Big hitters

The ultimate power couple – the SQ7 and SQ8 TFSI models arrive on Australian soil.

An irresistible combination of high-performance, luxury and leading-edge technology characterise the new SQ7 and SQ8 models which have arrived Down Under.

4 November, 2022

Such are the handling dynamics that they bring into question Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of physics

Two of the brand’s big hitters in terms of performance, luxury and size have touched down in Australia, with the local premiere of the SQ7 TFSI ($164,100*) and SQ8 TFSI ($168,800*) models. These full-sized SUVs lack nothing in terms of their appointment and luxurious finish and yet they deliver a driving experience more in keeping with a spritely two-seat sports car thanks in no small part to the adoption of the 4.0 TFSI twin-turbo V8 powerplant.

So much so that they bring into question Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of physics, as the SQ8 TFSI brushes aside a last-minute direction change on a sweeping wet corner during the launch event that should have unsettled or at least challenged the big SUV.

With nary a hint of body roll, no leaning or lurching, the Electronic Stabilsation Control instead keeping the large SUV body uncannily flat. There’s not the faintest hint that it may be approaching its lofty limits, in part a product of the prodigious adhesion from 285mm-wide 22-inch low profile tyres chosen for race track pace as much as suburban Australian duties.

Instead, the sleek five-door almost telepathically adjusts to my last second twist of the steering wheel and calmly settles for the next challenge, of which there is no shortage on roads that are showing weariness from months of La Nina’s soggy splurge.

It’s the perfect split-second reinforcement that the SQ8 and its SQ7 brethren are not just tweaked iterations of the Q8 and Q7 SUVs they’re based on. They’re engineering powerhouses designed to deliver on a performance promise that comes with the coveted Audi S badge.

It’s an assurance that transforms practical SUVs by deftly blending the DNA and technology of a sports car with the practicalities and everyday liveability of an SUV. That means that just because you’ve got a family itching for the next big adventure and a boat ready to get wet doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the driving excitement and sense of occasion of owning an Audi S.

As before, the SQ7 and SQ8 utilise the muscular bodywork of the Q7 and Q8, but with some distinctive styling touches that give clues to the capability beneath. Gaping air intakes, distinctive bumpers and prominent side sills step up the aesthetics while those sizeable alloys give glimpses of the huge brakes behind. Six-piston calipers are standard or you can opt for 10-piston units grabbing enormous 420mm carbon ceramic rotors – they’re the equal biggest brakes on any production car in the world.

deftly blending the DNA and technology of a sports car with the practicalities and everyday liveability of an SUV

The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine provides impressive flexibility across a far broader range, pulling strongly from 2000rpm

Each also still gets that 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine with an electric compressor that obliterates any hint of lag. But there’s now more power than ever courtesy of a major under-bonnet switch, one that sees the nomenclature morph from TDI to TFSI. Those familiar with an Audi showroom will recognise that means a change from diesel to petrol. Same configuration, same capacity and with all the technology that made the TDI engine such an engaging and dynamic drive, but now fuelled by high octane unleaded.

But before you go bemoaning the loss of one of the world’s truly great engines (if you haven’t experienced all 900Nm of that diesel V8 then it’s something to pop on the bucket list) it’s worth sizing up the newcomer. There’s a full 373kW to play with and in true Audi S style that power comes with a bucketload of revs and an associated V8 snarl that makes pressing the throttle that little more engaging.

And with a hefty 770Nm on offer from way down in the rev range there’s also no shortage of propulsion for quick blasts. More impressive is the flexibility across a far broader range, the V8 pulling strongly from 2000rpm and holding its enthusiasm as revs build.

The numbers tell the story. The previous SQ7/SQ8  TDI models set a benchmark for diesel SUVs, able to touch 100km/h in 4.8 seconds. The switch to TFSI has lowered that 0-100km/h figure to an astonishing 4.1 seconds. That’s as ballistic as the legendary RS4 Avant, one of the world’s most revered performance wagons.

While the emphasis has clearly been on performance, that hasn’t meant that efficiency has been overlooked. The new V8 gets Cylinder on Demand technology, which can temporarily deactivate four of the eight combustion chambers, in turn minimising fuel use when driving gently or cruising the suburbs.

Trading hot seats into the SQ7 TFSI reveals mostly the same driving experience. There’s even more headroom and a longer boot area though for a more traditional SUV cabin, but it still pitches into corners with the sort of dynamic ability that a large SUV has no right to do. 

Rear-wheel steering adds to the dynamic talents, angling the back wheels at up to five degrees, in turn tightening the turning circle to that of a Q3 and helping tuck the tail through tight bends.

Adaptive air suspension continuously monitors the road and driver inputs to not only adjust the dampers in real time, but also alter the ride height depending on the conditions and what the driver is demanding. 

The switch to TFSI power has lowered the 0-100km/h figure to an astonishing 4.1 seconds – 0.7 faster than the predecessor

Despite an unerring focus on driving enjoyment and dexterous pace, the SQ7 and SQ8 TFSI certainly don’t overlook the finer points of automotive life

The body can adjust its height through 90mm, hunkering down for more spirited attacks or rising for additional clearance on the way to that alluring camping spot.

Despite an unerring focus on driving enjoyment and dexterous pace, the SQ7 and SQ8 TFSI certainly don’t overlook the finer points of automotive life. From carbon fibre and Dinamica black headlining there’s an assortment of rich materials and modern finishes spread across the broad cabin. A head-up display and Audi virtual cockpit keep the driver informed of the car’s vitals, while the now familiar Audi dual central screens with haptic feedback control everything from the Audi Connect Plus Navigation and Infotainment to the quad-zone ventilation.

So realistically, the toughest decision with the latest additions to the S line-up is which of these performance SUVs best suits your lifestyle and personal style preference. Clearly those with larger families will gravitate towards the SQ7 TFSI with its three rows of seats that accommodate seven. But with 605 litres of luggage capacity and coupe-like frameless windows the SQ8 makes for an immensely practical and ludicrously smile-inducing machine. Regardless of which best suits, both bring the work of Sir Isaac Newton into doubt and reduce the laws of physics to mere ‘guidelines’.

Learn more about the new Audi SQ7 TFSI and the SQ8 TFSI.

(*Manufacturer List Pricing [MLP] – excludes dealer delivery and government statutory charges)