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Audi SQ8 e-tron Sportback Review: Stoic Excellence

Audi’s unique tri-motor configuration generates almost 1000 Nm.
James Wong
James Wong
08 May 2024
With its chunky 22-inch rims and bright red paintwork, the car is attention grabbing and imposing.
What we like:
Exceptional quality
Good ride comfort and refinement
Very quick
What we dislike:
Leaves us a little cold

We’ve had quite a fair bit of drive time in the new Q8 e-tron in both SUV and Sportback formats, and now we’re trying the range topper with the coveted ‘S’ badge, the SQ8 e-tron Sportback.

Why does the SQ8 e-tron Sportback have a different name to its predecessor, the e-tron Sportback S?

We’ve sampled its predecessor which has a different name, the e-tron Sportback S. The naming conventions changed along with significant updates to the model range – and now instead of merely e-tron, they call it the Q8 e-tron to confirm its flagship status.

Was there a bump up in power in the SQ8 e-tron Sportback versus the e-tron Sportback S?

The e-tron S Sportback had the same dizzying figures – 503 PS and 973 Nm – delivered from its triple motor setup, unique in the automotive industry. One 124 kW electric motor sits on the front axle, while two others power one rear wheel each with 98 kW – allowing torque vectoring in ways that a single motor would not.

How different does the SQ8 e-tron Sportback look compared to the normal Q8 e-tron?

While the SQ8 e-tron enjoys the same nip-and-tuck improvements as the rest of the Q8 e-tron range, it looks really low key despite being 2 mm lower and 39 mm wider. In fact, it’s a little challenging to tell it apart from the non-S car. These days, with no exhaust pipes nor any need for larger air intakes, high performance models are a little harder to differentiate.

That’s not to say the SQ8 e-tron isn’t a looker – far from it. With its chunky 22-inch rims and bright red paintwork, the car is attention grabbing and imposing. Open its doors and the same hewn-from-granite feeling remains from the e-tron S; everything feels exceptionally well-built and put together.

How does the SQ8 e-tron Sportback drive?

While the Q8 e-tron 50 and 55 aren’t slow by any measure, the SQ8 e-tron brings a surprising turn of pace despite its heft and size. The headline torque figure helps to quell away any concerns about how it could live up to its ‘S’ badge. It’s sure-footed, stable and utterly unflappable – although on public roads it may be difficult to appreciate the benefits of the tri-motors versus a more conventional twin motor setup.

With standard air suspension, the SQ8 e-tron is amazingly comfortable though like most EVs it manages – just – to handle the weight of its batteries, which blunt sharpness and precision to some degree. However, it makes for very cosseting and imperious progress. Our 90 km/h highway speeds to the SQ8 e-tron is a walk in the park.

What is the range of the SQ8 e-tron Sportback?

With efficiency improvements, the SQ8 e-tron Sportback’s range increased to 417 km (458 km for the SUV). This is important as one’s right foot would be compelled to make full use of the addictive power in such a car, so the battery does deplete quicker. It has the same 106 net kWh (114 gross kWh) battery as the Q8 e-tron 55. Maximum charging speed is 170 kW, 20 kW faster than the Q8 e-tron 50.

The SQ8 e-tron is stupendously capable and is all quality and class in a flagship EV package. While it lacks a little engagement, it nonetheless is almost everything you’d wish for in a large, sporty electric SUV.

Photos by James Wong


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