly handle well, like the X6 M and new GLE63 AMG Coupe. So, to compete with BMW and Mercedes’ latest offerings, Audi will be making the SQ7.
There has been no official word on the SQ7, regarding powertrain or power figures. All we know is that there is a rumor of a twin-charged (turbocharged and electronically supercharged) V8 TDI, making 450 hp or more. But this doesn’t sound likely, at least for the US market. As the US market is becoming one of Audi’s most important, a diesel isn’t likely going to power the SQ7. And since us Yanks are the primary buyers of these mammoth super-SUVs, the US market is bound to determine the engine. So the SQ7 will likely be powered by Audi’s most excellent 4.0 TFSI engine, which can make similar power to the V8’s from BMW and Mercedes.
The 4.0 TFSI would most definitely keep the SQ7 competitive with BMW and Mercedes, in terms of performance. And considering the SQ7 will weight around 700 lbs less than its predecessor, thanks to its new MLB platform, it should be nimbler than the other two Germans. Preliminary test drives of the standard Q7 have indicated superb steering, chassis dynamics and body control, proving that the weight loss and new platform have paid off. So sharpening the suspension, adding power and possibly cutting even more weight, given the S treatment, the SQ7 might be even better to drive.
The only real fly in the SQ7’s ointment might be the upcoming Porsche Cayenne. Porsche, also being underneath the Volkswagen Group like Audi, will be using the MLB platform on its next Cayenne. Though Porsche is bound to use its own engine and suspension bits. And we all know what happens when Porsche decides to make a performance version of something, it ends up better than everyone else’s. Thankfully for Audi, the Cayenne will likely cost much more than the Q7, as will their performance variants. So I think the SQ7 might be safe, in terms of sales, from the mighty upcoming Cayenne Turbo S.
An Audi SQ7 makes little logical sense in a vacuum. Despite its drastic weight loss, it’s still too big and heavy to be a performance car, and giving it stiffer and lower suspension makes it worse at being a luxury SUV. But in light of the actual automotive landscape and the real world demand for such machines, the SQ7 is a necessity for Audi. And judging by just the specs and some speculation alone, it might just be the best of an odd and illogical bunch.