Porsche Cayenne VS Audi SQ7
- Quality engineering
- Turbo's speed
- Off-road ability
- Steering's modest road feel
- Weighty in quick going
- Average warranty
- Exhaust sound actuator
- Couldn’t match claimed economy
- Warranty off the pace
Since the Porsche Cayenne turned the automotive world upside down in the early noughties, it has continued to evolve and has grown to become one of the brand's biggest sellers.
One size up from the mid-size Macan, it's problematic for hardcore Porsche-philes, but there's no doubting this five-seat SUV's success, or the fact that it helps keep the famous German sports car maker well and truly in the black.
And this is the new, third-generation version, with an all-new chassis, fresh engines, and a bunch of dynamic, safety and multimedia tech enhancements.
|Engine Type||4.1L turbo|
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|
The Cayenne may be the Porsche of SUVs, but you can't have family car size and practicality without a few concessions.
It's fast, beautifully built, and engineered with a special eye for detail, and the well specced Cayenne S is the pick of the bunch for performance and value.
But it's worth remembering the SUV bit. This Porsche is more everyday enjoyment than track day excitement.
Is the Cayenne your kind of premium family truckster? Tell us in the comments below.
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.
The design is new yet familiar. Longer (+63mm), wider (+44mm), lower to the ground, and lower overall (-9mm), yet the wheelbase is unchanged at just under 2.9m.
All models feature LED headlights, and the Cayenne and Cayenne S are identified by their silver grille slats, with the Turbo featuring matt and high-gloss black surfaces plus larger air intakes at the front.
Car-spotters will also notice narrower side windows with a sharper decline at rear (Porsche calls it the Flyline) and the C-pillars tilting forward for a racier look.
A full width horizontal light strip across the tail sits under a clear covering above a three-dimensional version of the Porsche logo.
And wheels now range in size from 19-inch on the Cayenne, 20-inch on the Cayenne S, to 21s on the Turbo, plus optional 22s, presumably for those who drive on billiard table smooth freeways at all times.
And the Cayenne now features staggered or mixed tyres for the first time, that is fatter rubber on the back than the front.
Inside, the biggest change is the adoption of the Panamera's 'Advanced Cockpit', with the central tachometer in the iconic five-gauge instrument cluster flanked by twin 7.0-inch screens to create a blended analogue/digital version of the classic Porsche five dial layout.
Plus, there's the sleek 12.3-inch screen in the centre running everything from nav and vehicle settings to audio control and phone calls, through touch and voice.
Again, it's a direct lift from the Panamera, and the screen layout can be customised to personal preference, with Apple CarPlay standard (but no Android Auto).
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.
Practicality highlights are more storage around the cabin, and a slide and recline adjustable rear seat.
Up front, the glove box is cooled, there are storage compartments under both seats, plus two cupholders, decent bottle holders in the doors, a 12-volt outlet (under the glove box), as well as two USB charge and connectivity ports in a generous console storage box.
Jump in the back and you'll find door bins with space for bottles, map pockets on the front seat backrests, a pair of cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, plus two USB charge ports and a 12-volt socket in the centre console.
The rear seat's tilt and slide party trick means there's plenty of leg and headroom in the rearmost, fully reclined position. But tweak a lever on the side and a pull handle under the cushion and you can move forward (in stages) to liberate as much as 100 litres of extra cargo space over the outgoing model, while maintaining seating for five (three without legs in the extreme forward position).
Porsche's official description of the rear bench offering “two comfortable seats outside left and right and one centre seat” accurately sums up the relatively squeezy plight of the centre rear passenger.
Cargo capacity is 770 litres with the 40/20/40 rear seat upright, and a handy 1710 with it folded forward. There are four tie-down anchor points, plus a netted storage area on the passenger side, two lights and yet another 12-volt power point.
An auto tailgate is standard on all models, and a 20-inch collapsible spare (with inflator kit) sits under the rear floor.
If towing is your thing the Cayenne's weight ceiling is 3.5-tonne for a braked trailer, and 750kg unbraked. Porsche's 'Trailer Stability Management' system is standard.
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.
Price and features
There are three models offered initially, starting with the Cayenne, powered by a 3.0-litre single turbo-petrol V6 for $116,300 before on-road costs. Then the 2.9-litre V6 Cayenne S adds a second turbo and around $40k to the price tag, coming in at $155,100.
The powerhouse Turbo tops the line-up with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 under the bonnet, and cost of entry sitting at $239,400.
Not a diesel in sight (for Australia) for the time being, with an E-Hybrid variant due here closer to the end of this year.
As you'd expect in this part of the market the standard equipment list is solid, with the Cayenne featuring partial leather trim, cruise control, LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail-lights, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, privacy glass, front seats with 14-way electric adjustment and memory settings, remote central locking with 'Keyless Go', the twin digital instrument displays, multi-function sports steering wheel (with gearshift paddles), auto tailgate, 'Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM - with adaptive dampers), 19-inch alloy wheels, and 'Porsche Communication Management' (PCM) with the 12.3-inch screen controlling nav, phone and audio (10-speaker, 150 watt and digital radio).
As well as it's more powerful twin-turbo V6 engine, the Cayenne S adds 'Adaptive PASM' (with air suspension), 20-inch alloy rims, twin dual-tube tailpipes, dynamic (directional) LED headlights, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, pedal faces in stainless steel, a 710-watt Bose 'Surround Sound System' with 14 speakers (including subwoofer), and metallic paint in any one of seven colours.
Then the Cayenne Turbo piles on the power and luxury with the twin-turbo V8 joined by 21-inch alloys (in dark titanium with highly polished surfaces) including wheel arch extensions in the exterior colour, 'Porsche Active Aero' (with adaptive roof spoiler), scrolling LED indicators, 'LED Matrix' headlights, 'smooth finish' leather upholstery, 18-way electronically-adjustable 'Adaptive Sports' front seats with unique trim and fatter side bolsters, front and rear seat heating (and ventilated/cooled front seats), exterior mirrors with kerb-view parking aid, a heated steering wheel, 'cross-brushed' aluminium interior highlights, and Alcantara roof lining (cloth on base and S).
If you're ready to stump up the big bucks, that's a heap of fruit to go with this car's comfort and performance potential.
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.
Engine & trans
The new car's engines are lifted from the Panamera, and not only feature more power than the outgoing Cayenne, but Porsche claims improved fuel economy and lower emissions.
All feature an alloy block and heads, the Cayenne's 3.0-litre, single turbo V6 delivering 250kW from 5300-6400rpm, and 450Nm from just 1340rpm all the way to 5300rpm.
This 'base' engine features direct fuel-injection, 'VarioCam Plus' (variable cam control on the inlet and outlet side, and valve-lift adjustment on the inlet side), as well as the turbo located in the engine's vee to help minimise lag.
The Cayenne S's 2.9-litre V6 adds a second turbo to deliver 324kW from 5700-6600rpm, and 550Nm between 1800rpm and 5500rpm. It's shorter stroke design helps lift the rev ceiling by 300rpm (to 6800rpm).
Then the Cayenne Turbo adds two more cylinders to pump out no less than 404kW (542hp) across a narrow plateau from 5750-6000rpm, and 770Nm between 1960rpm and 4500rpm. The V8 also locates the turbos in the 'hot vee', but drops back to 'VarioCam' (variable cam control on the inlet and outlet side) without valve-lift adjustment on the inlet side.
All models now feature an eight-speed 'shift-by-wire' 'Tiptronic S' auto transmission, with drive going to all four wheels courtesy of Porsche's Active Traction Management system. The gear set in the Turbo (including the final drive) is slightly taller, although the seventh and eighth ratios are overdriven on all models to maximise fuel economy.
Claimed 0-100km/h times (with optional Sport Chrono package numbers in brackets) are: Cayenne – 6.2sec (5.9s), Cayenne S – 5.2sec (4.9s), Cayenne Turbo - 4.1sec (3.9s).
And if you have a very long driveway, leading up to your (presumably) very large house, you'll be pleased to know maximum velocity for the Cayenne is 245km/h, rising to 265km/h for the S, and a stonking 286km/h for the Turbo.
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.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle ranges from 9.2L/100 km for the Cayenne (emitting 209g/km of C02 in the process), to 9.4L/100 km for the Cayenne S (213g/km), and 11.9L/100 km for the Cayenne Turbo (272g/km).
All models feature auto start-stop (with coasting), your only fuel option is 98 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 90 litres of it to fill the tank.
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.
The new Cayenne sits on the VW Group MLB Evo platform, which also underpins the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, and the soon-to-arrive new generation VW Touareg.
It uses a lot of aluminium and lightweight high-strength steel which, in concert with the alloy body panels, makes the car not only stiffer, but lighter by up to 65kg.
We've driven each model over a two-day launch program in The Barossa Valley in South Australia, and can confirm the base Cayenne is quick, the S is properly fast, and the Turbo is ballistic.
The transmission is a conventional eight-speed auto, rather than Porsche's PDK dual-clutch, and shifts are quick but smooth in normal mode, transitioning to a sharper, even more precise response in Sport or Sport Plus.
Porsche stands proudly on its reputation as a great sports car maker and says the Cayenne fits easily into that context. But let's face it, this is a two tonne SUV, and while it's dynamically outstanding, it's no 911.
All models feature multi-link suspension front and rear including active dampers, with varying levels of suspension sophistication as you walk up the range, to three chamber air suspension on the Turbo.
On quick twisting B-roads it's fast, in the case of the Turbo, bloody fast. It grips hard thanks to fat Z-rated rubber and active drive distribution makes sure it puts its power down perfectly. But no matter how sophisticated the suspension tech, it still feels large and relatively top heavy.
The electromechanical steering is light, and while it's accurate, no matter which mode you're in road feel is modest.
Not surprisingly, the ride firms up in tune with sportier drive modes, but in Comfort, even the Turbo on 21-inch rims, soaked up the irregularities of at times choppy rural roads with surprising ease.
Given the car's mass and performance potential braking is an understandable priority, with even the base model featuring big ventilated rotors all around with four piston calipers at the front and two at the back.
The S ups that to six piston front and four at the rear, while the Turbo debuts Porsche's 'Surface Coated Brake' a Tungsten-Carbide coating on the discs and special pads for longer life and less dust. Of course, the front calipers are 10-piston with four at the rear (and they're white just to prove brake dust isn't a problem).
In typical Aussie conditions these monster brakes are like cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer. Stopping power (on all models) is immense, and pedal feel is agreeably progressive.
We also headed off-road through rutted dirt and rocky climbs, and with five drive and chassis modes at its disposal the Cayenne ate it up.
The different off-highway modes ('Gravel', 'Mud' and 'Rock') will lock and unlock the centre and rear diff as required and the adjustable hill descent control made crawling down steep slopes a breeze. You can even option up an 'Offroad Package' bringing extra protection for vital components, as well as off-road specific info in the PCM and a compass display on the dash.
If you need to think about the dips and climbs on your country retreat, or maybe just the pitch of your driveway, the Cayenne and Cayenne S's approach and (with the Turbo in brackets) is 25.2degrees (23.3), ramp over is 18.7degrees (16.7), departure is 22.1degrees (20.4), ground clearance measures 210mm (190mm), and fording depth is 500mm (475mm).
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.
Active safety systems include the usual suspects like ABS, ESC, and traction control (ASR), with the addition of other features under the 'Porsche Stability Management' umbrella, including ABD (torque vectoring by braking), and MSR (prevents slip on the drive wheels produced under engine braking)
There's also AEB (although the Porsche system doesn't bring the car to a complete stop), 'Park Assist' (front and rear) including 'Surround View', 'Lane Keeping Assist', 'Lane Change Assist', and tyre pressure monitoring.
But if all else fails passive features include an active bonnet (activated by pedestrians, cyclists, etc detected by the front camera), driver and front passenger airbag, knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, front side airbags, rear side airbags and full-length curtain bags.
There are three top tether points across the back seat with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions. ANCAP hasn't assessed the third generation Cayenne so far, but its Euro NCAP affiliate awarded a left-hand drive, 3.0-litre diesel model a maximum five stars in 2017.
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.
The Cayenne is covered by Porsche's three year/unlimited km warranty, with paint covered for the same period, and a 12-year (unlimited km) anti-corrosion warranty also included.
Porsche Roadside Assist provides 24/7/365 coverage for the life of the warranty, and after the warranty runs out is renewed for 12 months every time the vehicle is serviced at an authorised Porsche dealer, and the main service interval is 12 months/15,000km.
No capped price servicing is available, with final costs determined at the dealer level (in line with variable labour costs by state/territory). Indicative scheduled costs for the first four years/60,000km line up as: 12 months/15,000km (annual) - $695, 24 months/30,000km (intermediate) - $695, 36 months/45,000km (annual) - $695, and 48 months/60,000km (major) - $1300, for a total of $3385.
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.