2017 Audi SQ7 First Look
Ingolstadt’s 664 lb-ft, Tri-Turbo Diesel Comeback
Although the Volkswagen Group has made many promises of aggressive future development of electric vehicles across nearly all its major brands (Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche) the company is still deeply invested in diesels and is not ready to throw in the towel on Rudolph’s sparkless wonder. As evidence of this deep-rooted commitment, we give you the Audi SQ7, a technology-packed marvel with a thundering 664 lb-ft of torque from a 4.0L V-8 triple-turbocharged diesel.
The amount of technology on the engine alone is staggering enough, but there’s plenty of innovation throughout. First things first, though, the 4.0L (3956cc) 90-degree DOHC diesel V-8 is all-new from the ground up. Similar to the Ford 6.7L “Scorpion” Power Stroke, the engine is a reverse-flow design, with the intake on the outboard side, and the exhaust in the “V” feeding two exhaust driven turbochargers. The third “compressor” is an electrically powered turbo getting juice from a high-performance 48V electrical subsystem. Furthermore, the exhaust streams from each cylinder are separated between the two valves to go to one of the two exhaust gas-driven turbos. At lower speeds, only one of the turbos is utilized, with the second turbo coming on-stream at higher RPMs when the second exhaust valve is opened by the second cam lobe (think of it as a diesel version of VTEC). The electric turbo is spinning away the whole time, resulting in immediate off-the-line throttle response and a “lag-free” experience, according to Audi.
With a claimed delivery of 435 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque from 1,000 to 3,250 rpm, the Goldbergian system seems to be effective. An eight-speed torque-converter automatic delivers the substantial power to the driveline. Despite the staggering power level, Audi is claiming a frugal fuel consumption of 31.8 mpg on the European driving cycle. This would roughly translate to an EPA figure in the mid-to-high 20s. As is par for diesels now, the engine is equipped with a urea selective reduction catalyst system.
The techno-wizardry doesn’t stop under the hood. The SQ7 also features four-wheel steering and electro-mechanical roll stabilization, also powered by an electric motor by the 48V system, producing up to 885 lb-ft of torque to deliver flat, stable cornering. The system is oil-free, offering maintenance-free operation. An active sport differential is optional, varying torque between the rear wheels. An active air suspension completes the package, with the customer’s choice of 20 or 22-inch rolling stock.
In terms of plans for U.S. sales, don’t count on it, especially considering the ongoing litigation, investigation, and current sales embargo on Volkswagen Group diesels. Although cryptically, Audi did specifically note the engine’s torque delivery and low fuel consumption “ideally suited for markets such as the United States.” We’d love to experience 664 lb-ft of triple-turbocharged TDI torque, so we’re hoping Audi’s reference isn’t just a wishful tease.
As you’d expect for a premium, high-performance SUV, pricing is not cheap. However, we were pleasantly surprised that the starting price of €89,900 (equivalent to $98,363 US) was below the six-figure mark. Given the choice between a Range Rover, Escalade, or one of these, the staff is fairly unanimous on the choice of high-tech diesel torque. The SQ7 will go on sale in Europe in spring 2016. Will U.S. sales follow? It’s anyone’s guess at this point, but we’re hoping the emissions debacle can be resolved and that the SQ7 will be able to legitimately meet U.S. emissions standards.