by Deiondre van der Merwe
The Audi SQ8 is what you buy when you want blistering performance wrapped up in an undeniably attractive and practical package. As the German automaker's biggest coupe-style SUV, it's also the most expensive. But with the heavy price tag in the US comes plenty of deluxe standard features and general opulence. The SQ8 faces some tough competitors that include the BMW X6 and the Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe. Is it up to the challenge?
Well, its 500-horsepower twin-turbocharged V8 is certainly something worth bragging about and the inside of this SUV is a lavish place that James Bond would enjoy spending time in. With its all-wheel-drive quattro system in place, the SQ8 is a surprisingly agile beast through the corners. And it has a big secret - while it may wear an Audi badge, much of what's under the surface is shared with the Lamborghini Urus.
Not much has changed for the 2021 Audi SQ8, but there is one subtle update to speak of. The SQ8 lineup now comes standard with a toll-payment system built into all configurations.
See trim levels and configurations:
The SQ8's aggressive design characteristics give it a truly intimidating appearance. One of Audi's largest SUVs looks like pure German muscle, reflecting the raw power that lies beneath its snout. A pair of sharply-angled LED headlights flank either side of a large grille with intersecting chrome slats. The gorgeous rear end boasts a set of two taillights that are seamlessly joined together by a slim red band. The four chrome ovals that poke out of the bottom announce the SQ8's performance focus. As a demonstration of the SQ8's size, the standard 21-inch wheels don't actually look that large within the wheel wells. If need be, optional 22-inch wheels are available.
The SQ8 boasts similar dimensions to its rivals from BMW and Porsche, although it is longer than both of them. The Audi measures 196.6 inches from snout to tail and has a 117.9-inch wheelbase. Without the mirrors, the width is measured at 78.5 inches. Both trims have a curb weight of 5,324 pounds, making them both slightly heavier than the comparable BMW X6.
The Audi SQ8 SUV is available in several colors, of which only two are standard. Carrara White and Night Black round up the list of no-cost colors. The rest of the color palette costs $595 and kicks off with subtle and elegant metallic hues including Florett Silver, Glacier White, Vicuna Beige, and Daytona Gray Pearl. Galaxy Blue metallic and Navarra Blue metallic are also on the list along with Matador Red, Orca Black and a rather striking hue called Dragon Orange.
The SQ8's biggest bragging right is its potent V8 engine. The 500-hp power plant propels the SQ8 to sixty in around 4.3 seconds. This is extremely impressive for a vehicle of this size, but certain rivals manage the same run in less time. Both of the SQ8 models come standard with Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system, giving them more grip off of the line. The top-tier X6 M50i manages the run from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.1 seconds. The Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe also gets to sixty quicker than the SQ8, making the run in just 4.2 seconds. With all-season tires, the SQ8's top speed is capped at 130 mph, but this rises to 155 mph with the available summer tires.
The SQ8 may be a few tenths of a second slower than its rivals in the US, but this isn't enough for it to truly fall behind. For those who frequently use trailers on vacation, the SQ8 is capable of towing up to an impressive 7,700 pounds, provided you spec the $650 Towing Package.
Both trim levels in the new Audi SQ8 lineup host the same power plant. The Premium Plus and Prestige are both driven by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 TFSI engine that produces 500 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque. The motor is coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The eight-speed rows the gears effortlessly and manages to be both snappy and refined, a balance that is not easily achieved. Turbo lag is also barely noticeable, making the instant power that the SQ8 delivers a welcome advantage. There's also the added benefit of the satisfying growl that makes its way out of the quad-exhaust openings.
The SQ8's power outputs are superior to those of the Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe and lesser BMW X6 derivatives. The former hosts a twin-turbo V8, but outputs are slightly lower at 453 horsepower and 457 lb-ft. For the BMW, however, there's an available M50i, which uses a 4.4-liter V8 to dole out a superior 523 horsepower, but less torque at 553 lb-ft.
The reason most people opt for go-fast SUVs is either that they need the extra space or because they value the extra comfort and don't want to sacrifice the thrilling performance that makes sunset drives so entertaining. Luckily, the SQ8 is equally adept at offering plushness and exciting in its pilot.
Adaptive air suspension does extremely well at soaking up the bumps on uneven surfaces, especially when you flip it into Comfort mode. Using Dynamic mode means that you'll be able to push the Audi a little more than you would expect in a vehicle of this size. The SUV does extremely well at providing a pleasurable commute around town, but it's at its best on the open road. With plenty of power on tap, the SQ8 will oblige whether you ask it for short bursts of power or if you need some extra punch at higher speeds. It's also a great companion for a twisty road thanks to its firm suspension that can be made even better by the addition of a sport rear differential and active antiroll bars.
In terms of fuel economy, the SQ8 consumes about as much gas as you'd expect from a heavy and powerful performance SUV. The big Audi returns EPA estimates of 15/21/17 mpg. This means that it's on par with the Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe that returns extremely similar gas mileage figures of 15/19/17 mpg. The BMW X6 X50i is the most economical of the bunch, returning EPA estimates of 16/22/18 mpg. When the SQ8's 22.5-gallon fuel tank is at full capacity, it allows for around 382 miles of range before a stop at the gas station is necessary.
The SQ8's interior blends plenty of technology together and displays it beautifully. It adds a lot to the standard features list in comparison to the regular Q8 and the materials used are of a more premium feel. The dual-screen infotainment setup takes some getting used to but once you've grasped it, it's a boon. As for comfort, it's a gift that keeps on giving. Expect multi-way adjustable front seating with heating as well as the best leather the German automaker has to offer. Overall, the SQ8's interior is impressive. The only fault it has is that you'll want to spend as much time as you can inside of it which may result in late arrival at those important meetings.
One would expect that slanted roofline to encroach on interior space, but the SQ8 uses the space it has extremely well. The extra space offering is achieved by the subtle lowering of the rear seats that allow for some extra headroom for rear occupants. The front offers a whole lot of space for front passengers to take advantage of, but passengers in the rear will enjoy plenty of room to stretch their legs out as well. Both trim levels come with heated and ventilated front seats as well as power lumbar support.
As expected, the SQ8 is laden with only the most premium materials. The base trim - if you can call it that - comes with Valcona leather upholstery as standard. These perforated and diamond-stitched seats can be had in Arras Red with Rock Gray stitching, Black with Rock Gray stitching, or Rotor Gray with Rock Gray stitching. The soft-touch materials make it an ultra-luxurious environment as well, with both models sporting a leather upper dashboard and the Prestige boasting an extended leather package. Adding to the decadent feel are inlays in either aluminum Spectrum or high-gloss Gray Oak wood, while Carbon Vector inlays are a $500 option.
A testament to its practicality, the Audi SQ8 offers 30.5 cubes behind the second row. This is considerably more than the Cayenne GTS Coupe's 21.1 cubes, making it the more practical of the two. It's also got a bigger trunk in comparison to the X6 that offers around 27.4 cubic feet. The rear of the SQ8 will accommodate a small family's holiday luggage with ease and this makes it the perfect mode of transportation for those who regularly head to the airport for leisure travel. If you need to accommodate larger items, the second row folds flat to allow for a total of 60.7 cubes.
In-cabin storage is not especially generous for a vehicle of this size, but you do get large door pockets and a bin in the center console. As usual, there are dual cupholders alongside the shift lever, along with two more integrated into the fold-down center rear armrest.
Audi was very generous with the standard features on the base model in the Audi SQ8 lineup. A power tailgate, four-zone climate control, and a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel are included at entry-level along with ambient LED interior lighting and multi-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation. The safety features include Audi pre-sense front and cruise control as well a top-view camera. Audi side assist with rear cross-traffic assist round out the list for the base model. The Prestige adds extended leather bits along with heated rear seats and extra safety gear in the form of traffic jam assist, adaptive cruise control, and a head-up display.
The tech set-up in the SQ8 models is excellent. It's simply laid out and boasts all the necessary features that you could want from a modern SUV. The dual-screen system is made up of a 10.1-inch upper screen that can be operated via touch or through the use of a physical dial in the center console. Audi's Virtual Cockpit is also standard on both models and uses a 12.3-inch display, while below the center touchscreen, there is yet another 8.6-inch touchscreen. There are a ton of haptic surfaces throughout the cabin that allow for the accurate control of the infotainment system. That said, there are times when one wishes for a simple physical button when accessing certain features on the move. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are enabled by the 10.1-inch screen along with a Google Maps navigation system, Bluetooth streaming, and HD Radio. A 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system is standard on both trims, but on the Prestige, an optional 23-speaker setup is available with a 1,920-watt kick for $5,000.
The 2021 Audi SQ8 hasn't been recalled yet and the 2020 model wasn't recalled either. If reliability is ever an issue, the SQ8 comes standard with a basic warranty for four years or 50,000 miles. The drivetrain warranty is also valid for the same time period and mileage limit. The corrosion warranty is valid for 12 years, while roadside assistance is standard for the same amount of time as the basic warranty.
Neither the NHTSA or the IIHS have a complete review of the 2021 Audi SQ8 yet, although the SUV did manage to score four stars in the NHTSA's rollover test. However, the 2020 Audi Q8 on which the SQ8 is based received a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS and a full five-star rating from the NHTSA, so if full testing of the SQ8 is conducted, we expect it to return favorable reviews compared to the competition.
The SQ8 hosts an impressive amount of safety features, both traditional and modern. The former includes six airbags, including head-curtain airbags. A tire-pressure monitoring system is also part of the suite. As for driver-assist tech, the SQ8 comes with Audi pre sense front, a top-view camera system, front/rear parking sensors, and Audi side assist as well with rear cross-traffic alert. On the Premium Plus, the Driver Assistance Package adds adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, intersection assist, active lane assist, and traffic sign recognition. This package is standard on the Prestige.
The SQ8 is a brilliant go-fast SUV. It takes a lot to stand out in this segment, but the SQ8 manages to leave a lasting impression. For starters, it has a phenomenal twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 to brag about. The engine is hooked up to an excellent transmission and the whole driving experience can be altered via the various drive modes to suit your mood. This means that it's just as comfortable during daily errands as it is tackling a mountain pass. Beyond blistering performance figures, the interior of the SQ8 is a really nice place to be. It's spacious and feels premium, which is everything most shoppers look for in this segment. The tech is also of a superior quality thanks to Audi's MMI software. Its also practical thanks to the 30.5 cubes of trunk space available. Overall, the SQ8 is an excellent choice to consider in this category, but as always, we recommend a test drive to see if you really need the S, or whether a standard Q8 will suffice.
The SQ8 may be an accomplished SUV, but that excellence comes at a price. It has a base price of $89,100 for the Premium Plus, which is more expensive than the X6 M50i, but vastly more accessible than the Porsche Cayenne GTS Coupe with an MSRP of $110,500. The range-topping SQ8 Prestige has an asking price of $95,000. The price of the Audi SQ8 doesn't include the $1,095 destination charge, along with tax, licensing, and registration costs.
The 2021 Audi SQ8 lineup comprises two trim levels including the Premium Plus and the Prestige. Both models are powered by a 500-hp 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system is included on both specs.
The Premium Plus comes standard with a power tailgate, four-zone climate control, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, ambient LED interior lighting, and multi-way power-adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation. The infotainment system is made up of a dual-screen set-up, the upper screen being a larger 10.1-inch unit. The MMI software enables Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as Bluetooth streaming, HD Radio and SiriusXM. Navigation is also standard. On the safety front, the Premium Plus enjoys front/rear parking sensors, a top-view camera system, Audi pre sense front, Audi side assist with rear cross-traffic alert, and cruise control.
Moving up to the Prestige introduces a head-up display, heated rear seats, extended leather upholstery, and the Driver Assistance package with adaptive cruise control. This model also gets HD Matrix-design LED headlights.
Audi makes a few packages available for the SQ8 lineup. Unsurprisingly, there aren't many given that the SUV comes loaded from the factory. The $4,000 Luxury Package adds power sunshades to the rear side windows, a massage function to the front seats, and extended leather. The $2,200 Black Optic Package adds 22-inch wheels, all-season tires and black exterior bits including roof rails and a black grille. On the Premium Plus, the $1,750 Driver Assistance Package includes intersection assist and traffic sign recognition. The Prestige offers a Sport Package that costs $5,900 and adds active roll stabilization, a sport rear differential, and red brake calipers.
The best model of the lineup is definitely the Prestige. The range-topping spec gets a few more standard features including a head-up display, an upgraded interior, and heated rear seats. It's the better option of the two even though it is more expensive. We'd opt for the Sport Package that costs $5,900 that adds active roll stabilization, a quattro sport rear differential and red brake calipers. That being said, if you can only stretch to the Premium Plus, it still feels like a premium high-performance SUV from behind the wheel.
The two German SUVs are closely related both in terms of pricing and power outputs. The BMW puts out slightly more horsepower but the Audi has the upper hand in torque.The X6 M50i gets better fuel economy, although that is perhaps less important in a hot SUV. In terms of performance, both have a lot of power at their disposal and offer impressive handling. On the inside, both of the SUVs are swathed in premium leather and soft-touch materials. They offer vast amounts of comfort and luxury in their cabins, but the Audi's infotainment setup is slightly more modern thanks to the dual screens. Overall, the Audi edges out the BMW due to its spacious cabin, larger trunk, and gorgeous design.
The Porsche Cayenne GTS is vastly more expensive than the SQ8, but it's less powerful. Both rely on different versions of a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 with the Audi producing 500 hp and 568 lb-ft of torque and the Porsche pushing out 453 hp and 457 lb-ft. Both engines come hooked up to intuitive eight-speed automatic transmissions, but few SUVs can match the athletic capabilities of the Cayenne at high speeds. Both SUVs have superb interiors fashioned from only the highest-quality materials, although Audi offers more standard features such as heated front seats. Both are on par in terms of exterior design, though their executions differ. Despite this, the Audi has a larger trunk. Thanks to its lower price and more evocative design, we'd go with the Audi.
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