The top tier Audi luxury SUV is about to show a more tempestuous side to its character as a brawny V8 TDI with 435PS and 900Nm of torque sends its performance rocketing squarely into 'S' model territory.
Power and efficiency: 4.0 TDI with electric powered compressor
The 4.0-litre biturbo V8 in the Audi SQ8 TDI will be the most powerful diesel engine available on the European market. It delivers 435PS and a mammoth 900 Nm (663.8 lb-ft) of torque between 1,250 and 3,250 rpm, credentials that enable it to propel the SQ8 like a sports car: accelerating from rest to 62mph in just 4.8 seconds, soon after which the electronic propulsion limit kicks in at 155mph.
The sonorous sound of the eight-cylinder engine is amplified by a sound actuator in the exhaust system, which drivers can adjust to their personal preferences via Audi drive select. An electrically powered compressor (EPC) assists the turbochargers when starting off and when accelerating at low engine speeds. It ensures consistently strong power delivery and excellent overtaking capability.
The driving force behind the EPC is the 48-volt main on-board electrical system, which is also the backbone of the mild hybrid system (MHEV). If the driver lifts off the accelerator at speeds of between 34mph and 99mph, the Audi SQ8 TDI can, depending on the situation, either recuperate, travel with the engine at idle, or coast with the engine completely deactivated for up to 40 seconds. The system contributes to the high level of efficiency of the SQ8 TDI.
Sport differential, all-wheel steering and roll stabilisation
The Audi SQ8 TDI has an eight-speed tiptronic transmission, and a quattro permanent all-wheel drive system that distributes the drive forces between the front and rear axles in a 40:60 ratio. The sport differential which is fitted as standard to UK Vorsprung models complements its work by actively distributing torque between the rear wheels. When cornering, it is predominantly channelled to the wheel on the outside – the Audi SQ8 TDI is literally pressed into the bend, minimising the potential for understeer.
In case of oversteer, the sport differential stabilises the large SUV coupé by shifting torque to the wheel on the inside of the bend. As standard, the SQ8 TDI is equipped with the Audi drive select dynamic handling system with seven modes and the adaptive air suspension sport with regulated damping. The air suspension changes the ride height as needed by as much as 90 millimetres. In the UK the SQ8 TDI Vorsprung also supplements this with all-wheel steering and active roll stabilisation. At manoeuvring and parking speeds the all-wheel-steering system turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front, reducing turning effort. At speeds upwards of 37mph it turns the rear wheels slightly in the same direction as the front.
S-specific details: Design and interior
Taut, muscular surfaces and a coupé-like roof line embody the dynamic character of the Audi SQ8 TDI, and the octagonal singleframe, pronounced quattro blisters above the wheel wells and striking underbody protection help to underline its statement of intent.
Standard HD Matrix LED headlights illuminate the road, and the three-dimensional signature of the daytime running lights and the tail lights displays a digital character. Horizontal lines, including the light strip on the rear which is a characteristic of all the high-end Audi models, emphasise the width of the SUV coupe, while design details specific to the S version also convey its special rank in the range.
At the rear, the honeycomb grid insert and the diffuser in matt titan black catch the eye – the latter integrates silver underbody protection that is flanked on both sides by the two round exhaust tailpipes. Vorsprung versions are also marked out by a black styling package that accentuates the area of the bumpers, the singleframe and the side windows. With its three-metre wheelbase, the Audi SQ8 TDI provides a generous amount of space. Super sport seats with integrated head restraints and pronounced side bolsters are standard, and in the SQ8 TDI Vorsprung incorporate climate control and massage functions.
The three-seat system in the rear can be moved forwards and backwards, when it is positioned in favour of luggage stowage and its backrests are folded the luggage compartment has a 1,755-litre capacity - with all seats fully in place it holds 605 litres. As is typical for an S model, the interior is primarily finished in black, with diamond stitched black Valcona leather upholstery, but the seats, the front centre armrest and the door armrests can be trimmed in rotor grey or Arras red. Illuminated door sill trims with aluminium inlays and the S logo at the front are part of the standard equipment, as are the stainless steel pedals and footrest.
Intelligently connected: Operation and infotainment
The Audi SQ8 TDI has two large touchscreens with haptic and acoustic feedback as its main operating elements. The upper display, which is integrated in a large high-gloss black bezel and is almost invisible when it is switched off, is used to control the infotainment and navigation systems. The driver uses the lower display for managing the heating and air conditioning, convenience functions, and text input, the latter with his or her wrist resting comfortably on the selector lever if desired.
The Audi Virtual Cockpit has a performance layout, where the central focus is the tachometer, displayed as a square graph, and the performance and torque are shown as percentages. When the large navigation map is shown, the torque and speed are displayed as small bar graphs. In addition, the SQ8 TDI Vorsprung features a head-up display which can project important information relating to route guidance onto the windscreen.
The SQ8 TDI is fully compatible with the myAudi app, which seamlessly connects the vehicle with the customer’s smartphone. That device can also make its key infotainment apps available on the onboard MMI screen via the standard Audi smartphone interface for iOS and Android smartphones. This can even be done wirelessly with the iPhone, as can Qi-enabled smartphone battery charging via the standard Audi phonebox unit. For pure entertainment value, the Bang & Olufsen 3D Premium Sound System that is a standard feature in Vorsprung versions has been designed to exceed the expectations of audiophiles – it can also be specified as an option for the ‘standard’ car with the Comfort & Sound Pack.
Getting to your destination safely: the assist systems
A broad portfolio of assist systems complements the extensive offer of services in the SQ8 TDI. To bolster safety when driving in the city cross traffic assist front and rear, exit warning and active lane assist are fitted as standard to the SQ8 TDI Vorsprung and optional for the SQ8 TDI. Adaptive cruise assist is an option for both versions, making longer journeys more relaxed by assisting with longitudinal and lateral guidance. It incorporates the functions of adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, and active lane assist. In conjunction with the efficiency assistant, the system predictively slows down and accelerates the Audi SQ8 TDI based on its evaluation of sensor information, navigation data, and road signs.