Audi SQ8 2020: Road test review

Grey Audi SQ8 parked on side of street

Tim Nicholson

Posted November 02, 2020


Tim Nicholson puts the head-turning Audi SQ8 through its paces.

Audi’s Q8 is the large premium SUV for buyers who don’t need a third seating row. Eschewing the brash sloping roofline of its rivals, Audi has gone for a subtle yet impactful design with the Q8. We sampled the diesel-powered SQ8 performance variant to see if the brawn matches the beauty.

Thumbs up

Exceptional performance, ride and handling, luxurious and well-designed interior, healthy standard features list, striking design.

Thumbs down 

Glitchy Apple CarPlay connection, shallow central storage bin.

Rear view of Audi Sq8 on city road

Price and positioning

Sitting upstream from the related Q7 SUV in Audi’s line-up, the stunning-looking Q8 is battling the Range Rover Velar for the title of world’s most beautiful SUV.  

The Q8 range starts with the 50 TDI ($129,600 before on-road costs) and 55 TFSI ($130,200), jumping to $165,500 for the SQ8 and topping out at $208,500 for the high-performance petrol RS Q8. The SQ8 is $4000 more than the SQ7 that shares its engine and underpinnings, but a whopping $165,000 cheaper than the Bentley Bentayga diesel that also uses the same oily bits. Other than that, there are few direct rivals for a go-fast diesel-powered large SUV.

Pleasingly, the SQ8 is missing little in terms of standard gear. The optional massaging seats would be nice, but do you need them? Our test car was equipped with the $10,900 Dynamic Package that includes active roll stabilisation to minimise body roll in cornering, and a sport differential for the quattro all-wheel-drive system.

 


Safety first

Entry-level Q8s were awarded a five-star ANCAP score but the SQ8 was not included in the rating. All Q8 variants are fitted with a lengthy list of standard passive-safety and driver-assistance features (see table below).   

The SQ8’s adaptive cruise control accurately followed the speed of the car ahead and the lane-keeping aid subtly kept it centred. 

 


The inside story

The SQ8 takes Audi’s reputation for beautiful interiors to a new level. An ‘Arras Red’ seat trim is also available, but our test car had gorgeous light-grey leather/Alcantara seats with contrasting light and dark-grey tones throughout the cabin. The plush quilted front sports seats offer incredible upper-body support. 

From the materials on the steering wheel, gear shifter and door handles to the floor mats – it’s all high-quality and there’s not a stitch out of place. The SQ8 oozes class. 

Audi’s minimal dash features integrated air vents, brushed aluminium and gloss-black plastic inserts. Most controls are housed in the upper infotainment screen or lower screen housing functions for climate, seats and vehicle settings. The haptic infotainment screen is more complex than Audi’s previous setup, but it’s intuitive and as good as BMW or Benz’s systems (although Apple CarPlay failed to reconnect a couple of times). 

The resolution and clarity of the head-up display and digital instrument cluster is excellent and navigation guidance shows up on both screens.  

Large bottles fit in the doors and the SQ8 has a decent glovebox, but the central storage bin is shallow to fit the wireless charging hub.  

The bucketed second-row seats are perfect for a long drive. Headroom is plentiful, and there’s more rear legroom than the Q7. The unobtrusive transmission tunnel and overall space means three adults would fit comfortably across the rear.  

The luxurious second row has decent bottle storage, map pockets, a central fold-out armrest with cup holders, two USB and one 12V outlet, face and knee-level air vents and digital dual-zone climate control. The kids will feel like royalty back there.  

Audi’s air suspension allows you to lower the rear end of the SQ8 for better cargo loading. Boot capacity of 605 litres is not as big as the Q7 but still sizeable. Folding the 60/40 split-fold rear seats expands that to 1755 litres. The SQ8 has a space-saver spare wheel. 

 

Audi Sq8 driving on road

On the road

The V8 turbo-diesel engine delivers 320kW of power and an incredible 900Nm of torque. That well of torque thrusts you back into your seat and builds from there. Acceleration is quick and Audi’s 0-100kmh claim of 4.8 seconds feels accurate. Linear power and torque delivery and flawless shifts from the eight-speed automatic transmission further emphasise the effortlessness of the SQ8. Steep ascents do nothing to blunt the performance.  

It’s not all about straight-line performance. The SQ8 engages in virtually every area, including the weighty but precise steering. 

For such a large car – it’s five metres long and weighs 2.5 tonnes – road-holding is impressive. Carving through bends like a much smaller car, the SQ8 is as grippy as a hot hatch, aided by the quattro all-wheel drive. Its heft is felt a little when accelerating mid-corner but there’s virtually no lateral movement. That’s where the active roll stabilisation from the Dynamics package comes in. 

The SQ8’s ride is comfortable, soaking up speed bumps and shocking corrugations along a notoriously pockmarked section of a regional B-road. There was no vibration through the steering wheel on the same brutal road. The massive 22-inch wheels and series 40 tyres would usually affect ride quality, but engineers have managed to achieve that Goldilocks balance of comfort and performance.  

The whole car tightens up when you engage Sport mode. It’s louder, slightly quicker and the suspension is stiffer but not uncomfortable. Aside from some wind noise over the external mirrors and the low growl of the engine, the SQ8’s hushed cabin keeps most noise out.  

Our 12.5L/100km economy figure was nowhere near Audi’s 7.8L/100km claim.   

 


The verdict

The SQ8 combines the characteristics of a sportscar, luxury cruiser and comfortable daily driver in one remarkable package. Premium SUVs don’t get much better than this.

 

Audi SQ8 2020

Price

List price: $165,500 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $176,400 before on-road costs.

Model range: $129,600 to $208,500 before on-road costs.

Drivetrain

4.0-litre turbo-diesel V8, eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Power: 320kW@3750-4750rpm.

Torque: 900Nm@1250-3250rpm.

Wheels: 285/45 R22.

Fuel

Diesel, 85-litre fuel tank. 

Consumption: 7.8L/100km (government test), 12.5L/100km (RACV test).

Emissions: 205g/km CO2.

Safety

Autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot warning,collision-avoidance assist, intersection-crossing assist, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, anti-dooring exit-warning system.

Features

Keyless entry and start, electric tailgate with gesture control, heated and ventilated electric front seats in Valcona leather, four-zone climate control, 10.1 and 8.6-inch central screens with sat-nav, voice control and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

Warranty

Three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Five-year capped-price servicing plan. Service schedule every 12 months/15,000 kilometres.

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