Q8 joins the S ranks

The first-ever Audi SQ8 arrives in Australia.

The all-new Audi SQ8 is a vehicle that’s an all-encompassing joy to drive, but frankly a tricky vehicle to do justice in writing.

Ian Dyk

25 May, 2020


Styling is very much subjective, but the Q8 and now the SQ8 have received widespread praise for the overtly sporty, coupe-like styling treatment – and with good reason

How do you accurately convey the sensation of speed to someone in writing? How can you explain the effortlessness with which a large vehicle leaps off the line? Or the way it goes around bend after bend with nary a hint of body roll – despite the fact it is a large, luxury SUV that is ‘fully loaded’ and can carry five adults and all their gear and keep delivering this level of performance and handling all day long?

Well, the short answer is that you can’t, not accurately. But you can present the facts and then let interested parties try for themselves and see how close you got.

The first-ever Audi SQ8 represents the most potent incarnation of the Audi Q8 model range in Australia – for now. We will see the first-ever RS version later in the year, but that’s another story for another day. 

The SQ8 joins the Q8 55 TDI quattro and Q8 50 TDI quattro at the top of the large luxury SUV ranks, with its sibling Q7 and SQ7 models offering an alternative in the large, luxury SUV class.

Priced at $165,500* the SQ8 TDI has much in common with its high-performance SUV stablemate, the SQ7 TDI, yet it offers a different approach to the equation, a different style that will appeal not just from an aesthetic perspective but actually gives the SQ8 a character very much its own.

Styling is very much subjective, but the Q8 and now the SQ8 have received widespread praise for the overtly sporty, coupe-like styling treatment – and with good reason. At a shade over five metres in length, the SQ8 is a large vehicle, and it has an undeniable presence whether out on the road or sitting still that is very much its own. 

Front on the large, 3D Singleframe grille framed in aluminium makes it look impressively wide and not a little imposing – with its HD matrix LED headlights (with laser light as standard) and massive air intakes feed the 4.0-litre twin-turbo diesel, it is what I’d call brutally handsome.

Riding on 22-inch alloys as standard equipment, the swelled guards are not just for show or to enhance the muscular styling down the flanks. But it is in silhouette or even in three quarter angle that the styling can be best appreciated, with a roofline that sweeps back to the dramatically raked C-pillars and down to the sculpted rear end treatment. The relatively short rear overhang further enhances the sporty look and the rear lighting treatment which extends right across the back again enhances the width and stance.

As is the case with Audi S models, styling revisions on the ‘sports’ model are kept subtle, and the SQ8 is no exception. With the aluminium trim on the grille, wing mirrors and roof rails and of course the huge red brake callipers and subtle ’S’ badging front and rear being the main indicators that this is something special. This aluminium trim can be placed with the exclusive titanium black exterior package (pictured) as an option for quite a different look again.

Purposeful and very athletic but with a definite air of style – let’s just say that if the SQ8 was a movie star, it would tend to the more muscular end of the scale.

And those ‘can do’ looks are more than backed up by the superb engine and drivetrain that it shares with the SQ7. 

If the SQ8 was a movie star, it would tend to the more muscular end of the scale

The 4.0 twin-turbo V8 is nothing short of spectacular, producing 320kW and an incredible 900Nm of torque that is available from 1250rpm right through to 3250rpm

The 4.0 twin-turbo V8 is nothing short of spectacular, producing 320kW and an incredible 900Nm of torque that is available from 1250rpm right through to 3250rpm to slingshot the big SUV off the line and up to 100km/h in a mere 4.8 seconds. This is where it gets tricky to truly convey the sensation of any vehicle leaping off the line like that, never mind a vehicle of this size and appointment.

With its eight-speed tiptronic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive system, obviously there is no wheel spin off the line, the SQ8 justing surging forward with the muted howl of the twin-turbo V8 as accompaniment. This extraordinary acceleration and pickup is due in no small part to the use of an electric compressor (EPC) which helps spool up the first turbo from rest for that initial surge, by which time the second turbo is at speed and the acceleration continues unabated to the electronically covered 250km/h top speed. The EPC itself draws its power from a 48-volt mild-hybrid electrical system (MHEV) which on the flip side of the equation also serves to reduce fuel consumption by up to 0.5L/100km/h – meaning that the SQ8 is capable of delivering 7.6L/100km/h despite its high-performance credentials.

But while that straight-line speed is impressive, it is the agile feel and handling around corners and on twisty roads that really impresses with the SQ8. With the aforementioned quattro, all-wheel steering and S specific adaptive air suspension, the SQ8 not only feels as if it’s riding on a cushion, but it takes winding roads and tight switchbacks in its stride – exhibiting the sort of agility that would put many a small, two-seater sportscar to shame. Decide to add to the equation the active-roll stabilisation and the almost complete lack of body roll is explained as it devours bend after bend without raising a sweat.

All the while, you sit in one of the best cabins in the business on Valcona leather upholstery with diamond patterned stitching and S sport front seats, with every conceivable automotive luxury at your fingertips. For the driver there is the head up display as well as the virtual cockpit to keep abreast of all immediate information and then of course the two touch screens allowing you to monitor and control all onboard and vehicle systems with just  a touch. The flat-bottom multi-function wheel also provides a means of controlling a range of systems and of course the SQ8 offers voice control as well.

As in the Q8 models, space and appointment are hallmarks of the SQ8, which has the same wheelbase as its sibling SQ7 but its configuration for five adults means incredible interior space.

Passengers want for absolutely nothing in the beautifully appointed SQ8 with 4-zone climate control, colour interior ambient lighting, Bang & Olufsen 3D surround sound system and Android Auto and Wireless Apple CarPlay all standard equipment. The Audi connect plus Navigation & Infotainment connects the vehicle to myriad online services, while Audi phone box light wireless smartphone charging and security features like automated emergency calls and theft notification are all standard equipment. 

Of course there is always provision for customers to add to the already impressive package should they desire, with the likes of a Dynamic package available that adds the active roll stabilisation and quattro sport differential to the handling equation and the aforementioned  titanium black exterior package for a different look.

Space and appointment are hallmarks of the SQ8, which has the same wheelbase as its sibling SQ7 but its configuration for five adults means incredible interior accommodation

A suite of 39 driver and safety systems make up the safety component and a five-star ANCAP rating goes without saying

Customers can also opt to add to the already sumptuous interior with the Sensory package that adds massage function to the front seats and heating to the rear, Alcantara headlining in black, B&O 3D Advanced sound system (with 23 speakers), electric sun blinds for the rear windows (and manual for the back window) and a full leather treatment that covers the dash and front rear door shoulders in leather.

Then there is the safety equipment, which is made up of no less than 39 different driver and safety assistance systems which of course means a five-star ANCAP rating goes without saying – and the SQ8 is rated to tow up to 3.5 tonnes should you have a large boat or horse float to transport.

In. short, there really isn’t anything the SQ8 can’t do really, really well. It’s one of the best places to be even when traffic is heavy or even gridlocked, thanks to the sheer comfort and appointment of the interior. And once the road ahead begins to clear, its lightening acceleration is both practical and just plain exhilarating, depending on the circumstances. Put it out on a freeway for a long haul and the miles (or kilometres) disappear effortlessly. Drive even then most chopped up backroads and it makes them feel freshly paved, or find a nice, sparsely populated country road and let the SQ8 defy your expectations and the laws of physics in equal measure.

This is one vehicle that can only really be appreciated by driving it and then the difficulty in relaying just what it can do will become clear.

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