by Jarryd Neves
Spurred on by rival automakers, Audi unveiled the Q8 back in 2019. The lineup has since grown to accommodate the sportier Audi SQ8, a mid-level performance version of Audi's midsize coupe-SUV to rival the BMW X6 M50i ($89,100) and the Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 Coupe ($79,500), both of which trade practicality for rakish looks and a sleeker profile.
BMW may have invented the segment, but Audi has perfected it - at least design-wise. There's real substance lurking beneath the exterior, thanks to a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 500 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque. 0 to 60 mph is summarily dismissed in 4.3 seconds, with all-wheel-drive grip providing surety on all surfaces.
The 2023 SQ8 is no one-trick pony, though, boasting a sumptuous cabin with space for five and little compromise for rear-seat occupants thanks to a lower seating position that defies the typical issue of limited headroom from similar SUVs. Based on the MLB Evo architecture shared with the Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus, the SQ8 handles as well as it rides. Priced from $94,500, admission isn't cheap, but as our review of the Audi SQ8 will show, it's worth every cent.
The Audi SQ8 has been treated to some minor revisions for MY2023. HD matrix design LED headlights are now standard across the range, bolstered by a coming/leaving home animation for the head- and taillights and a headlight washer system. Elsewhere, the Executive Package - available for Premium Plus models - now sports dual pane glass for an even more hushed cabin.
See trim levels and configurations:
Under the hood, you'll find an absolute gem of an engine. The twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 produces 500 hp and 568 lb-ft. With a motivated driver at the helm, Audi's SQ8 can hustle to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds - not bad for an SUV that weighs 5,280 lbs.
Take it by the scruff of its neck, and the Audi responds surprisingly well. Flick the drive mode into Dynamic, and the SQ8 will show a hot hatch a clean pair of heels through a mountain pass. Yes, it still feels a touch heavy, but the quattro all-wheel drive system keeps everything planted and secure.
Perhaps the new Audi SQ8 SUV is not the most engaging vehicle - the X6 still rules in this segment - but it's a lot of fun for what it is. The steering can feel a trifle numb, and the brakes don't have as much feel as we'd like, but these are complaints very few owners will have.
Everywhere else, the Audi impresses. Place it in Comfort mode, and the hushed V8 will silently take you where you need to be. Not even the 21-inch wheels threaten the ride quality, which is creamy smooth thanks to the adaptive air suspension. It's great for the most part, but some road irregularities can cause the vehicle to pitch and writhe, if only for a brief moment.
Overall, it's a superb vehicle to drive every day (if you can stomach the fuel bills).
Buyers in the USA are spoiled for choice. There are plenty of alluring products to choose from, all of which are worth considering. When you're spending upwards of $100,000 on a car, it had better be good. The problem is, the Audi SQ8 and its competitors are all good - but which is best?
That depends on your needs. If you want the most dynamically talented coupe SUV, the BMW X6 is the one to have. Next to the Audi, it looks clunky and awkward, but the truth is, the M50i derivative will run rings around the SQ8 on a winding road.
The Mercedes may not have a V8 engine, but it's also considerably cheaper than the Audi or BMW and has the eye-catching looks that shoppers in this segment value. While nice, the interior quality can't quite match the BMW or Audi's fit and finish.
The Audi justifies its heftier price tag by being the most complete car. It's the most spacious of the three and offers the best blend of comfort and performance. If the regular Q8 doesn't cut it, and the RSQ8 is just too extreme, it's the perfect compromise.
The most popular competitors of 2023 Audi SQ8: