MALIBU, Calif. – Again in Might, I took a soothing scenic drive within the up to date and renamed Audi Q8 E-Tron, reveling in its plush trip and stupendous Bang & Olufsen stereo filling its cocoon-of-silence cabin. This primary drive of the 2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron could be decidedly completely different. Because the added letter S would attest, the SQ8 E-Tron builds upon the bottom automotive with a better efficiency envelope and racier seems accented by matte alloy mirror caps. Except you don’t need these, during which case Audi will fortunately take plenty of your cash to make them black … ‘trigger each little bit of trim must be black now. Trend!
Fortunately, the true story right here is “Motor!” Whereas the Q8 E-Tron has the standard all-wheel-drive EV setup of two motors – one powering the entrance axle and one other the rear – the SQ8 provides a 3rd motor to combine, upping mixed output by 94 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque within the course of. The 0-60 dash takes solely 4.2 seconds when the total drive of Enhance mode’s 496 hp and 718 lb-ft of torque are utilized. Ludicrous it isn’t, however you do get that EV “snap” off the road that’s lacking within the extra sedate Q8.
That’s not the place the motor story ends, although. That third motor can also be utilized to the rear axle, that means every wheel will get its very personal motor – every good for 185 hp, whereas the entrance one has 210 hp – and due to this fact giving the SQ8 E-Tron a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system. Identical to mechanical variations, the quantity of energy despatched via every wheel can differ; particularly, the surface rear wheel can spin quicker than the within to push the rear finish round a nook, not not like how caterpillar tracks flip a tank.
On the tightest, twistiest roads of the Santa Monica Mountains, this torque-vectoring expertise may very well be absolutely felt and appreciated. The rear finish rotates extra fortunately as a substitute of plowing and protesting, and you’ll undoubtedly preserve a faster tempo than you’d anticipate in a midsize SUV weighing, gulp, 6,118 kilos. The SQ8 doesn’t really feel as hopelessly overweight as its mannequin line did when launched as merely the “E-Tron.” Enhancements have actually been made to the general Q8 E-Tron household, with the SQ8 going past with the torque-vectoring rear finish, faster steering (14.6:1 versus 15.8), stiffer sway bars and entrance management arm bushings, revised damper tuning and 1.4-inch wider monitor. It unquestionably appears like a tauter, extra responsive selection than the Q8 E-Tron, however you continue to discover its hefty weight. The Mercedes-AMG EQE SUV was way more agile via the identical stretches of mountain highway.
After all, most people who’ll purchase an SQ8 received’t stay close to mountains or, at the very least, received’t select to drive via them with any regularity. They usually in all probability received’t reap the benefits of the truth that its torque-vectoring rear finish permits for some good, new-fashioned drifting. However that’s a part of the enchantment, proper? Luxurious vehicles are sometimes about paying extra for functionality, even in the event you’ll solely be scratching the floor of that functionality. Not less than you’ll be capable of persistently respect the additional oomph when charging onto a freeway, or the torque-vectoring’s additional benefit in slippery circumstances.
Visually, the SQ8 is differentiated by greater entrance grille openings and enlarged fender flares wanted for that additional monitor width. “Selenite Silver/Alu-optic” trim is then utilized in abundance inside and surrounding the grille (the Q8 face has mild grey trim contained in the grille and darker grey surrounding it) together with the decrease bumper, rocker panels, window encompass, decrease rear bumper valance and, per Audi S custom, the mirror caps. It’s so much — arguably an excessive amount of — nevertheless it additionally makes it so much simpler to identify an SQ8 versus its non-S sibling. Regardless of my earlier snarkiness, I might due to this fact see how one would favor the Black Optic package deal that turns all that silver stuff gloss black … besides that it prices $3,500. For black plastic. Even Audi’s personal designers and product planners aren’t too eager on this development, but when individuals are prepared to pay for it, why not, proper? Not less than the revised Audi emblem with flat white rings now not makes the all-black grille appear like someone made off together with your badge.
The inside will get S-specific sport seats with fastened headrests and diamond-quilted leather-based, in addition to a three-spoke sport steering wheel, prolonged leather-based on the sprint and doorways, “SQ8” embossed within the shifter/wrist relaxation, and a few lovely “Carbon sq. construction” inside trim that’s a delight to run your fingers throughout. The Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system that so impressed within the Q8 E-Tron comes customary even when I used to be too busy driving the SQ8 E-Tron with exuberance to note this time round.
Just like the Q8 E-Tron, the SQ8 will get a 23% bigger battery than its predecessor (referred to as the E-Tron S), with a usable capability of 106 kilowatt-hours. With larger energy comes larger vitality consumption, although, so EPA-estimated vary is much less with the SQ8: 253 miles with the usual 20-inch wheels and 218 miles with the no-cost-option 22-inch wheels. In our expertise, the previous quantity is completely enough for an EV. The latter … um, it’s best to in all probability persist with the 20s.
With each, you’re taking a look at a charging max of 170 kW, an quantity that’s lower than another EVs, however Audi says the SQ8 is able to holding that most for longer. With a completely purposeful quick charger, it ought to take 31 minutes to go from 10-80%. For dwelling charging, there’s a 9.6-kW onboard charger customary, together with a twin cost cable, that means you don’t want a devoted dwelling charger – a 240-volt electrical outlet will suffice. That mentioned, you’ll be able to go for a 19.6-kW second charger ought to your property be outfitted for such a firehose of electrons. You get a second cost port with that, too, which makes for fewer awkward parking jobs to line up with a charger.
Pricing begins at $90,995, together with the surprisingly affordable $1,195 vacation spot cost, for the SQ8 E-Tron’s SUV physique fashion. The SQ8 E-Tron Coupe begins at $93,795. That’s nicely wanting the $111,950 AMG EQE SUV, however then the Mercedes is so much faster and extra highly effective, and, as I found, the sharper electrical SUV to drive. Audi’s S fashions have additionally by no means been supposed to align with such full-bore AMG metallic – RS fashions are for that, and there’s no such factor as an RSQ8 E-Tron. As a substitute, the SQ8 aligns extra intently on value and output with the EQE 500 SUV, and though I haven’t sampled that, it doesn’t have a torque-vectoring rear finish nor the spicier styling parts. It does, nevertheless, appear like a huge blob of a hatchback. Benefit Audi.
Benefit SQ8 over the Q8, as nicely. It begins at principally the identical value because the loaded Q8 I drove in Might, and in the event you can stay with out the flowery $2,000 massaging seats and $3,500 Black Optic package deal (significantly folks, that a lot for black plastic?), it’ll keep that method. The third motor is well worth the trade-off.