This is Audi Sport’s first performance version of the company’s range-topping SUV, the Q8. Like the firm’s other recent S-brand additions, the SQ8 TDI is diesel only. In fact, it adopts the same 4.0-litre, 429bhp V8 diesel engine as served in the related SQ7 which first appeared a couple of years ago, and which is soon to return to showrooms along with the rest of the facelifted Q7 range.
Such news might come as a disappointment if you were expecting combustive fireworks to rival a Range Rover Sport SVR or Porsche Cayenne Turbo. But then – as Audi insiders still won’t officially confirm, if only for fear of a disciplinary I suspect – there’s sure to be an even more angry and powerful RS Q8 along later to answer that need, as pressing as it undoubtedly is.
This car, Audi claims, is designed to compete with the fast diesel versions of the BMW X6 and Range Rover Sport, and Mercedes’ lower-order AMG-branded GLE Coupe. It’s a fast luxury 4x4 for those who like putting 400 miles between fuelling stops as much as putting big speeds on the head-up display, then. And, in cars where you generally get so much of absolutely everything, why wouldn’t you want to maximise your brim-to-brim touring range as well?
The mechanicals of the SQ8 TDI’s suspension and driveline don’t materially differ from those of the SQ7, either. Buy the car in top-of-the-line ‘Vorsprung’ trim (as we tested it) and you’ll be getting a car with Audi’s habitual centre-diff-based Torsen four-wheel-drive setup; four-wheel steering; sports-tuned adaptive air suspension with adaptive damping; active anti-roll bars; and an actively locking ‘sport’ rear differential. Which is plenty of ultra sophisticated chassis tech to be getting on with, it seems to me – although, as we’ll get on to, the complexity of so many active systems is woven into the SQ8’s driving experience with no small amount of care.
Most of what actually separates the driving experience of the SQ8 from that of its boxier brother, then, is the software tuning of those systems. “We’ve been able to put bigger wheels and tyres on this car than the SQ7 has, and increase lateral suspension stiffness a bit, because there’s less roof load capacity to worry about – and so we don’t have to mitigate against such a high risk of rollover,” explained an Audi chassis engineer. “Other than that, there are only a handful of components that differ.”
What makes the SQ8 stand out from the standard car?
The SQ8 TDI has the ability to switch between surprising handling agility and no little amount of driver engagement to luxurious, refined touring comfort that has become the hallmark of the modern fast Audi these past few years. That’s the short version.