Audi SQ7 VS Mercedes-Benz G-Class
- Improved value
- Punchy diesel engine
- Cutting-edge interior
- Hefty weight
- Touchscreens are finger-print magnets
- Short warranty
- Good ride and handling finally
- Not as roomy as you'd think
- Smallish cargo capacity
With car brands turning away from diesel engines in favour of more efficient petrol and hybrid powertrains, Audi has bucked the trend and stuck with an oil-burner for its latest SQ7 large SUV.
Outside, the SQ7 looks a little different thanks to a new front grille, but it's the changes on the inside that headline this update.
A dual-screen set-up is now found on the centre console, replacing the old version's button-heavy design, but is this enough to keep the Audi SQ7 competitive against its rivals?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
Just like smoking, base jumping and shooting rounds off in a firing range the Mercedes-AMG G63 really shouldn’t be allowed… but dammit it’s fun. Super capable over tough terrain and a bullet on the road this top-ranking G-Wagon is the rock star of the AMG line-up.
Now, you may think this new-generation G63 looks just like the old one, but it’s completely new and fun and expensive and ridiculous.
We piloted the G63 for the first time on Australian roads at its launch. So, what’s this tall, imposing SUV like to drive? Is the cabin as spacious as it may appear from the outside? And yes, it’s fast in a straight line, but what happens when you get to a corner?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Audi has thrown many ingredients into a blender to make the smoothie that is the SQ7, but while some of those elements might seem like they clash on paper, the brand has pulled off an absolute taste sensation.
The SQ7 is perfectly at home at slow speeds around town being a comfortable family hauler, and is also a credible performer in the bends.
The diesel engine also gives the SQ7 a unique point of difference, and serves up a nearly unmatched torque punch.
Add to that, the fact that Audi has thrown in more equipment for a slightly reduced asking price, and the SQ7 deserves its spot at the top of the large luxury SUV consideration list.
The Mercedes-AMG G63 shouldn't exist, but I'm glad it does. The previous generation was loud and fast, but had its flaws with poor ride and handling. This new gen G63 now rides comfortably and handles like a hero, while staying fast, loud and fun.
Is the G63 the ultimate SUV? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
In fact, compare an SQ7 side-by-side with a Q7 and only the most keen-eyed punters will be able to spot the difference.
Look closely though, and you will see 22-inch wheels, S Line bodykit, different bumpers and red brake callipers, as well as quad-exhaust tips.
It's subtle – especially in our test car's Navarra Blue paintwork – and we dig that the SQ7 is statelier in appearance than shouty, despite its Audi Sport designation.
Differentiating the 2020 SQ7 from its predecessor is a new front grille, which now sports vertical slats instead of horizontal ones, and updated headlights.
However, it's the inside of the SQ7 that gets the biggest design updates to bring it into the new decade.
The centre console now houses two large touchscreen displays, one for the multi-media system and the other for the climate controls, replacing the old SQ7's numerous buttons.
While the screens look fantastic, they attract fingerprints like a magnet after a little use.
Audi has seen fit to include a screen-wiping cloth in the glovebox of the new SQ7, but grubby and greasy fingers will infuriate the neat freaks out there.
The dashboard has also been reworked to suit the new screens, with integrated ‘hidden' air vents, and gloss-black and matt-brushed aluminium detailing.
Sports seats also feature, finished in Valcona leather with diamond stitching, but tall front passengers should take note as the headrests are not adjustable.
The preceding SQ7 cabin might have cut the mustard at the time, but the interior of luxury cars has moved on in leaps and bounds since 2016, so it's great to see the new version scoring a significant upgrade.
You know something looks interesting when people can't agree on whether it’s attractive or not. The CarsGuide office is divided on the new G63’s appearance with most saying it’s hot, but with a couple violently opposed to its looks.
Not that the new G63 looks different from the previous model, but that’s intentional. Mercedes-AMG knew the boxy personnel carrier-like shape was a massive part of this SUV’s appeal. The look has barely changed in 40 years. You could go back to the year 1979, push somebody into a time machine and when they fell out in the present day the first thing they’d say is: “Oh look, a G-Class”.
Despite the appearance that nothing has changed, almost everything has. The new G63 is longer, wider and taller than before at 4873mm end-to-end, 1984mm across, and 1966mm in height.
I’m 191cm tall and there aren’t many cars that I can’t stand beside and see over. Fortunately, if I even needed to wash the roof, I could hand off the side steps, which come standard and are as functional as they are good looking.
Also coming standard are the LED running lights which ring the outside of the headlight like a futuristic lining on an old-school design, so too are the LED tail-lights. The 'Panamericana' grille with its hat-tip to racing Benzes from the 1950s is also new part of standard kit. So is the tough looking side exhaust with two pipes poking out under the pronounced running boards on either side.
Our test car was fitted with the 'Night Package' which darkens the brake lights and adds the black treatment to the spare wheel cover, the bumper and mirrors. The pack also swaps the standard 21-inch wheels for 22 AMG cross-spoke matt black rims.
The G63’s interior has also been completely overhauled and updated with a dash featuring two 12.3-inch screens, which almost look like one giant widescreen display for nav and instrument cluster. The 'Exclusive Interior Plus' package box had been ticked on our test car and that brings diamond quilted nappa leather upholstery (ours was red) everywhere.
While it’s a sumptuous, luxurious, decadent cabin it’s impossible to ignore how vertical and upright the structure of the interior is – the windscreen, the dashboard, the doors - and then you spot the giant grab hold handle mounted on the glove box and you’re reminded that you’re actually in a hardcore off-roader.
The G63 is built on a ladder-frame chassis. Again, intentional. Yes, it’s the same as the Flintstones used in their car, but it adds immense rigidity, making it a mountain-eating monster on tough terrain.
Measuring 5067mm long, 2212mm wide, 1743mm tall and with a 2996mm wheelbase, the SQ7 is a sizeable large SUV.
Its large dimensions translate well to interior space, with enough room to seat four adults and three children comfortably.
The front seats are the best in the house for room, but storage options are surprisingly limited.
Large door bins can house big bottles, and then some, but the central storage bin tucked under the armrest is disappointingly shallow.
The dual-screen set-up in the centre console also means the SQ7 loses the small storage tray found ahead of the shifter, but at least the generously-sized cupholders remain.
In the second-row, my six-foot frame fits comfortably in the outboard seats with plenty of head-, shoulder- and legroom, even with the front seats set in my preferred position.
The middle seat in the second row is harder to get comfortable on, partly due to its smaller size, but children should have no problem, even during long journeys.
Each seat is also individually adjustable, able to slide and fold independently.
The second-row doors have generous door pockets for bottle storage, while the fold-down armrest sports two cupholders.
As for the third row, however, it's a little trickier to get comfortable with the limited room, but the space isn't too bad for occasional use or small kids. It even has its own set of cupholders!
The SQ7's boot only accommodates 235 litres when all seats are in place, however, stow the third row and that figure swells to 705L.
With the 40:20:40 second row also folded, volume increases to 1890L.
Even with all seats in place though, the SQ7 offers enough for some groceries or a stroller, while the cut-outs in the side should even help with a golf bag.
The G63 may not be as spacious as you think it is. While the ceiling is high, legroom can feel a bit restricted in the front and the back.
Riding shotgun I needed to have my front seat brought back almost to its limit so my legs didn’t feel cramped in the footwell. And while, at 191cm tall, I can sit behind my driving position with room to spare – it’s really thanks to the carved-out driver’s seat back.
There’s a 12-volt power outlet in the front, second row and cargo area, while there are two USB ports in the centre console bin and a charging USB port in the second row.
That centre console bin is enormous and the rest of the storage places are great through the cabin with large door pockets and cupholders in the front and second rows.
Price and features
Priced at $161,500 before on-road costs, the new SQ7 is $400 cheaper than its predecessor.
While a $160,000-plus pricetag is certainly nothing to scoff at, this is about lineball with other large performance SUVs.
According to Audi, the SQ7 now has more than $15,000 worth of added equipment compared to before, including red-painted brake callipers, a panoramic sunroof, 22-inch wheels and rear-axle steering that were options before.
Standard equipment in the SQ7 includes adaptive air suspension, Matrix LED laser headlights, four-zone climate control, push-button start, wireless smartphone charger, heated front seats, powered tailgate with kick operation, soft-close doors, power-folding third-row seats and heated side mirrors.
Audi's excellent 12.3-inch virtual cockpit unit also carries over as before, and is as intuitive and great to use as it has been since debuting on the third-generation TT.
The headline change to the new SQ7, however, is the new multimedia and climate control system, which now matches the A6, A7 and A8 passenger cars with a screen that measures 10.1 inches up top and an 8.6-inch display down below.
Both screens feature haptic feedback, making it feel as if you are clicking a button, but thankfully volume controls are handled by a physical knob.
Despite the extra standard equipment, options are still available and include carbon-fibre interior highlights ($1950), black exterior detailing ($1450), and a Sensory Pack ($13,300) that bundles an up-rated sound system, Alcantara headliner, cooled front seats and more in-cabin leather.
The new G63 lists for $247,700, before on road costs, which is about $12K more than the previous model, but you’re gaining a completely new SUV with improvements in the form of two 12.3-inch screens for your instrument cluster and media, there’s the Burmester 590w 15-speaker stereo, automatic parking, AMG sports exhaust, proximity key, nappa leather interior, sat nav, TV tuner, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, three-zone climate control, heated front seats and 21-inch alloy wheels.
The Edition 1 G63 will costs you another $19,500 on top of the list price but includes the 'Night Package' which brings the black elements along with the 'Exclusive Interior Plus' package and an interior which adds carbon-fibre trim.
Engine & trans
The result is a zero to 100km/h sprint time of just 4.8 seconds – making the SQ7 the world's quickest seven-seat diesel-powered SUV, according to Audi.
Audi has also fitted a 48-volt mild-hybrid system to the SQ7's powertrain, which feeds an electric-powered compressor to spool up a turbo quicker for better off-the-line acceleration.
Power and torque figures remain unchanged from the preceding SQ7, but the large Audi SUV has the distinction of being one of the only performance diesels in the segment.
Though power is a little lacking compared to its petrol-powered competitions, the SQ7 has the highest torque output of any large SUV available in Australia, matched only by the electrified Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid.
The SQ7 has a 3500kg braked towing capacity.
New engine, more grunt. Gone is the old 5.5-litre V8 turbo and in is the new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 (the same engine used in the Mercedes-AMG GT) with stacks more torque and the same power, at a whopping 430kW and colossal 850Nm.
How fast is the new G63? First, can I point out it weighs 2.5 tonnes, so take that into consideration. Second, it can nail 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds. That is incredible.
Shifting gears seamlessly is a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The G63 is four-wheel drive and has three 100 per cent differential locks and low-range gearing.
Official fuel consumption figures are pegged at 7.8 litres per 100km in the SQ7, but we managed 11.5L/100km in our brief time with the car.
Tipping the scales at 2460kg, the SQ7 is surprising frugal for a large performance seven-seat SUV, likely due to a combination of its diesel engine and mild-hybrid set-up.
Between speeds of 55 and 160km/h, the 48-volt system can coast the SQ7 for up to 40 seconds, switching off the engine and conserving fuel.
Audi claims the system can save up to 0.5L/100km on fuel.
Oh, come on, you don’t want to know this… skip to the next section.
You’re still here. Okay then, it’s 13.1L/100km over a combination of urban and open roads. That’s under ideal conditions, too. Our car was going through premium unleaded at about 16.0L/100km. Good thing is you have a 100-litre fuel tank.
Performance large luxury seven-seat SUV might seem a bit contradictory, but Audi has managed to pull this feat off with astounding success.
The SQ7 drives fantastically well, both around town in its most comfortable settings and out in the twisties with the settings dialled all the way up.
This dual personality is largely thanks to its adaptive air suspension, which does a wonderful job at absorbing road imperfections in comfort, and giving the driver just the right amount of feedback in dynamic.
New to the 2020 SQ7 is also the standard inclusion of rear-wheel steering, which can turn the rear wheels up to five degrees at low speeds for improved manoeuvrability, and up to two degrees at high speed for better stability.
We've tested cars with rear-wheel steering before and weren't fans of its implementation due to the unnatural feel, but the SQ7 offers plenty of feedback from the steering wheel and chassis in the corners – or as much as a large SUV can communicate.
At low speeds the system comes in most handy, as the turning circle is cut to just 12.4 metres, making the SQ7 more agile in a parking lot than the much smaller Q3 crossover.
However, there is no getting around the SQ7's hefty 2460kg weight and higher ride height, which means it can be a little slow to change directions in quick corners, and will tend towards understeer when pushed.
Grip is plentiful thanks to the quattro all-wheel-drive system and thick 285/35 tyres all round, though buyers can also opt for a $10,900 Dynamic Package that throws in active roll stabilisation and a sports differential.
We sampled the Dynamic Package in the platform-sharing SQ8, and while the active roll stabilisation is fantastic at keeping occupants from being jerked around in the corners, we reckon it's not needed in the more family-friendly SQ7.
Bringing such a sizeable SUV to a stop are equally sizeable 400/350mm front/rear brake discs, with six-piston callipers up front.
The brakes work very well at scrubbing speed from this large 2.5-tonne SUV, but buyers can opt for ceramic brakes that add a substantial $19,000 to the pricetag.
Have you ever driven a G-Class before? Nope, well then have you ever ridden an elephant, then? Passed time hanging out on the roof of your house just drinking beer? Sat on somebody shoulder’s in a game of swimming pool volleyball?
Okay, well you feel very high up and the bonnet stretches out before you like the hood of Mack truck, and that’s when you realise those weird-looking indicators on the guards double as signposts letting you know where the edges are.
But even then, it doesn’t feel big to drive, even the cabin feels a bit tight up front.
What it does feel is fast. Very fast. Dab the accelerator and the nose rises up and you better be pointing in the direction you want to go, because hold the pedal down and the G63 will yank you down the road at warp speed.
Acceleration isn’t supercar brutal by any means, but how it gets there is roaring through that side exhaust like a Viking running into battle, after waking up on the wrong side of the bed. With the windows down its deafening, but in good way.
Complaints about the old G63 centred around steering, ride and handling or more specifically the absence of those three things. In this new generation G63 those pain points have been addressed by replacing articulating ball steering with electric power steer, swapping the live front axle for independent front suspension and revising the chassis rails.
Now, the G63 can go around corners – incredibly well. Our test track was Victoria's Great Ocean Road, and if we were in any other large SUV, they would have been fishing us out of Bass Strait.
Steering is now accurate and progressive; the front end feels pointable and light.
Comfort drive mode is too comfortable for me, giving the ride a wafty bounce. Sport mode firms the dampers for good handling but keeps the ride comfortable, which adding weight to the steering. Sport Plus firms the adaptive dampers further and combines great cornering without an unbearable ride.
The G63 isn’t a vicious animal unlike some big grunt sports cars, but you have to keep reminding yourself you can’t drive it like one. Not because it will bite you, but because it’s 2.0-metre tall, 2.5-tonne metal box. A hilariously fun one.
Audi's latest SQ7 has not been tested by ANCAP, but it was awarded a maximum five-star rating by Euro NCAP after a Q7 50 TDI was examined in 2019.
It scored 92 and 86 per cent respectively in the adult occupant and child occupant protection tests, while for the vulnerable road users and safety assist categories, it notched 71 and 72 per cent.
Standard safety equipment includes autonomous emergency braking, eight airbags, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, surround-view monitor and exit-warning system to stop dooring cyclists.
According to Euro NCAP testing, the SQ7's AEB system works from 10km/h.
Of note though, the SQ7 lacks traffic-sign recognition, but does display speed-limit information based on GPS data.
For child seats you’ll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
Obviously, there’s a full-sized spare wheel. Don’t make me point it out.
As with all new Audi's the SQ7 comes with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with three years of roadside assist.
Service intervals for the SQ7 are set at 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Audi also offers a three- or five-year service plan with the purchase of an SQ7, priced at $2870 and $3910 respectively.