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2020 Audi SQ7 First Test Drive: Mega-Minivan

The SUV for those who hate compromise.

Billy RehbockWriterManufacturerPhotographer

LOS ANGELES—While Audi's RS offerings compete with the likes of the full-fledged AMG and M cars of the world, its S-cars serve as Swiss—err, German—Army Knife offerings with both performance and utility and a healthy dose of the sharp design for which the Audi product line is known. In short, Audi's S-line vehicles are intended for those who want one car that does almost everything. The latest addition to the lineup is the SQ7, an extra-sporty three-row SUV that promises to comfortably hustle the whole family from one place to another, fast—to the tune of a 4.3-second 0-60-mph time and a top speed of 155 mph.

Audi made sure the SQ7's appearance fit the bill too. Unique signifiers of the performance that lies beneath the sheet metal include model-specific LED headlights, new 21-inch wheels, silver "alu-optic" mirror housings, unique S-model front and rear bumpers, and quad exhaust tips. Although a Black Optic Package that blacks out all silver-colored trim on the car is available, my test car featured the standard look with optional Matador Red metallic paint ($595). Set to its lowest ride height in the Dynamic drive mode, the SQ7 looks like it's ready to attack some curvy roads.

2020 Audi SQ7: Mega-Minivan?

The fun starts with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 producing 500 horsepower and 568 pound-feet of torque sent through Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system. In this application, there's no clutch to cut power to the rear wheels, and a 40:60 torque split is standard. As standard the SQ7 rides on height-adjustable Audi S-tuned air suspension and comes with all-wheel steering too. This is also the first time in a decade Audi's three-row hauler has had a V-8 engine under the hood.

In a way, the SQ7 fills the void in the market left by the Mercedes-Benz R63 AMG, the last true mega-minivan sold on our shores. As I sailed over Angeles Crest Highway enveloped in the twin-turbo V-8's meaty tones, I couldn't get over how well the SQ7 handles despite having three rows of seating. The chassis is unbelievable, exhibiting very little body roll, despite not being equipped with Audi's trick 48-volt active anti-roll bar system. It's somewhat uncanny to wheel a nearly 5,300-pound SUV through the bends and to have the vehicle remain upright no matter what.

In fact, the arsenal of performance technology Audi included in the SQ7 revealed an unfortunate weakness in the model we tested, which was not equipped with the $5,900 Sport package that adds the aforementioned electric anti-roll system, a sport limited-slip rear differential, and red brake calipers to the standard configuration. Both summer and all-season tires are offered on the standard SQ7, but Audi equipped all-seasons on our test car. According to Christian Schimmel, the engineer who oversaw suspension development, the lesser rubber offers five percent less grip compared to the available summer tire. When I had the chance to drive a co-worker's summer-tire-equipped version, despite the SQ7's poise on the all-seasons, we agreed that the summer tires on his car provided a driving experience that inspired even more confidence.

On the whole, the SQ7's performance is jaw-dropping. Throttle response is instantaneous and linear. While the steering is super accurate, it feels numb. The brakes respond with a predictable progressiveness that makes for comfortable stops around town. On Angeles Crest, the grabbers had no problem reeling the big SUV down from speed even after prolonged periods of spirited driving. Not once did I experience any fade. My day behind the wheel amounted to hours and hours of adrenaline-pumping excitement that left me exhausted but satisfied with what Audi has accomplished in the SQ7.

S is also for Sumptuous Luxury in the 2020 Audi SQ7

As wowed as I was with the SQ7's performance, the luxurious cabin appointments kept me comfortable in the driver's seat over 8 hours in the Southern California sun. For starters, this is the first Audi S car to ever get ventilated seats as standard equipment, a huge perk after spending multiple heart-pumping hours in the Rotor Gray Valcona leather seats. Additionally, Bang & Olufsen's surround sound system was a welcome inclusion.

Audi makes it super easy to set the audio system to prioritize any row of seating for the best sound experience. As the only person in the car, I selected the front seat preset and enjoyed the warm and crisp audio all day. Other notable optional appointments include the $750 glossy Carbon Vector inlays and $1,650 laser headlights that I was bummed I didn't get to sample.

Otherwise the dual-screen infotainment displays are typical Audi. They look futuristic and work very well. I was a huge fan of Audi's old interior design because of the excellent button layout, but these new displays look high-tech and work without any issues. Audi also includes its whole suite of driver assistance technology, including a standard 360-degree parking camera view, a blessing for anyone parking an SUV of this size.

The rear seats are comfortable and spacious, with the third row offering space for a tall adult in a pinch. The materials remain consistently luxurious throughout, with soft micro suede door panel inlays and a continuation of the gorgeous diamond-pattern stitching. The middle row splits 35/30/35 and the rear splits 50/50 with a switch-controlled motor. With such a flexible interior and a 7,700-pound towing rating, the SQ7 has plenty of utility to meet the needs of most households.

2020 Audi SQ7: Mission Accomplished

Audi set out to have it all with the SQ7. It wanted a car that could haul seven passengers (and a boat) in comfort, at speed, with plenty of technology to sweeten the deal. A day driving this beast of an SUV confirmed that this goal was met to spectacular results. The SQ7 handled some of my favorite roads with poise and an exciting V-8 soundtrack.

The SQ7 is on sale now, with 2020 models starting at $91,395 after the destination charge. The car we tested was optioned up to $99,390, so it's not too difficult to keep the price in the five-figure range with a little bit of restraint. If you're the type of person who hates to compromise, look no further.

2020 Audi SQ7 Fast Facts

  • Engine: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8
  • Power: 500 hp
  • Torque: 568 lb-ft
  • Top track speed: 155 mph (summer tires)
  • Curb weight: 5,291 lb
  • Tow rating: 7,700 lb
 2020 Audi SQ7 Specifications
ON SALE Now
PRICE $91,395 /$99,390 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 32-valve V-8/500 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 568 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV
EPA MILEAGE 15/21 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 199.3 x 87.1 x 68.5 in
WHEELBASE 117.9 in
WEIGHT 5,291 lb
0-60 MPH 4.3 sec
TOP SPEED 155 mph