Big. Swoopy. And Brutal. Audi SQ8 Review 2021

Audi SQ8 Review

The Audi SQ8 has taken over from the SQ7 as Audi’s big, swoopy, coupe-like SUV, but is it any good? Read our Audi SQ8 Review for more.

2021 Audi SQ8 Specifications

Price: $166,500+ORCs Warranty: three years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals: 12 months or 30,000km Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel Power: 320kW at 3750-4750rpm Torque: 900Nm at 1250-3250rpm Transmission: Eight-speed automatic Dimensions: 5006mm long; 1995mm wide; 1708mm high; 2996mm wheelbase Weight: 2610kg Fuel Tank: 85L Thirst: 7.7L/100km claimed combined

Big, swoopy, coupe-like SUVs. No, I don’t really get them either, but it seems that plenty do or else ze Germans wouldn’t keep falling over themselves to build them.

Intended to do battle with the likes of the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, the Q8 is quite a rare premium SUV in this country. Why? Because it arrives in dealerships loaded with fruit, and that’s not usually the way things are done at the big end of town.

But this article isn’t concerned with the garden-variety Q8, rather we’re looking at the SQ8 which is the four-rings performance version. And it’s got some impressive numbers. Try on a wounded bull-esque 320kW and 900Nm of torque for size and a 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds. To help get the turbos going a little quicker from low speeds there’s a 48V system that won’t run the vehicle but does look after a lot of the supplementary electrical systems, reducing strain on the drivetrain and helping reduce fuel consumption by a bit. Indeed, despite its fire and brimstone power, the SQ8 is a sipper of diesel, returning a claimed combined 7.7L/100km; in our week we averaged less than that at 6.9L/100km. So, impressive.

Think of the SQ8 as a less practical but better looking version of the SQ7 wagon (seven seats), although less practical is being harsh. See, there’s acres of room in the thing whether you’re in the front or the back, and the boot is positively gargantuan. I just mean you don’t get the extra seats. Moving on.

There’s plenty of technology loaded into this SQ8, like three hi-res screens covering things like driver instruments, to sat-nav and climate controls (no hard buttons at all). You also get wireless phone charging, wireless Apple CarPlay, heated seats, and a head-up display to give you that sense of being a fighter pilot.

But as much room as there is in the SQ8 it doesn’t actually feel massive from behind the wheel. And I mean that in a good way. There’s plenty of room for driver’s of all shapes and sizes to get comfortable behind the wheel, but when you’re in the seat and gripping the steering wheel it feels like you’re in a cockpit.

Audi SQ8 Review

As you expect, the materials used in the cabin are tasteful and pleasant to the touch with a fit and finish that’s astounding. No squeaks or rattles even across rough surfaces. But what does annoy me is the touch screens for everything…and sometimes you find yourself bashing at the screen two or three times to register the command. Other times, you get it first go. First world problems.

And, if I’m being really honest, no-one is buying the SQ8 because of the interior or the infotainment, if they were, they’d be buying the Q8, right. Nope, this thing is all about power and torque and there’s a lot of both.

Under the snout is the same 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 that’s in the SQ7 and it’s a rip snorter of an engine, with 320kW at 3750-4750rpm and 900Nm of torque from 1250-3250rpm…and it’ll trip its way to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds.

Audi SQ8 Review

That power gets to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission and in typical Audi fashion, the quattro all-wheel drive setup is rear biased (60:40). So there’s plenty of grip whether you’re in the wet or dry. Add to the mix, active roll stabilisation which Audi-speak for saying there’s a wizard living in the car that can magically prevent the 2610kg beastie from rolling in corners. It’s astonishing how flat the thing sits, no matter how hard you throw it into a bend.

And then there’s four-wheel steering which works differently depending on the speed you’re travelling but it all ends up meaning; works against the front wheels at low speeds and with them at high speeds. But it doesn’t feel like you’re oversteering, if you know what I mean; it’s well tuned and helps to make this big machine feel like a smaller one when the corners are coming thick and fast, dare I say it, it feels like it shrinks down around you. There’s not a lot of steering feel but the action is quick and the tune on the speed sensitivity is spot on. Despite its size it’s an easy vehicle to place on the road and that’s helped a lot, I think, by the fact you can see the edges of the bonnet.

There are several driving modes to choose from, like Comfort, Balanced and Sport. Comfort and Balanced are the ones you’ll most likely use 99% of the time. Sport’s best left for a race track as it’s a touch too sharp edged for day-to-day use.

Audi SQ8 Review

Let’s talk about the engine a bit and it’s something that I didn’t go into too much detail in the video that’ll be dropping soon with this review. Despite the flat power and torque curves there’s a lot of lag from just off idle if you’re giving the SQ8 the full Size 12. If you’re easing away from a standing start it all feels fine, but go for a full-blooded launch and the thing takes a long time to get going and I mean, long enough for you to go, ‘hang on, what’s going on, is this thing bro….’ and then you’re in the next post code. Because once this thing hitches up its skirt and begins to hard charge ahead you’ll be banging into the horizon in no time at all.

This hesitation is only from a hard standing start. Once you’re up and rolling the thing accumulates speed with an effortlessness that’s something else. It’s not aggressive, just a steady building of oomph. And I think that’s the intention of this thing. The SQ8 isn’t meant to be some sort of rabid performance SUV, a larger version of the RS6, nope, it’s here to leap tall buildings in a single bound rather than rip and tear its way through the countryside.

Audi SQ8 Review

But does it offer more than just a new set of clothes and two less seats compared with the SQ7. I mean, fundamentally the two machines are very close. For me, it comes down to the image you’re trying to portray and whether you absolutely need the extra seats.

The SQ8 has proper presence whether it’s parked up or appearing in someone’s rear vision mirror. From the huge grille that strangely doesn’t look awkward like the new BMW kidney grille does, to the intakes and pumped guards and the enormous 22-inch wheels it looks good. And, if I’m being honest, it doesn’t look to me like the other coupe-like SUVs. The body isn’t quite so swoopy as the others and so it doesn’t end up looking ridiculous.

So, if you’re looking for something with presence, room for a five inside (although the middle back seat is more of a perch than a full seat) and a turbo-diesel engine that’ll eat miles like few other machines, and even frighten the odd performance car then the SQ8 is worth a look-see.

Audi SQ8 Review

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.