2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron EV hustles in a hush


Big, powerful electric luxury SUVs with sub-5-second acceleration times and ranges of 300 miles or more are now ubiquitous. 

That certainly wasn’t the case in 2019 when Audi E-Tron deliveries started, or in 2017, when Audi powertrain and chassis development chief Siegfried Pint promised me that the E-Tron’s tri-motor system would make it corner “like a hunting dog chasing a rabbit.”

While many of the E-Tron’s first-mover range and performance numbers fell behind with the arrival of all the other luxury electric SUVs, the 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron SUV and Sportback catch up with the Joneses—with a bigger battery pack, friskier handling, and even more attention paid to aerodynamics.

Fortunately, none of those optimizations got in the way of the tri-motor halo, and last week I finally got to familiarize myself with what Pint had been referring to—on a demanding Southern California canyon-road route. 

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

It got even better than that. As I headed out in the SQ8 E-Tron, the skies opened up in a torrential downpour, leaving the canyon routes a level of slick that warrants caution no matter the vehicle.

But I quickly found that the SQ8 E-Tron’s system was ready to hustle—and stay pretty neat about it—with whatever traction the tires could get. 

The 2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron packages one motor for the front wheels plus two motors together at the rear wheels. The rear wheels aren’t mechanically connected to each other. Altogether, the system makes 396 hp and 718 lb-ft of torque—94 hp and 228 lb-ft more than the Q8 E-Tron.  

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

SQ8 E-Tron party trick: More dancing than dashing

Audi notes that the SQ8 can launch from 0-60 mph in just 4.2 seconds—versus 5.1 seconds for the Q8 E-Tron. It’s quick, but in a world of 2.5-second Model X Plaid claims and brute-force torque, straight-line punch isn’t it’s party trick. A different kind of quick is though: It dances astonishingly quick in the corners. 

The arrangement allows the two rear motors to effectively push-and-pull in corners, delivering up to 162 lb-ft more to the outside rear wheel than the inside one, while applying the friction brakes at the front inside wheel to aid cornering. And it can work to react in about a fifth the time of such a system with an internal combustion engine. That means you still get uninterrupted forward propulsion while the vehicle gets a nudge in the direction you’re dialing up with the steering wheel.

Audi SQ8 E-Tron tri-motor system

Audi SQ8 E-Tron tri-motor system

It’s beyond party trick. All said, the system makes the E-Tron feel unbelievably quick and yet, almost disconcertingly, without drama. Perhaps most noteworthy, it makes the E-Tron drive like a far lighter vehicle than its 6,118-pound curb weight suggests. 

The SQ8 E-Tron uses the same motors as the SQ8 E-Tron, and Audi emphasizes that its asynchronous (induction) motors are advantageous in this setup too, as when not needed they effectively have no drag. The SQ8 is rear-wheel-biased by default, but the motor configuration allows Audi to run the SQ8 as a front-drive vehicle during some low-load conditions, maximizing efficiency and saving the two rear motors for off-the-line launches, added traction, and performance situations. 

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

Audi AQ8 E-Tron range and efficiency

In about 70 miles of driving—aggressively and rapidly, up and down, and testing traction limits at times—the SQ8 E-Tron claimed to average 1.7 miles per kwh. That would indicate about 180 miles of real-world range in such an extreme scenario. The SQ8 E-Tron is rated up to 253 miles with 20-inch wheels, but with my test car’s 22-inch 5-arm titanium-finish wheels, wearing sticky Hankook Ventus S1 Evo 3 rubber, its EPA rating drops to 218 miles.

These figures are all with the Q8 E-Tron lineup’s roughly 20% boost in battery capacity versus the E-Tron—to 106 kwh usable (114 kwh gross), from 84 kwh usable (95 kwh gross), thanks to a higher cell energy density and a new cell configuration within modules. Factor in some finessed aerodynamic efficiency throughout and other tech tweaks, and these models deliver at least 20% more range than before. 

It’s worth keeping in mind that performance models never return the range of other versions in the lineup, and this is right in the vicinity of the Mercedes-AMG EQE SUV (235 miles) and BMW iX M60 (274 miles)—although the tri-motor Tesla Model X does earn a 311-mile rating. 

You can opt for a dual-port charger setup on the E-Tron, upgrading the onboard charger to 19.2 kw for an easy overnight full charge if you happen to have access to an 80-amp charger at home or at work. A mobile charger is included with all SQ8 E-Trons. And as for road-trip fast-charging, the E-Tron will peak around 170 kw and get from 10-80% in about 31 minutes—with two years of Electrify America charging and Plug & Charge functionality.

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

Steering, braking, dynamics: All as they should be

The SQ8 E-Tron also carries over the Q8 E-Tron’s excellent braking system that accesses all of 0.3g of regen with the motor system, transitioning only to the brake pads for stronger braking or the last few inches of a stop.

With a quicker steering ratio as well as some changes to front suspension tuning especially, all of the Q8 E-Tron models already feel more lively than their Q8 E-Tron predecessors in everyday driving—including everything from heading through the parking lot to the weekend drive on country roads. 

The SQ8 E-Tron offers up efficiency, comfort, auto, dynamic, and individual modes, and I spent most of my time in the dynamic setting, which enables the full 496 hp and allows a little more flexibility for traction and rotation from those rear motors—albeit with assistance from the stability control system still fully on. 

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

What the Q8 E-Tron still misses is communication back to the driver. Everything is damped so well that pushing the Q8 very hard is a bit of an experience in faith. It always delivered grip and poise to an absurdly high level, but it was truly hard to tell when the limits were approaching in the way you can many other high-performance vehicles.

And really, what seems like a hurdle at first proved to be an asset after some more time behind the wheel on anything but the canyon roads. Its super-hushed interior, with dual-pane acoustic side glass, is by Audi’s internal measurements quieter than its A8 flagship sedan—and yes, this is for a performance model. 

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

Cabin comfort is great all around, too. SQ8 E-Tron models get upgraded quilted-leather upholstery and carbon-square dash trim, but it’s the superb seat bolstering itself that sinks in after some time in the driver’s seat. Backseat space is adult-sized, too, and there’s a flat cargo floor with plenty of cargo space for small furniture items if you flip the rear seatbacks down. Just beware that the Sportback’s roofline, sexier as it might be, sacrifices some cargo height and tapers a bit at the back doors for entry/exit headroom. And if we’re going to talk details, the shifter still feels like a design-studio outtake.

Among E-Trons, the SQ8 looks a lot like the Q8 on the outside, just dialed up a little bit, with a 1.5-inch wider track width, a little more corresponding body width, bigger grille openings, and a matte-metallic material for accents that has the right hint of glossy. 

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron

Good with SQ8 E-Tron price and range? Then it’s easy

The 2024 Audi SQ8 E-Tron is due to arrive very soon, and it starts at $90,995 for the SUV or $93,795 for the Sportback, both in Premium Plus trim. Step up to the Prestige version and you get LED matrix headlamps, soft-closing doors, and a head-up display, among other extras. My test SQ8 E-Tron Prestige SUV added up to $102,345. 

If a triple-digit price tag or the lower range ratings don’t turn you around, the SQ8 E-Tron is a gem that won’t disappoint. It’s a reminder that the one with the highest numbers isn’t always the best, and sometimes it’s about how fast you can hustle through all the curves along the way. 

Audi’s comment from way back, before all the Ludicrous and long-running electric SUVs, now seems prescient. There may be rabbits up ahead, but Audi has a very good hunting dog.

Related post

    Leave a Comment