The question (or should it be conundrum) the 2020 Audi SQ8 raises might seem a little simplistic on the surface. That is, do you want less for more? Less roof, less glass, less second-row head room. More style, though, and as we often question here, what price style?
So, first the price. In contrast to the Audi SQ7 we reviewed late last week, which has a starting price of $161,500 before on-road costs, the SQ8 starts from $165,500 before on-road costs. Precisely four grand more for less, then.
The SQ8 that we sampled on our launch drive had some options, too, as is par for the course with a premium Audi product. The Dynamic Package brings active roll stabilisation and the quattro sport differential and costs $10,900.
The Sensory Package costs $13,900 and adds a raft of interior niceties, not the least of which is the 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
The exclusive titanium black exterior styling package adds, um, black styling for $1850, the 22-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels cost $1000, black roof rails cost $900, and the carbon vector inlays cost $1950.
So, the price for our SQ8 tester is $196,000 even before on-road costs. Let’s call it 200 grand, then, which is a fair wedge of money. But, and it’s a crucial but, for that outlay you get the coupe-style rear end and a massive thump of diesel performance. Which is hard to put a value on in some ways.
The twin-turbo diesel V8 engine is a masterpiece of style and substance. The design and engineering nous is there, of course, but there’s plenty of heavy-hitting output, too – 320kW between 3750rpm and 4750rpm, and 900Nm from 1250rpm to 3250rpm. 0–100km/h comes up in just 4.8 seconds, and it feels fast, too.
It’s hard to quantify, but the sledgehammer blow of peak torque being available just off idle at 1250rpm is addictive off the mark, but just as the torque curve reaches its peak, the power band starts to work into its peak zone. Not quite overlapping, but close, and it makes for a clean surge right up to redline – something not all diesels can offer.
Yes, it eventually runs out of puff in the upper reaches, but by that stage you’re already going way too fast for Australian roads anyway.
The engine is beautifully complemented by the eight-speed automatic, and you can read more about the drive experience in our SQ7 review. In short, though, this is a rapid large SUV despite the fact that it weighs in around the 2400kg mark. It’s no lightweight, but it feels light on its feet.
An ADR-claimed 7.6L/100km on the combined cycle will be achievable, and even bettered on prolonged freeway runs.
The fact that the SQ8 shares its mechanical package with the SQ7 begs the question of why you wouldn’t just go for the ‘regular’ large SUV? The fact that every man and their dog is offering a coupe SUV now, though, is evidence that the public wants what the public wants. And Audi intends to offer an alternative.
As much as I do like the styling of the SQ8 – either static or on the move – I really think I’d still opt for the SQ7 and its more functional rear interior space. The sight of the SQ8 from the rear three-quarter angle is undoubtedly tough, while still retaining a delicate edge. It’s actually hard to describe, but you can see it in the photos.
The exterior styling of the SQ8 is revised rather than redesigned, but it’s still big, bold and brash. That’s despite the sloping roof. The optional 22-inch wheels on our test model look perfect under an SUV of this size, and it’s hard to argue with the subtle revisions that Audi has made elsewhere in a styling sense.
Against the purchase proposition of the SQ7, then, the SQ8 is simply a question of whether you want or need the second-row head room and the extra luggage space. The SQ7 – with the second row in play – accommodates 705L, while the SQ8 has 100L less at 605L. Interestingly, given the SQ8 doesn’t have third-row seating to hide, there is room for a space-saver spare tyre, which is something the SQ7 doesn’t have.
The SQ7 and SQ8 are both rated to tow an impressive 3500kg, and we’d definitely recommend the SQ7 for that if you have a lot of towing in mind. These SUVs are surprisingly effective and effortless tow vehicles – 900Nm will do that…
The smoothness of the drive experience is no doubt assisted by the fact that Audi has employed a torque converter automatic, rather than a dual-clutch, and the SQ siblings are all the better for it, too.
Like the SQ7, it’s effortless as a cruiser around town, and ready to go way faster than you will need if you move it into Sport mode.
The standard rear-wheel steering makes for a nimble beast of a thing, more nimble than it should be, while the active roll stabilisation (optional) helps keep the SQ8 as level as possible during hard cornering.
While I’ve written above that I would prefer the SQ7 if the money on the line were mine, that’s only because I’d be buying a large SUV for reasons other than style – practicality, space, towing, interior comfort. However, if you are buying on style, the SQ8 takes the inherent quality of the SQ7 and ratchets it up a notch – maybe a few notches come to think of it.
The fact it cuts such an impressive figure on the street is the icing on the cake.