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Torque titan: new Audi SQ8 makes 664lb ft

Published: 21 June 2019

► Flagship Audi SUV gets S treatment
► SQ8 has MHEV biturbo V8 diesel
► On sale July 2019 from around £82k

Keen as ever to milk the cash cow that is performance SUVs, Audi has launched the 429bhp SQ8. A showcase version of an already flagship model, the SQ8 has been given much of the same hardware as its seven-seat SQ7 sibling.

The end result being a 4.0-litre biturbo diesel V8 (yep, performance diesels are making a comeback at Audi) producing a faintly ludicrous 664lb ft of torque.

With a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 148mph, it’s not quite up to RS pace, yet we don’t reckon anyone will be complaining quite yet – especially in a car weighing the best part of two tonnes.  

It must need lots of tech to keep it on the road...

Indeed it does. Using a 48-volt subsystem to power electric motors placed on each axle, the SQ8 makes use of something called active roll stabilisation. As it roughly says on the tin, said motors act to twist the stabiliser tubes in opposite directions, thus increasing rigidity and reducing roll angle. All good stuff for hard cornering.

Audi SQ8 front tracking

Settle back into a cruise however and the stabilisers decouple, leaving you with a far more forgiving chassis. It’s joined by a sport differential, Audi’s famed Quattro all-wheel drive system (distributing power in a 40:60 ratio) and all-wheel steering. The latter aimed at making the SQ8 more manoeuvrable at low speeds, yet agile when the twisties appear on the horizon.

Anything good in the engine?

Apart from the 664lb ft of torque? Yes, actually. The two turbochargers are placed in the inner ‘V’ of the engine, creating shorter gas travel paths and better responses as a result. They’re sequential, too, meaning while one turbo works at low revs, the other then takes over from 2,200rpm. Turbo-style teamwork at its finest.

Perhaps even smarter, though, is the electric powered compressor or EPC. Designed to assist the turbochargers when starting off or at low engine speed, it funnels the intake air into the EPC and compresses it a second time, thus increasing its potency.

Audi SQ8 engine

Like the active roll stabilisation, the EPC is powered by the 48-volt subsystem which, in turn, forms the backbone of the SQ8’s mild hybrid unit (MHEV). Proving it’s not all about performance (who are we kidding?), this enables the car to coast at speeds between 34 and 99mph, while start/stop mode is activated anywhere below 13mph. Making the whole thing viable is a belt alternator starter (BAS), that allows the engine to fire up much quicker than it would when paired to a conventional starter.

How can I tell it apart from a regular Q8?

Given how sharp-suited the S Line Q8 is, you’d have to be fairly eagle eyed to spot an SQ8 from afar. The quad pipes, silver grille, mirrors and underbody protection are giveaways, though, as are the bolder wheelarches and 21-inch alloys.

When can I buy an SQ8?

Orders open in July 2019, with first deliveries taking place in September. Prices are expected to start from around £82,000.

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By James Dennison

Manager of Parkers' video content and contributor to CAR