After driving the Audi Q8 for about a thousand miles, we learned that it’s a much more capable car than its size would suggest. Its steering is surprisingly sharp, its chassis more agile than it looks and its ride completely composed. Its main issue, dynamically, was with its engine. In America, the only Q8 engine option is the 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 from the Audi S5. While a fine engine in the S5, it’s a bit overwhelmed by the Q8’s mighty heft. So the folks in Ingolstadt decided to remedy that with an all-new performance version — the Audi SQ8.
At the moment, the Audi SQ8 has only been shown to European publications, as the only model currently known to the public will be a Euro-market car only. Because of that, it gets a ton of power but from an engine that can’t and won’t be sold in America.
Powering the all-new Audi SQ8 in Europe is a 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8 diesel engine that combines two traditional turbos with one electrically-powered compressor. It’s the same basic setup found in the Audi SQ7 TDI. That means it makes a whopping 429 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque, or enough to alter the rotation of the Earth. According to Audi, all of that torque is capable of hurdling the Audi SQ8 from 0-62 mph in just 4.8 seconds. While that isn’t uber-SUV quick, it’s more than quick enough in an SUV that weighs as much as a small elephant.
As-standard, it will get the same adaptive air suspension and active roll stabilization as the SQ7. The latter will be powered by the car’s 48-volt electrical sub-system, the same system that runs the EPC. So it should be able to tackle corners as well as it accelerates.
From our time with the standard Audi Q8, we learned that it can handle better than you might think, so with some added performance tech it should be significantly more fun. Plus, all of that extra power and torque will help it feel less sluggish off the line, as the little 3.0 liter V6 was no match for the Q8’s sheer mass. This new diesel V8, though, should perfectly motivate the big Audi SQ8 with no problem at all.
The Audi SQ8 TDI will make its official launch in Europe later this year. We expect an Audi SQ8 to make it to North America but it’s not going to have the same diesel engine. Instead, it will likely get the same 2.9 liter twin-turbocharged V6 as the RS5, which makes 444 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. So it will make more horsepower than the diesel version but far less torque. For US customers, expect to wait a little while longer for the gasoline-powered SQ8. We’ll have more for you as we get it.