Audi SQ8 Review
Put simply, the Audi SQ8 is one of the fastest diesel-powered SUV in the world and can be had with loads of high-tech kit. Sadly, lots of these features are reserved for top-spec Vorsprung cars.
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- Sports-car fast
- Posh and spacious interior
- Plenty of infotainment tech
What's not so good
- Alternatives are more fun to drive
- Cheaper Q8 50TDI makes more sense
- Petrol-powered alternatives are more dramatic
Audi SQ8: what would you like to read next?
If the Audi SQ7 is a Q7 that’s been spending a couple of hours a day working out, then the SQ8 is its equally athletic sibling who’s forked out for some fancier designer gym wear.
Its massive grille, for example, is wider than the SQ7’s and gives the SQ8 a real basking-shark vibe while its slinkier roofline and full-width brake-light bar mean you won’t mistake it for a run-of-the-mill family SUV – even at night.
Unfortunately, while many of the SQ8’s gaping air intakes serve a practical purpose, only two of its four massive chrome exhaust pipes are actually connected to the engine – shame on you Audi.
Thankfully, there’s no such disappointment inside, where the Audi SQ8’s cabin looks and feels uber posh. Sadly, though, besides a set of more supportive sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel, it doesn’t look dramatically different to what you get in the standard Q8 S Line.
It’s the same story with the Audi SQ8’s trio of infotainment screens. The two central displays look pretty sharp and the haptic feedback function helps make them a little easier to use on the move than traditional touchscreens. But, the various menus and frustrating on-screen heating controls are nowhere near as intuitive as the physical buttons you get in a BMW.
The brilliant Virtual Cockpit digital driver’s display helps the Audi SQ8 claw back some points, however. As does the fact it comes with smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android devices as standard.
Its roomy cabin with enough space for four very tall adults to get comfy sticks another big feather in the SQ8’s cap. Sure, it isn’t as practical as the SQ7 and you can’t get it with a third row of seats in the back, but slide the rear seats forward – or fold them away completely – and you’ll be able to carry more luggage than in a BMW X6 or Range Rover Sport.
In many ways, the standard Audi Q8 makes more sense than the much more expensive SQ8, but if you simply have to have one of the fastest five-seater SUVs on sale, it’s an excellent choice.
The Audi SQ8 is faster than these cars, too – thanks to its twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 diesel engine with 435hp and clever electrical system that helps it deliver near-instant boost when you bury the accelerator. With launch control engaged, this near-2.4-tonne SUV will crack the 0-60mph sprint in less than 4.8 seconds – that’s faster than some serious hot hatches.
Combine this outrageous performance with a smooth automatic gearbox and adaptive air suspension, and you’ve got yourself a very relaxing, yet very fast, cross-continental cruiser. Standard-fit quattro all-wheel drive means the SQ8 won’t be left floundering should you decide to take it across a few muddy fields (or more likely, wet roundabouts), too.
If you’re more interested in how the SQ8 handles a few hairpins than whether it’ll keep up with a Land Rover Discovery off-road, then you’ll want to pick a top-spec Vorsprung model. These get a limited-slip rear differential for greater corner-exiting traction and active anti-roll stabilisation to help them corner flatter than the proverbial pancake.
These high-spec models also come with four-wheel steering to make the SQ8 impressively manoeuvrable in town and more stable at high speeds. It’s a shame that you have to pay extra for some other desirable driver-assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, though – especially when you consider that the Audi SQ8 costs almost £15,000 more than a Q8 50TDI.
As a result, if you’re looking for a stylish SUV that’s comfortable and reasonably fast, the standard Audi Q8 does a fine job indeed. If, however, you simply must have the quickest diesel SUV around – and don’t mind forking out for the privilege – there’s always the Audi SQ8 to consider.
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