Tri-motor Audi E-tron S gets a new name and a range boost

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As part of the Audi E-tron’s facelift and rebranding to Q8 E-tron, the E-tron S has become the Audi SQ8 E-tron.

This 496bhp electric SUV retains its distinctive tri-motor layout (one at the front and two at the back), which allows it to do true torque vectoring. As such, it can send up to 162lb ft more torque to one wheel than the other, thus actively rotating itself through the corner.

The facelift changes mirror those seen on the regular Audi Q8 E-tron. The 106kWh battery pack boosts the WLTP range from 221 to 284 miles (295 miles if you pick the mechanically identical coupé-like Sportback bodystyle, as pictured), while energy efficiency remains at a rather lacklustre 2.2mpkWh (2.3mpkWh for the Sportback).

However, while the Q8 E-tron 55 keeps pace with rivals, the SQ8 is up against the BMW iX xDrive50, which gets 341 miles of range from the same size battery. Meanwhile, the Genesis Electrified GV70 is only slightly smaller and has a range that's just 10 miles shorter, but does it with a battery that's 29kWh smaller. To put it another way: that's 29kWh more electricity you have to put in, pay for and wait for, every time you charge the car.

Audi sq8 e tron 04 back tracking

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All of that might be forgiven if the SQ8 were truly extraordinary to drive, but sadly it isn’t. With a 0-62mph time of just 4.5sec, it lives in the ‘uncomfortably fast’ territory that the most accelerative EVs occupy. And is it more fun? Not really.

You might think the real difference would come courtesy of the SQ8 E-tron’s torque-vectoring capability. Last May, we got to experience what it can really do on a frozen lake, and while that was very impressive, you would be hard pressed to notice the difference from the regular Q8 E-tron on a dry road.

The SQ8 E-tron feels slightly more agile than that car, but then you certainly wouldn’t want to get 2.6 tonnes of SUV sideways on a public road.

More noticeable is the additional restlessness of the SQ8 E-tron’s ride. It stops short of being truly bothersome, but then the trade-off in handling isn’t really there.

Audi sq8 e tron 07 dashboard

The SQ8 E-tron is noticeably faster than the Q8 E-tron 55 and, owing to its wider wheel arches and lower stance, it looks more sporting than its brethren. The flip side is a hefty price increase and quite a penalty to the range, without a tangibly different, let alone superior, driving experience to justify them.

Unlike that car, the SQ8 E-tron has stiff direct competition, in the form of the BMW iX xDrive50. The rival from Munich costs about the same, but goes further on a charge because it uses its energy more effectively, charges more quickly and delivers world-class rolling refinement and drivability.

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Audi sq8 e tron 10 front static

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.