Audi engineers acknowledge criticism (mainly from British reviews, they hint) that what the company’s performance cars offer in whipcrack acceleration and visual drama, they tend to concede in steering feel and dynamic responsiveness. To avoid the hallowed 'S' moniker becoming a mere trim level as the brand phases out the charismatic combustion engines that help to compensate for this numbness today, it must be eradicated.
Where the SQ8 E-tron has a unique tri-motor arrangement – one at the front and two at the rear – the new Audi SQ6 E-tron goes for a more conventional dual-motor set-up, identical to that of the standard Audi Q6 E-tron but retuned for extra punch, to the tune of 510bhp. The simpler layout allows for a more straightforward apportioning of torque forward or rearward as required, and thus more obedient and precisely manageable dynamics, but as the flag-bearer for the ‘new Audi DNA’, the sporty Q6 is charged with not just providing confidence-inspiring handling but also establishing a flair for balance and engagement that, you could argue, has been missing from warmed-up Audis of late.
The latest iteration of Ingolstadt's Quattro four-wheel drive system has been tuned to send the bulk of its power rearward in ‘dynamic’ driving situations in the mid-range (nobody wants the tail to step out past 80mph, engineers reckon). The results are cornering and accelerative behaviour that feel at least tangibly different from what we’ve come to know of all-paw Audis, if not immediately enhanced – although increased exposure will help us arrive at a definitive conclusion either way.
Even with the caveat that our experience of the SQ6 E-tron was strictly speed- and time-limited, the migration of power from front to rear was just about discernible, and the renewed contribution of the front axle upon corner exit was tangible, too - with a brief application of the throttle enough to return the wheel to centre as the road straightened.
Drivetrain developers have worked closely in step with their chassis-fettling counterparts, with a view to engineering a cohesive and feelsome connection between hand and hard-top - and here, too, can you sense the fruits of their labour. There is a subtle viscosity off-centre that lends more of a perceptible sense of steering connection than we’re familiar with from Audis of late – particularly in full-bore Dynamic mode.