Photo of the Audi SQ7
Photo of the Audi SQ7

Tested: Audi’s SUV superhero

Punch, thump and wallop. They're words that typically pop from comic book pages as heroes grapple with evildoers.

But they also describe the effortless thrust produced by high-performance Audi SUVs.

Audi's SQ7 launched in 2016 as the world's fastest seven-seater. Powered by a 4.0-litre twin-turbo diesel V8 (a triple turbo if you count its electric supercharger), the big wagon offered 320kW of power, 900Nm of torque and surging acceleration.

It was the first - and only - car offered with such an engine in Australia, until Bentley's Bentayga diesel arrived at twice the price.

The SQ8 packs a powerful punch.
The SQ8 packs a powerful punch.

Now available in Audi's sportier Q8, the engine powers the first SQ8 performance SUV. An even faster V8 petrol RS Q8 debuts in the second half of 2020.

Audi introduced the Q8 in late 2018 as a five-seat pseudo-coupe SUV aimed at BMW's X6.

Priced from $165,500 plus on-roads (about $180,000 drive-away), the SQ8 costs $4000 more than the bigger but similarly-specified SQ7 it is based on. An endless features list includes tech (laser headlights), safety (some 39 driver aids), convenience (soft-close doors), comfort (four-zone climate control) and more.

The SQ8 is aimed at the more style conscious buyer.
The SQ8 is aimed at the more style conscious buyer.

In front of the driver is a 12.3-inch high-resolution screen backed up by a head-up display, while the rest of the dash is dominated by twin touchscreens.

Wireless smartphone charging and connectivity meets satnav, digital radio and clever connected features such as the ability to show the price of nearby fuel. Bang and Olufsen provides 17-speaker audio.

Power goes to four 22-inch rims with enormous red brake calipers, adaptive air suspension and rear-wheel steering. Our test car's $30,000 extras include a $10,900 dynamic pack with torque-vectoring rear differential and active roll bars to hold the car flat when cornering, plus a $13,900 sensory package with extended leather trim, massaging seats and 23-speaker stereo.

It's a beautifully finished space with easily-accessed tech and impressive comfort, though the cabin ambience isn't particularly warm.

Audi’s interior is slick and pack full of hi-tech features.
Audi’s interior is slick and pack full of hi-tech features.

Then you press the starter button.

Updated to meet the latest emissions regulations (but exactly as powerful as before), the motor rumbles to life augmented by surround-sound hi-fi. An eight-speed auto transmission starts in second, as there's little risk of stalling with exactly twice the torque of Toyota's HiLux ute. That amount of grunt is enough to drive the Q8 to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds. Equally impressive is the fuel efficiency at a claimed 7.8 litres per 100km.

It sounds like a muscle car, and each prod of the throttle is rewarded with a deep bellow as it squishes you into plush leather. Those clever roll bars mask the wagon's size in the bends, while rear-axle steering lends stability at triple-digit speed and agility around town.

Remarkably, its turning circle is smaller than the Audi Q3 baby SUV.

The giant SQ8 has a smaller turning circle than the small Q3 SUV.
The giant SQ8 has a smaller turning circle than the small Q3 SUV.

It rides well for a two-tonne beast with genuine athleticism, soaking up bumps in comfort mode before turning taut when set to dynamic. Lower and wider than its seven-seat sibling, the SQ8 surprises when you question its sporting prowess.

Monstrous 285mm-wide performance tyres at each corner hustle through corners with brute force if not the tactile engagement of the best sports sedans.

There are faster, louder and sharper petrol SUVs on sale, but few blend the effortless strength of such an engine with the luxury and refinement of the SQ8.

Think of it as The Incredible Hulk's muscle combined with Iron Man's tech suite and a dash of Bruce Wayne's class. Punch, thump, wallop.

Audi‘s SQ7 doesn’t look as suave as the SQ8 but if better value.
Audi‘s SQ7 doesn’t look as suave as the SQ8 but if better value.

FRIEND OF THE FAMILY

Family-conscious customers will lean toward the new-look SQ7.

Updated inside and out, the seven-seater has a claimed $15,000 in additional equipment for $400 less than before at $161,500 plus on-roads. The hi-tech cabin (which does away with physical infotainment controls) is a worthy upgrade, and it offers much of the SQ8's driving experience in a practical, less ostentatious package. Buy either now and you'll get a five-year warranty and five years of servicing to sweeten the deal.

AUDI SQ8 VITALS

PRICE About $180,000 drive-away

WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 year/unlimited kilometres, $2870 for 3 years

ENGINE 4.0-litre twin-turbo diesel V8, 320kW/900Nm

SAFETY 5 stars, 8 airbags, AEB, blind-spot alert, lane-keep assist, active cruise control

THIRST 7.8L/100km

BOOT 605 litres

SPARE Space saver

Originally published as Tested: Audi's SUV superhero



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