Audi SQ8 e-tron first drive review

The Audi Q8 e-tron now has a high-performance flagship as part of an expanded model range that includes two different battery capacities and an entry-level version.

The new e-tron with three engines and a distinctive LED strip across the grille is priced at around $188,000 for the wagon and $195,000 for the fancier Sportback.

It now has one of the most powerful batteries fitted to any electric vehicle in Australia at 114kWh.

However, the battery itself is no bigger than the 95kWh battery now reserved for the entry-level Q8 e-tron 50, priced from around $150,000.

While it shares the same name as the regular-engined Q8, the Q8 e-tron has a unique body that’s smaller on the outside but extremely cozy on the inside.

Each body style offers seating for five people and makes life comfortable for adults in the rear seats, even with the Sportback’s slightly lower roofline.

There’s no shortage of equipment either, including four-zone ventilation, matrix LED lights, a panoramic sunroof and leather.

A variety of options are available, including a $9,600 package that adds tailgates, leather on the dash, and digital matrix LED lights that can flash patterns at start-up and even illuminate road arrows.

As with all Q8s, there is an air suspension that cushions passengers wonderfully from bumps.

Steering and suspension tweaks subtly sharpen responses as you aim for a corner and the bulky 22-inch tires hang on.

The SQ8’s triple engine setup also brings cornering advantages.

Individually controlled rear motors can send different levels of drive to each side, helping the car stay in corners.

By sending more power to the outside rear wheel, it helps spin the car, making it more nimble than its 2.6-tonne weight would suggest.

Performance is less impressive. 370kW/973Nm sounds intimidating, but the SUV is more lively than ballistic.

It sprints to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds if you engage Sport mode to unlock some extra thrust.

That’s good, but there are plenty of dual-motor EVs that beat those numbers, including Audi’s e-tron GT.

Our main gripe with the electrical system is some squealing when sailing.

The Q8 e-tron is available in twin-engine models producing 300kW/664Nm in the 55 and 250kW/664Nm in the cheaper 50.

The 50 will hit 100 km/h in 6.0 seconds in Sport mode, making it something of a dark horse, especially since the more efficient powertrain and tires give it a similar range of 411 km.

It has a decent chunk of luxury – a head-up display, a 360-degree camera, ambient lighting and leather-look trim – and plenty of the driving content of its more expensive siblings. It also has the same dual central screens and adaptive digital driver display.

As with all Q8 e-trons, the price includes installation of the charger at home, six years of public charging at Chargefox sites and six years of servicing.

VERDICT

More about cruising comfort than outright performance.

Three stars

Audi SQ8 e-tron

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

WARRANTY/SERVICE: Five years/unlimited km, six years included.

SECURITY: Eight airbags, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert with braking, driver control, exit warning, speed sign recognition

POWER: Triple electric motors, 370kW and 973Nm

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

RESERVE: Space-saving backup

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

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