Audi SQ8 e-tron first drive review

With the Audi Q8 e-tron, a powerful flagship is now available in the expanded model portfolio with two different battery capacities and an entry-level variant.

The new top-of-the-range model in the SQ8 range, the e-tron, with its three-motor system and distinctive LED strip above the grille, is available from around $188,000 for the station wagon and $195,000 for the more elegant Sportback.

It now has one of the highest capacity batteries installed in an electric vehicle in Australia: 114 kWh.

However, the battery itself is no larger than the 95 kWh battery now reserved for the entry-level Q8 e-tron 50, which starts at around $150,000.

Although it shares the same name as the conventionally powered Q8, the Q8 e-tron has a unique body that is smaller on the outside but impressively inviting on the inside.

Each body style seats five, making for comfortable living for adults in the back seat, even with the Sportback’s slightly lower roofline.

There is no shortage of equipment either: four-zone ventilation, matrix LED lights, panoramic sunroof and leather are all included.

There are several options, including a $9,600 package with doors that close automatically, leather for the dashboard and digital matrix LED lights that flash patterns when started and can even illuminate arrows on the road.

Like all Q8s, it has air suspension that optimally absorbs bumps.

Optimizations to the steering and suspension result in subtle improvements in response when turning into a corner, and the massive 22-inch tires stick stubbornly to their lane.

The SQ8’s triple-engine design also offers advantages when cornering.

The individually controlled rear motors can transfer different amounts of drive to each side, helping the car stay on the road when cornering.

By transferring more power to the outer rear wheel, the car turns better and is therefore more maneuverable than its weight of 2.6 tons would suggest.

Performance is less impressive. The 370 kW/973 Nm output sounds daunting, but the SUV is more snappy than fast.

If you activate Sport mode to release additional thrust, it accelerates to 100 km/h in 4.5 seconds.

That’s good, but there are many dual-motor electric vehicles that exceed these figures, including Audi’s e-tron GT.

Our biggest criticism of the electrical system is a slight whining noise when coasting.

The Q8 e-tron is available with dual-motor models, which produce 300 kW/664 Nm in the 55 and 250 kW/664 Nm in the cheaper 50.

The 50 hits 100 km/h in 6.0 seconds in Sport mode, making it a real underdog, especially since the more efficient drive system and tires give it a similar range of 411 km.

It offers plenty of luxuries – head-up display, 360-degree camera, ambient lighting and leather upholstery – and plenty of the driving characteristics of its more expensive siblings. It also has the same two central screens and a customizable digital driver display.

As with all Q8 e-trons, the installation of a home charger as well as six years of public charging at Chargefox locations and six years of service are included in the price.

VERDICT

It’s more about travel comfort than pure performance.

Three stars

Audi SQ8 e-tron

PRICE: From around $188,000 (SUV) or $195,000 (Sportback)

WARRANTY/MAINTENANCE: 5 years/unlimited km, 6 years included.

SECURITY: Eight airbags, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic warning with braking function, driver monitoring, exit warning, speed sign recognition

PERFOMANCE: Three electric motors, 370 kW and 973 Nm

RANGE: 417 km (SUV), 430 km (Sportback)

SPARE PART: Space-saving spare part

BAGGAGE 569 liters (SUV), 528 liters (Sportback)

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