Audi SQ7 VS Tesla Model X
- Exhaust sound actuator
- Couldn’t match claimed economy
- Warranty off the pace
Tesla Model X
- Brutal acceleration
- Excellent handling
- Falcon Wing doors
- Auto doors can be slow to open and close
- Body styling is a little plain
- Expensive options
Australians can’t get enough of big, burly, luxurious SUVs. Since the Audi SQ7 arrived here in late 2016, a laundry list of high-end, high-performance family trucksters have been refreshed, renewed, or revealed, pushing competition at the top end of the market towards boiling point.
So, after just 18 months in market, how does this brutally quick, seven-seat mothership stand up to a swag of compelling key competitors chasing upper-luxury performance SUV supremacy?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
Tesla Model X
Richard Berry road tests and reviews the Tesla Model X SUV, with specs, energy consumption and verdict at its Australian launch in Victoria.
At some point Tesla need to come clean... and admit they're aliens. That they're the first fleet of colonists belonging to a super advanced civilisation from another planet.
How else are their vehicles so fast? How else can they travel so far on electricity alone and then be charged so quickly? And how is it they've mastered fully autonomous technology while other car companies are just dabbling with experimental self-driving tech?
Wake up people, Elon Musk isn't Tesla's CEO he's General Eeeekbleeeergh from Centauri 1. Come on, his really bad human mask is a dead giveaway.
Okay, maybe not. But we were mighty impressed with the Model S when we reviewed it and now the Model X large SUV has arrived in Australia. Like the Model S the Model X is completely electric, and with a best 0-100km/h claim of 3.1s that doesn't just make it the fastest accelerating SUV around, it's actually one of the quickest cars on the planet.
So does this new gift from our alien overlords live up to the hype? Maybe it's quick to 100km/h but does it handle like a block of cheese at the first corner? Is it a practical SUV? Does it tow? And what made me want to throw up? We found out by piloting the angriest one in the range - the P100D.
The Audi SQ7 is fast, beautifully built, and dynamically outstanding. It’s also practical, flexible, and loaded with useful driver assistance, media and safety tech. Can an SUV costing north of $150k be considered good value for money? Yep.
Is the Audi SQ7 your performance SUV of choice? Let us know in the comments.
Tesla Model X8.6/10
Hugely impressive all round – from its brutal acceleration to its practicality. It's expensive when optioned to the hilt, but this is a special car. I miss the noise of petrol engines, though and the drama which goes with it. Alien technology, then? Nope, more likely the future of human travel. Just make sure you have the stomach for it.
Would you pick a Model X over an X6 or GLE Coupe? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, the SQ7 is large. At a little under 5.1m long, just shy of 2.0m wide and over 1.7m high, it’s a beefy bus.
But Audi has applied its cool, calm and collected design language to this expansive canvas, resulting in a neat, relatively conservative look that masks the car’s oversize proportions.
A huge version of Audi’s signature ‘single frame’ grille dominates the nose, with confident, straight character lines defining the bonnet shape and the top of the car’s flanks.
Another clue to the SQ7’s size is the fact the optional 21-inch rims fitted to our test example, sitting under gently flared arches, look (proportionally) smaller than the 16s fitted to a Mazda CX-3 Neo.
The rear broadens slightly, while the turret and glasshouse taper distinctly towards the back, and the simple rear end treatment echoes the other 'numbers' in Audi’s SUV line-up (Q3, Q5, and the soon-to-arrive Q8) - although the recently released compact Q2 breaks the mould with a chunkier, more geometric approach.
The interior is all class, with a beautifully finished, swooping dashtop rising over a compact instrument binnacle that houses Audi’s all-digital ‘Virtual Cockpit’ display. The only other interruption is the standard 8.3-inch high-res colour media screen rising proudly from the centre of the dash.
Air vents live inside a long section of horizontal lines across the face of the dash, and ‘our’ car had optional brushed metal and chrome-finish highlights underneath and across the broad centre console.
Standard ambient lighting adds subtle illumination to the centre console and door sill trims, with no less than 30 colours available.
Attention to detail in the look, feel and finish of the ‘Velcona’ leather-trimmed seats is hard to fault, and overall, it’s clear quality was a key driver here.
Tesla Model X8/10
I'm pretty sure the designer who came up with the shape for the Model X was sitting at his computer and looked down at the mouse in his hand and said: "That's it! Now where are we having lunch?"
With coupe styling similar to BMW's X6 and Mercedes-Benz's GLE Coupe and with short overhangs like them too, the Model X is one sleek hunk of SUV. Actually at the time of writing the Model X is officially the most aerodynamic SUV on earth with a drag coefficient of 0.24, that makes it 0.01 slipperier than the Audi Q8 SUV Concept.
The Q8 will come as a fully electric SUV like the Model X, but the Benz GLE Coupe and BMW X6 run are powered by diesel and petrol only. The closest electric equivalent is the GLE 500e and the X5 xDrive 40e, but these are plug-in hybrids that still use petrol. The Model X is far closer in shape, size and spirit to the GLE Coupe and X6 - it's just that their electric versions haven't been born yet.
The Model X is just short of drop-dead gorgeous, just short because there are some elements which while they may make aerodynamic sense aren't that aesthetically pleasing. Sure electric cars don't need a grille, but its face is a bit plain without a mouth. The way the rear of the car ends abruptly like it's been sawn off reminds me of the Toyota Prius's bottom.
What makes it possible to overlook these not-so-pretty points are stunning design features such as the massive swept back windscreen, the wheel arches filled with giant 22-inch rims and those upward opening Falcon Wing doors.
That slippery shape also hides just how enormous the Model X is but the dimensions don't. At 5037mm end to end the Model X is 137mm longer than the Benz GLE Coupe and 128mm more than the BMW X6. The width with mirrors folded out is 2271mm which is 142mm wider than the GLE Coupe and 101mm more than the X6. But at 1680mm the Model X isn't as tall as them – the GLE coupe is 1709mm and the X6 is 1702mm.
Ground clearance ranges from 137-211mm, which is not bad for an SUV.
It may be an SUV but the Model X has all the Tesla hallmarks – from that window profile to the featureless face. The same goes for the cabin with its giant display, beautiful high-quality materials and stylish design.
No surprises here. There’s plenty of room inside, with heaps of breathing space for the driver and passenger, not to mention two big cupholders in the centre console, with a slot for the weighty key in-between them.
There’s also a decent glove box, a lidded storage box between the front seats, a couple of oddments trays (one covered) in the console and generous door bins with bottle holders in the doors. Connectivity is taken care of with USB and aux-in ports, as well as a 12-volt power socket.
Second-row passengers are also sorted, with ample leg and headroom. In fact, Audi claims more than a metre of space between the rear seat base and the headliner.
The centre seat is split 35/30/35, with each segment able to slide fore and aft to increase passenger and load space flexibility. Again, there are door bins with space for bottles, with other storage running to a flip-down centre armrest with twin cupholders (although they’re appreciably smaller than those in the front), and map pockets on the front seatbacks.
Standard four-zone climate control not only means there are air vents for centre row passengers (in the back of the centre console and the rear of the B-pillars), but individual temperature controls for each side of the car. Nice. Plus, there are two 12-volt power outlets back there, as well.
A simple fold-and-roll mechanism for the two outer centre-row seats minimises the acrobatic prowess required to gain access to the 50/50-split third row. As with most seven seaters, the way-back seat is tight for grown-ups but perfectly acceptable occasional accommodation for kids up to about year-nine size, with cupholders and oddments trays thrown in.
When it comes to load space, the SQ7 scores a big tick for its auto tailgate and the sheer volume of its cargo space. Even with the third-row seats upright there’s 235 litres of space available. Enough to hold the CarsGuide pram, with some room for soft bags left over.
Press the buttons on the wall of the load area and the back seats fold (electronically) to expand that number to 705 litres. More than enough to hold our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), and the pram.
With the second and third row lowered you will have a mega 1890 litres to play with; enough to open a small shop from which you might sell luggage and prams.
The addition of tie-down anchors, a small netted pocket behind the passenger side wheel tub (complete with first-aid kit), yet another 12-volt socket, strategically placed shopping bag hooks and useful lighting push the practicality factor through the roof. The only snag is the lack of a spare wheel (of any description), a repair/inflator kit your only option in the event of a puncture.
Tesla Model X8/10
Yes it's fast and electric but if you take the utility out of an SUV you're left with just a sports vehicle, right? So the Model X needs to be practical – and it is.
There are five seats as standard, but you can option six or seven seat layouts. The GLE coupe, the X6, even the Q8 (when it finally arrives) only have room for five. All are individual buckets seats in the Model X – two in the front, three in the second row and two more in the third in the case of the seven seater.
Now the real test. I'm 191cm tall, so apart from being refused entry onto some amusement park rides sitting behind my own driving position can be a challenge in various cars. In the Model X I fit but with about a thumb nail's gap – which is fine. Headroom is good because of the recessed windows in the Falcon Wing doors' which become the roof when closed.
The P100D we drove was optioned with seven seats. Back in the third row headroom is limited because of the roofline. Legroom is adjustable because the second row seat can slide forward but I couldn't sit behind myself. The third row really is for kids or Danny DeVito – entry though is excellent thanks to that sliding second row.
Storage is good with six cup holders (two in each row of seats), medium sized bottle holders in the front doors (the back doors don't because, gravity), a large centre console bin, and a glovebox.
There's no engine under the bonnet and so it becomes a front boot (a froot?). The combined luggage capacity of the froot and the back boot (with the third row folded) is 2180 litres.
All doors open automatically – the front ones and the rear Falcon wings. They are a bit slow and forcing them only makes them grind their motors angrily. They're a great party trick but if you're getting in and out frequently – as I was when doing the photo shoot, they become a hassle.
The Falcon doors are clever, though, in that they can open in just 30cm of space either side of the vehicle.
Price and features
With cost-of-entry sitting at $155,511 (before on-road costs), the SQ7 lines up against five well established, performance-luxury SUV competitors at the ‘around $150k’ price point; namely the BMW X5 M50d ($144,990), a relative newcomer in the shape of the Maserati Levante Gransport ($159,990), the Mercedes-AMG GLE 43 Coupe ($146,200), the recently renewed Porsche Cayenne S ($155,100), and the Range Rover Sport SD V8 HSE ($150,200).
So, it’s fair to expect a big basket of standard fruit, and the SQ7 doesn’t come up short.
Highlights include ‘Valcona’ leather upholstery (with S embossing on the front seat backrest), sport front seats (heated and electrically adjustable with electric lumbar support and memory for the driver), four-zone climate control air, ambient lighting, the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument display, rain-sensing wipers, a leather-covered sports steering wheel, adaptive cruise control and adaptive air suspension.
You’ll also pick up 20-inch alloy rims, Audi’s ‘Parking system plus’ (sensors front and rear with reversing camera), as well as a 360-degree camera (four wide-angle cameras covering the area immediately around the vehicle), a head-up display (in colour with speed, nav and assistance info), auto LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, and LED tail-lights with dynamic indicators.
And before you start scoffing at those ‘show-off’ scrolling indicators, it’s worth remembering their safety value. As you’ve possibly discovered, too, in misty or foggy conditions, knowing a car up ahead on the freeway is not only changing lanes, but which direction it’s heading in is a huge plus.
But we’re not done yet, the standard features column also includes ‘Audi connect’, including an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, a Bose 3D Surround Sound System (19 speakers and a 15-channel 558 watt amp), DAB+ digital radio, and ‘MMI touch’ including nav through the 8.3-inch high-res touchscreen (3D maps, voice control and free text search including handwriting recognition).
Worth noting, though, our test example was loaded with an A3 Sportback’s worth of extras, namely ‘Matrix LED’ headlights - $2200, 21-inch Audi Sport alloys - $4000, the ‘Dynamic Package’ (quattro sport differential, all-wheel steering, electromechanical active-roll stabilisation) - $13,500, a Bang & Olufsen 3D Advanced Sound System - $11,340, Inlays (alternate materials) - $3800, phone box light (wireless charging) - $500, red brake calipers - $950, and premium paint (‘Sepang Blue’) - $7950 (yee-ouch!).
All of that adds up to $44,200, bringing this example within a whisker of $200k.
Tesla Model X9/10
The P100D is the king of Model Xs (the P stands for Performance, the D for Dual motors) and has a list price of $271,987. Under this is the $194,039 100D, then below that is the 90D for $187,671 and then the line-up's 75D entry variant for $166,488.
Yes the P100D we drove is $100K more than the entry car, but you do get some sweet standard features. Things like the Ludicrous Speed Upgrade which drops the 0-100km/h time from 5.0 seconds to 3.1 seconds. There's the higher capacity battery for increased range and performance, plus the rear spoiler with three height settings. The Falcon wing doors are standard, too.
Other standard features found on each variant include the 17-inch touch screen, nine-speaker sound system with Bluetooth connectivity and front and rear parking sensors. Not counting the reversing camera the Model X also comes equipped with seven other cameras – these are for the Enhanced Autopilot self-driving option ($7500) which is currently being developed but will be rolled out soon according to Tesla.
Standard as a five seater, a six seat option costs $4500 and seven seats will need you to part with $6000.
Our test vehicle was also fitted with the optional Towing Package – yup you can tow with the Model X. It's braked towing capacity is 2500kg.
Our test car with all of its options was pushing the $300K mark.
Engine & trans
The SQ7 is powered by a 4.0-litre, double overhead cam, 90-degree, twin-turbo diesel V8 producing a maximum of 320kW (429hp) from 3750–5000rpm, and 900Nm across a broad plateau of just 1000rpm up to 3250rpm (perfectly placed for peak power to take over at 3750rpm).
Featuring common-rail, direct-injection and variable valve lift (on the exhaust side), the engine gets its added oomph from twin, sequential-charging turbos and an electric compressor (EPC) that acts like a supercharger to keep the turbos spooled up when they’re on low pressure, or completely off-boost.
It’s an amazing set-up that virtually eradicates turbo-lag, with Audi claiming the EPC can accelerate the turbos up to 70,000rpm in less than 250 milliseconds! The arrangement is powered by a 48-volt electrical sub-system delivering a peak output of up to 13kW.
The eight-speed torque converter auto transmission features a Tiptronic function for manual changes via the main selector or wheel-mounted shift paddles.
Drive goes to all four wheels via Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive with asymmetric torque split and self-locking centre diff. Default drive distribution is 40 front/60 rear, with up to 85 per cent able to go to the rear, and 70 per cent to the front axle as required.
Tesla Model X9/10
The Model X is all wheel drive. The P100D has a 193kW/330Nm at the front axle and a 375kW/600Nm at the rear; the rest of the variants just have the 193kW/330Nm motor front and rear.
There is no transmission in the traditional sense, just a single fixed ratio (1:8.28) gear. That means smooth, strong instantaneous oomph.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 7.2 litres per 100 km, emitting 190g/km of CO2 in the process. They would be outstanding figures for a hefty, high-performance, seven-seat SUV.
Even with the help of the SQ7’s standard stop-start system, over roughly 300km of city, suburban and freeway driving we couldn’t match the claimed number, recording 11.3L/100km (at the bowser). And speaking of filling up, you’ll need 85 litres of diesel to brim the tank.
Tesla Model X9/10
The P100D has a 100kWh battery pack which is stored under the floor. The NEDC official range for the P100d is 542km, but in reality Tesla says that your range on a full charge is about 100k less than that.
The 100D also has the 100kWh battery, but with a range of 656km NEDC. Following on from that is the 90D with a 90kWh (489km) and the 75D with the 75kWh battery (417km).
Charging through one of Tesla's Supercharger stations will put 270km into the battery in 20 minutes, while the wall unit which comes free (you have to pay to install it) will top it up at 40km per hour. There's also a charging cable which will plug straight into your power point at home – it's a lot slower at about 10-15km per hour but fine as a last resort.
With every one of its 900Nm available from just 1000rpm, the SQ7 feels like an erupting volcano from step-off. Audi claims 0-100km/h in 4.9sec, and there’s no doubt it’s properly quick. No 2.4-tonne SUV has a right to accelerate this fast, and the mid-range thrust is formidable, too.
And when it comes to transferring that forward thrust into lateral grip, the SQ7 pulls off a better than passing impression of a much smaller, lighter, lower vehicle.
The electrically-assisted steering delivers satisfying road feel, and the standard air suspension (working in parallel with a five-link independent set-up front and rear) manages to combine excellent ride comfort with impressive body control (thanks in no small part to electromechanical active roll stabilisation) and cornering accuracy.
In ‘enthusiastic’ cornering, grip from the (optional) 21-inch 285/40 Continental ContiSportContact rubber is tenacious, without any discernible penalty in terms of noise or harshness at lower speeds.
The eight-speed torque converter auto transmission features a Tiptronic function for manual changes via the main selector or wheel-mounted shift paddles. It’s quick and smooth in auto mode, and shifts rapidly in the manual setting.
The front sports seats are as comfortable as they are grippy (how good are heated seats on cold mornings, by the way?), and the big ventilated brakes slow this big car calmly and progressively.
While it may not bother you, one thing I’m not a fan of is the sound actuator in the exhaust system. The SQ7 sounds gruff and grunty, more like a petrol V8, but that’s because the system is modifying the noises. It’s like (spoilers) learning Santa Clause isn’t real. Once you know, things are never the same.
Tesla Model X9/10
I've had a couple of brushes with car sickness in the past, but never as a driver – until now. So full-on is the Model X P100Ds acceleration and my need to drive every car like it's a rally stage that I managed to make myself a little bit... ahem queasy.
It's not so much car sick, as train sick because piloting the Model X is like driving a high speed train – you've got that instantaneous sledgehammer acceleration, you're seated fairly high and the view from the cockpit with the giant windscreen (the largest in production) is cinematic. The bonnet is short and dips away so much so that the base of the windscreen appears to be the front of the car. Combine this with almost total silence and the only indication that you're travelling at warp speed is what feels like a punch in the guts and the landscape rushing towards you.
It's almost totally silent because there is a faraway hum of electric motors and I also picked up a bit of wind noise that seemed to come from around the rear doors. Apart from that the cabin is so well insulated there was next to no road noise.
How did it handle when it came to the first corner? Gobsmackingly well. The course wasn't an easy one either. Tesla had chosen the Black Spur – one of the best driving roads in Victoria that twists its way from Healesville to Marysville. I've driven it in everything from hot hatches to family sedans, but the Model X would be up there in proper sports car territory.
With the batteries running along the floor there's a low centre of mass and that goes a long way to reducing body roll and the air suspension not only gives the SUV a comfortable ride but great handling too.
Steering is on the heavier side, but it's quick and accurate.
Braking is almost not needed. As soon as you lift off the accelerator regenerative braking washes off speed quickly.
The driver's seat felt a bit tight around my legs - blame my height – but comfortable across my back - a bit on the firmer side through – some would say supportive.
While forward visibility is unrivalled, the small back window is hard to see through – the reversing camera is excellent, however.
The drive was only a short one, but in my 50km blast I used an average of 329Wh/km. The car wasn't fully charged when I set out and the gauge told me it had about 230km 'in the tank'. Upon returning there was just 138km left – but I was driving hard enough for me to make myself sick.
As you’d expect, the SQ7 pulls out all stops on active safety tech, featuring ABS, EBD, ESC, ASR, as well as ‘Audi pre-sense city’ with Auto Emergency Braking (AEB) and pedestrian detection (detects impending collisions at up to 85 km/h), and ‘Attention assist’ (alert tone and visual signal if the system senses the driver’s attention may be lapsing).
There’s also an Electronic Differential Lock (EDL), adaptive cruise control with ‘Stop & Go’ function, side assist (including pre-sense rear), rear cross-traffic alert, active lane assist, and ‘Exit warning’ (detects cars and cyclists when opening doors and provides a visual warning to occupants).
Plus, you can expect the Parking system plus system, 'Park assist' (self-parking for parallel or perpendicular spaces), the 360-degree camera, and a head-up display.
But if all that isn’t enough to avoid an impact, passive safety features include airbags for the driver and front passenger, side airbags (seat-mounted for front and rear passengers), head level curtain airbags (for front and rear passengers) and an active bonnet to minimise injuries in the event of a pedestrian collision.
The current (second-gen) Q7 scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in late 2015. And amazingly, top tether and ISOFIX child restraint anchor points are provided for all five seating positions in the centre and rear rows.
Tesla Model X9/10
The Model X does not yet have an ANCAP rating, but all the signs are there that it is likely to easily score the maximum five stars. There's 12 airbags, AEB and when once the Enhanced Autopliot software is ready for download it will be fully autonomous, meaning it will drive you to where ever you need to go without you having to steer it – but check the regulations in your area before you get carried away with this, okay?
There were ISOFIX mounts and top tether points in all five of the back seats in our test car.
Audi offers a three-year/unlimited-km warranty (as well as roadside assist for the same period), which is starting to lag the market when even Ford and Holden are at five years/unlimited km now, without even thinking about Kia’s seven years and Tesla’s eight.
On the up-side, Audi also offers a three-year paint warranty, along with a 12-year rust perforation guarantee.
Maintenance is scheduled by the on-board service indicator (up to 12 months/15,000km), and a three-year/45,000km ‘Audi Service Plan’ fixed-price service plan is available for $1900.