Sufficiently rapid and dynamically poised to merit the hallowed S badge – but then so is the standard Q6

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.

So there is no small weight of expectation upon this latest entrant into the electric Audi Sport line-up, which follows the pioneering – and somewhat experimental – Audi SQ8 E-tron (née E-tron S). 

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. 

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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.

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And each driving mode brings varying degrees of weight to the steering – synthesised of course, but characterful and convincing in equal measure. There’s a pleasing directness to steering inputs, too, with the straight-ahead ‘dead zone’ just wide enough to avoid skittery nervousness on challenging surfaces or at high speeds, but sufficiently narrow that the SQ6 needn’t be wrestled through tighter, twistier stretches. 

Notable by its absence is any sort of artificial combustion-flavoured soundtrack, à la Abarth 500e and Hyundai Ioniq 5 N, Audi Sport’s serious side shining through as other marques strive to tap into the carefree ethos of ‘accessible’ sports cars and cement their appeal among ardent petrolheads.

The SQ6 E-tron is not a peppy little hot hatch, of course, and its owners are unlikely to be of a snap, crackle and pop disposition in any case, but when the individuality of sporting Audi EVs is at stake, it feels like there need to be elements that clearly mark the SQ6 out as something rather more ‘special’ than the standard car, irrespective of its all-round competence. 

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Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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Miha Leban 29 July 2023
Why doesn't Audi put a diesel engine in their SUVs. People who buy such a car need a good range, and an electric motor does not provide that. Electric motors and batteries are also heavy and there is a big chance that your car will catch fire and will not stop burning. Making electric SUVs is stupid because they are completely useless and harm the environment more than you would think.