The performance version of the Q8, Audi's recently launched SQ8, is something AutoAdvisor was rather keen to experience. We're great fans of the regular Q8 model, especially when fitted with the creamy-smooth V6 TDI.
Equipped with a turbodiesel V8 (boasting 310 kW and 900 Nm of torque), we pointed the big brute towards Durban to test out its family carrying and cruising capabilities.
Style is subjective, but we're yet to find anyone who doesn't like the looks of Audi's svelte SQ8. And that's no mean feat - while the BMW X6 and GLE-Coupe have enjoyed relative success, their styling is rather divisive, with some calling both ugly. Audi's take on a coupe SUV is rather more successful, we think. The SQ8 we tested came with some added aesthetic enhancements. Coated in Navarra Blue Metallic (a R4 620 option) it looked not only classy, but distinctive too. The 22-inch 5-Y spoke alloy, at R40 000, is pricey - but it looks great. Along with the other usual 'S' trimmings, red brake calipers add just a touch of aggression.
Perhaps the highlight of the car, Audi's SQ8 features what is undoubtedly one of the best cabins in the business. Minimalist, elegant and modern, the facia is welcoming and contemporary - without being cold. Open the pillar-less door and you're greeted by swathes of leather, aluminium trim and plush carpeting. Despite the slick roofline, there's plenty of interior space. In the rear, two adults will fit with ease, the plush seating enveloping them in comfort. Two USB ports are there to keep devices charged on a long trip. What's more, rear passengers were treated to separate climate controls and heated seats (a R6 270 option) - a boon on those cold winter mornings.
Up front, the optional seat ventilation and massage function (R24 260) heightens the already tall levels of luxury, while providing supreme comfort on the long road. Being a large car, manoeuvring such a large car can prove to be a cumbersome affair in tight spaces - not so in the SQ8. The brilliant 360-degree parking cameras make parking (or exiting a tight bay) an absolute breeze, with clear and concise guidance assisting you out of tricky situations.
As befitting a luxury SUV, the sound system fitted to our test unit was superb. Crisp and clear, at R81 390, the optional Bang and Olufsen Advanced Sound System with 3D sound is pricey, though. The boot is simply massive, offering up a generous 605 litres of luggage space. Fold the seats down and you have a vast 1 755 litres of utility space at your disposal.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE
The engine is an absolute masterpiece. From start-up to acceleration, it's rather bewildering to think that the SQ8 is powered by a diesel engine. It's so smooth, and sound so fantastic, that it had some of us scratching our heads after a brief drive. On the long road however, it simply excels - the 4.0-litre, turbodiesel V8 is an absolute masterpiece. With 310 kW and a monstrous 900 Nm of torque on tap, it can shift its near two-tonne weight to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds. Despite that (and the 250 km/h top speed) it can easily return 8.3 L/100 km.
It sounds good too, with a throaty V8 growl emanating from the four exhaust pipes. Overall, the engine is absolutely sublime - it's smooth, the fuel consumption is fantastic and what's more, it's great fun. It seems you can have your cake and eat it, too.
Despite the 22-inch alloy wheels, the ride quality (courtesy of air suspension) is superb. It does get caught out by sharp ridges and larger potholes, but overall it rides brilliantly. If, however, you prefer your SQ8 to roll down the road with a softer edge, we'd recommend selecting a smaller (and cheaper) alloy wheel.
I think it's clear that we were rather taken by this turbodiesel delight from Audi. It's marvellous, quite simply. The 900 Nm V8 powerplant (and incredible styling) lends the big bruiser from Ingoldstadt plenty of charisma. Priced at just under R1.9 million, it's certainly not cheap. But as a package, we're struggling to think of anything in this segment that offers this much style, value for money, economy and performance for a similar price. Its closest rival, the BMW X6 M50d, is not only less powerful but more expensive, too. For what it's worth, we think the Audi is better looking as well. It's a phenomenal car, the SQ8 TDI - if you can afford it, we say go for it.