Luxury Cars

The Audi SQ8 E-Tron 2024 will be the canyon carver among SUVs

Getting to drive Audi’s fastest electric SUV — the all-wheel-drive, three-motor 2024 SQ8 E-Tron — for a few hours on sunny Southern California highways last week seemed like a formality.

But then dark clouds rolled in and the sky opened up, just as I was given a challenging route through a gorge and handed a key fob to the SQ8.

Oh, that’s a good thing. My travel options had suddenly become much more interesting. Whether petrol or electric, Audi has built its reputation on Quattro all-wheel drive and its sure-footedness in adverse weather conditions. That wet day, a greasy sheen on the road and a puddled and sometimes gravelly winding route chosen for dry conditions added up to a great test of the stability, grip and confidence that this system offers – itself the surface is smooth.

This experience allows me to describe with much more confidence the difference that three engines instead of two actually bring – apart from faster acceleration. In fact, it’s the SQ8 E-Tron’s strength over every other electric SUV, including other three-motor models.

But first of all, the sporty variant has some impressive specifications to offer. Instead of the two-motor system in the Q8 E-Tron, which provides one motor for each axle, is the 2024 Audi SQ8 E-tron combines two motors on the rear wheels to produce 94 hp and 228 lb-ft of torque for a total of 496 hp and 718 lb-ft. Audi says the SQ8 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds (compared to 5.1 seconds for the Q8 E-Tron) and that its top speed is 130 mph during high-speed highway driving Can be held for at least 12 miles under various conditions.

There is no physical connection between the two rear wheels, allowing the two rear motors to deliver different amounts of power when cornering. Up to 162 lb-ft more torque can be transferred to the outside rear wheel than the inside, while at the same time the brake pads act on the front, inside wheel to aid cornering.

Audi SQ8 E-Tron three-motor system

Audi SQ8 E-Tron three-motor system

Audi SQ8: Dynamic push-pull between the rear engines

Simply put, this means that all three motors can continue to provide propulsion, while the system supports push-pull propulsion with torque vectoring so that you can get around corners faster without losing your composure.

This lack of interruption in forward momentum is the characteristic dance movement of the trimotor system. On wet canyon roads that pushed the tires to their limits of traction, the SQ8’s systems harnessed the dynamics of this 6,118-pound SUV and made it feel almost unbelievably nimble. Yes, in the rain.

In a few particularly tight corners, with plenty of room and a bit more zeal, I managed to get some wobble from the rear when driving in Dynamic mode, which potentially harnesses all 496 horsepower. But again, it quickly subsided as I felt the engines doing their job and bringing the SQ8 back to stability.

With all the stability aids turned off, this might be an extreme torchbearer, but what the entire kit allows for together while barely slipping is amazing.

Why the drive systems of the SQ8 E-Tron work so well has a lot to do with the reaction time: According to Audi, torque vectoring reacts five times faster with electric motors than with a combustion engine.

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

SQ8 E-Tron: Optimizes an already great package

Body control and quicker steering are also part of the improved dynamics. Compared to the E-Tron 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron The family gets a faster steering ratio of 14.6:1 with stronger on-center response, revised damper tuning, stiffer anti-roll bars and control arm bushings, and revised tuning of the suspension and stability control systems. The SQ8 features an all-wheel air suspension whose longitudinal components have been revised for improved dynamics. In addition, the Q8 E-Tron series adopts the E-Tron’s very smoothly tuned braking system.

The Q8 E-Tron 2024 model range will also have more range. Audi has increased battery capacity to 114 kWh gross (106 kWh usable) – up from 95 kWh gross (approximately 84 kWh usable) in the previous E-Tron, resulting in an EPA range improvement of approximately 20% across the lineup. The package has the same size and even the same housing as its predecessor, but the improvement comes from higher energy density at the cell level and a shift in the internal configuration of the modules.

Audi emphasizes that the SQ8 is a performance-oriented vehicle as one of its S models, but is not intended to be one of its most extreme RS performance halo vehicles. However, it offers a lot more performance than its S-Line models, which essentially just offer a performance look.

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

The SQ8 is offered in SUV and Sportback body styles, with the main difference being the roofline. Sportback models are characterized by a more continuous arc that begins behind the front seats, while SUV versions more closely resemble a traditional SUV roofline. The two are actually quite close in terms of usable interior space, although getting in and out of the Sportback’s rear seats is a bit more challenging. Customers who shop at big box stores will also appreciate the SUV’s increased loading height.

The SQ8 E-Tron has a panoramic sunroof as well as the double-pane acoustic window glass, which is optional on the Q8 E-Tron. Audi claims it’s as quiet or quieter than the A8 sedan, and it felt that way to me.

On the way from the Q8 S E-Tron – the very limited model that briefly introduced the three-motor arrangement of the previous model – to the SQ8 E-Tron, Audi improved aerodynamic efficiency by up to 6% through new front air curtains , active radiator grille flaps, wheel spoilers and underbody aerodynamics. It contributes to efficiency and also ensures that the cabin remains quiet.

Audi SQ8: Spicy design details, wide-track look

The SQ8 also gets a coordinated set of spicier design details. Red-painted fender flares increase the body width by 1.5 inches, allowing for an additional 1.5 inches of track width, giving this model just enough difference in stance. The grille openings are larger – yes, there is one here – and a matte metal material is used front, rear and rocker panel accents with just the right touch of shine. The Q8 E-Tron is also Audi’s first “S” vehicle to switch to a black-bordered emblem.

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

Inside, the SQ8 E-Tron features improved upholstery, a square carbon dashboard trim instead of the Q8 E-Tron’s open-pore wood, and a three-spoke steering wheel (round, thanks!). The front seats are fantastic, providing just the right amount of thigh and side support to keep you in place but not too tight during high-acceleration cornering.

Two different trim levels of the SQ8 are offered: Premium Plus and Prestige. They start at about $11,000 more than the dual-engine Q8 model, with the Premium Plus costing $90,995 in SUV style or $93,795 in Sportback style. Four-zone automatic climate control, a heat pump and pre-conditioning are included, while LED matrix headlights, a head-up display and soft-closing doors are part of the Prestige package.

My tester, a SQ8 E-Tron SUV in Prestige trim with a Magnet Gray exterior and Arras Red interior (with well-matched contrasting gray stitching), brought in $102,345, along with the optional 22-inch five-arm titanium painted wheels with sticky wheels Hankook Ventus S1 Evo 3 rubber, which drops the EPA range rating to 218 miles. Over nearly 70 miles, my test SQ8 E-Tron indicated that I had achieved an average of 1.7 miles per kWh – going up and down grades fairly quickly with little regard for efficiency and running the window defroster off and on let. That suggests a worst-case range of about 180 miles.

A dual-port charger is available for the E-Tron, allowing an upgrade from the standard 9.6 kW on-board charger to a 19.2 kW output – and the flexibility to charge it with 240 volts on either side of the vehicle to connect peak charging rate. All Q8 E-Trons also include a mobile charging cable that allows charging with 120 or 240 volts.

The CCS/Combo fast charging port is located on the driver’s side only and can charge from 10 to 80% in just 31 minutes with a higher charging rate of 170 kW. The SQ8 E-Tron comes with two years of unlimited Electrify America charging, and the Plug & Charge feature lets you connect it to more than 3,500 fast chargers in the US without having to worry about payment details.

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

Audi SQ8: Is there anything else that is as fast and confident in the corners?

How does the SQ8 E-Tron compare to the competition? The BMW iX M60, Mercedes-Benz AMG EQE SUVand Tesla Model But it’s hard to imagine the latter remaining so calm and collected while rushing along wet canyon roads, quite as calm and composed as the Audi.

Rolling along on drier roads—briefly, as I did, near the end of my ride—the SQ8 dialed in higher, jaw-dropping cornering Gs and thrilling acceleration without beating me up. With all the traction and balance built into its powertrain and chassis systems, it’s a reminder that in the real world, no drama is the best drama.

Audi has covered travel and accommodation expenses for Motor Authority to bring you this first-hand report.

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