2021 Audi SQ8
Classy, Not Flashy, With a Serious Amount of Performance
With all of the SUVs that are currently available, there seems to be one for just about everyone; whether you’re looking for practicality, performance, luxury or style. But every once in a while, one SUV comes along that does all of that and more; and no surprise, it comes from Audi!
The Audi Q8 arrived for 2019 as a more sporty and stylish flagship version of Audi’s 2nd generation Q7 3-row SUV. This 2021 SQ8 adds a lot more performance into the mix.
Audi is one brand that still believes in V8s, and has crammed their 4.0-liter twin-turbo unit between the SQ8’s shock towers to replace the standard V6. This escalates output from 335 to 500-horsepower, with an impressive 568 lb-ft. of torque.
Same 8-speed automatic transmission, but with revised gearing, and quattro all-wheel-drive is standard; in rear-biased tuning sending 60% of power to the rears during normal operation.
We couldn’t get to Mason Dixon Dragway fast enough to see what the SQ8 was capable of.
Quattro-grip provided the drama-free getaway that we’re used to from Audi, the SQ8 squatting down briefly and then jumping off the line to 60 in 4.0-seconds flat. That’s almost a full 2-seconds quicker than the standard Q8 V6, which felt plenty powerful to us in our original road test two years ago.
Power continues to pour on steadily and heavily from there, with the turbo V8 making all of the right noises; somehow sounding obnoxious and refined at the same time. Automatic shifts happened cleanly and quickly, yet were extremely smooth as well. It took 12.5-seconds to complete the ¼, travelling at 111 miles-per-hour.
With all of the drive modes and adjustments that can be made to the sport-tuned adaptive air suspension and even rear wheel steering, the SQ8 can deliver a wide range of driving experiences. If you dial up Dynamic mode and can figure out how to defeat as many intervention systems as possible, you can fly though the cones like you’re in a sports sedan.
And, while trying to wrap our heads around that, it’s at this point we remember this chassis also delivers track-worthy performance underneath of Lamborghini’s Urus and the Porsche Cayenne.
Drive it in Normal mode with all of the safety systems active and it’s a totally different experience; the car virtually taking over, and keeping you from having any fun at all.
Front brakes are 1-inch larger in diameter than the standard Q8, and stopped us from 60 in 114-feet; 4-feet shorter than before. The brake pedal was firm and responsive; stops were consistently straight and true.
Like most performance-minded Audis, it’s away from the track where the SQ8 truly excels.
Yes, the ride is more than entertaining, but it can also be extremely comfortable and even relaxing, with no harsh ride penalty to pay for all of the added capability.
To the already dynamic looking Q8 shape, the SQ8 adds a unique version of Audi’s Singleframe grille, as well as sportier takes for the front and rear fascias, and quad exhaust tips integrated into the rear diffuser. 21-inch wheels are standard, with 22s available
Due to its slant back shape, Audi wisely ditched the Q7’s 3rd row, keeping capacity at 5; yet sacrificing very little cargo space with a great 30.5 cubic-ft. in back, expanding 60.7 cubic-ft. with rear seatbacks folded. Plus, there’s an exceptional 7,700-lbs. towing capability.
Rear passenger space stays plentiful as well; while up front, it’s the same driver-oriented high-tech cockpit of the Q8, enhanced by a heated 3-spoke steering wheel with shift paddles, ambient lighting, diamond stitched Valcona sport seats, aluminum trim and an extended leather package.
Audi was one of the first brands to adopt fully virtual gauges and not only does their latest virtual cockpit continue to look impressive-- the amount of flexibility it has is truly amazing.
We’re less enamored with their latest twin screen multimedia and control setup, but it’s easy enough to use once you take the time to learn its nuances.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 15-City, 21-Highway, and 17-Combined. We averaged 17.7 miles-per-gallon of Premium. So, there’s a well below average Energy Impact Score, consuming 19.4-barrels of oil yearly, with 8.6-tons of CO2 emissions.
The SQ8 is available in both Premium Plus and Prestige trims, starting at $90,195; that’s about $17,000 over a Premium Plus trimmed V6.
The 2021 Audi SQ8 does everything short of rock crawling, with poise, composure, and a whole lot of performance. And as great as it looks, it still has a way of blending in more than standing out.
Classy, not flashy; and, unlike many performance-oriented luxury SUVs, it remains extremely practical, too. That’s what we we’ve come to expect from Audi, and the SQ8 delivers!
- Engine: 4.0L Twin Turbo V8
- Horsepower: 500
- Torque: 568 lb-ft
- 0-60 mph: 4.0 seconds
- 1/4 Mile: 12.5 seconds at 111 mph