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Audi SQ8 Vorsprung 500PS TFSI Tiptronic
Click to view picture gallery“Youve been gifted 100,000 and
  you fancy a
super-coupe SUV.
  But you feel Bentley
s Bentayga is
  a tad ostentatious; and Porsche
s
  Cayenne is perhaps not quite showy
  enough. Who do you call? Audi,
  of course!


AND THE REASON you call them is the SQ8. While it might have a short name, it's big on everything else. Hand Audi 104,100 and in return they'll give you a domineeringly handsome coupe-esque SUV that commandeers a substantial chunk of road space. Power comes from a 500bhp 4.0-litre V8 capable of hurling you down the road to 62mph from standstill in 4.1 seconds. Naturally you also get state-of-the-art tech, both under its skin for the dynamics, and in the tasteful and luxuriously appointed cabin.

Let's hope that your 100K comes with some driving around money for fuel because, officially, you can expect a combined consumption figure of 22.1mpg. Hardly a shock given the power, ballistic grunt, and a kerb weight of 2,270kg before you so much as climb aboard. In case you're curious to know, our test average came out at 22.3mpg which we have to say surprised us — pleasantly so, especially as we didn't try to conserve fuel. Sorry, but we defy anyone to drive one of these softly-softly!

Finished in flamboyant
Dragon Orange metallic
paintwork offset by
massive 22-inch
Star
design alloys, the SQ8
exudes enough presence
to eclipse the Batmobile.
If you
re not comfortable
in the spotlight you can
go all-black, although
even that doesn
t let you
hide in plain sight
because what with its
menacing stance and
vast shark-like grille it
then looks more
intimidating than Tyson
Fury — and attracts even
more attention...”
Size-wise, 'imposing' doesn't do it justice: measuring 7' 2" wide mirror-tip-to-mirror-tip, 16' 5" long and matching Tom Cruise's height (officially he's 5' 7"), the SQ8 has presence with a capital P. Finished in flamboyant Dragon Orange metallic paintwork offset by massive 22-inch alloys wrapped in meaty 285/40 low profile rubber, the SQ8 nonchalantly eclipses the Batmobile. If, however, you're not comfortable in the spotlight you can go all-black — even the windows and wheels — although even that doesn't let you hide in plain sight because along with its menacing stance and vast shark-like grille it then looks more intimidating than Tyson Fury, and attracts even more attention.

One hundred thousand pounds buys you a very swish cabin indeed. Swing open the driver's door (all four are frameless — a well-considered nod to the SQ8's 'coupe' spirit), and you'll be greeted by some tastefully stylish and luxurious real estate resplendent with superb Valcona leather-clad Super Sports seats with quilted centre panels, two central touchscreens, Audi's Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display, lashings of carbon-fibre finishing and black suede headlining and door trims, and meticulous build quality; not only does it look awesome but it's a tactile feast — every switch and control down to the selector lever feels finessed. A special place however many times you re-enter it.

Like the SQ8 you sit high on the road, and enjoy excellent visibility. Despite the aesthetically pleasing, sleeker-than-usual (for a SUV) glasshouse and sloping rear screen, visibility rearwards is fine although it's comforting to know that cameras and sensors are on hand to make parking even easier. What you do 'get' the moment you settle behind the wheel is where the SQ8's corners are; it's nowhere near as daunting as its external footprint might initially suggest. The front seats impress on numerous levels: not only are they every-which-way electrically adjustable but they offer three-stage heating (both outer rears are heated too), three-stage cooling, and even a massage function, and both have their own two-way memory recalls; they're also seriously supportive, and comfortable even at the end of a long day's drive.

There's no shortage of space inside the SQ8 and it's made even better by all the light in the world that floods in through the panoramic glass roof (the front section slides and there's a black-out sunblind with everything one-touch-op) and wherever you sit you'll enjoy plenty of personal room all around you with a full-fist of headroom even with the seat jacked-up high. Likewise, the armrest separating the driver and passenger is satisfyingly wide so no elbow clashes here. Beneath its sliding padded top is a bed for wirelessly charging a smartphone.

The leather-skinned selector lever for the Tiptronic automatic transmission is neat and offers a foolproof R-N-D/S gate: tap it back and it toggles between Drive and Sport; nudge it sideways into manual mode and you can then nudge it north to change up and south to go down. Or, even easier, use the shift paddles on the sports steering wheel (the great-to-grip perforated leather rim has single-stage heating if you want it). A handy Park button is built into the selector knob while yet another nice touch is the power adjustable steering column — just the thing for fine-tuning your bespoke driving position.

Audis Drive Select
system is also fitted and
offers a range of drive
settings: Offroad,
Allroad, Efficiency,
Comfort, Auto, Dynamic,
and Individual.
Dynamic is hard to resist
if you fancy an
adrenaline hit while
ramping up the burbly-
growly V8 soundtrack
as it simultaneously
engages the Tiptronic
s
Sport mode, effectively
bringing the SQ8 to its
DEFCON 1
ready to
rumble
stage that will
out-sport a Range Rover
Sport...”
Audi's Drive Select system is fitted and offers a range of drive settings: Offroad, Allroad, Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual. Dynamic is hard to resist if you fancy an adrenaline hit while ramping up the burbly-growly V8 soundtrack — selecting Dynamic simultaneously engages the Tiptronic's Sport mode, effectively bringing the SQ8 to its DEFCON 1 'ready to rumble' stage that lets it out-sport a Range Rover Sport.

The comms are comprehensive but straightforward to use: sited top-dead-centre of the fascia is the principal infotainment/navigation touchscreen; below it, a second touchscreen handles the climate and doubles as a keyboard for the navigation (keys or fingertip writing input); the driver's virtual instrument panel is crystal clear, superbly laid out, and multi-configurable.

The multifunction controls on the steering wheel are all clearly marked, while in front of your eyes on the windscreen is a head-up projection showing navigation prompts, road names, the posted speed limit, your road speed and even lane info. Plus there's voice control for just about everything, which is a huge boost to driveability. You can also take for granted Audi Connect with Amazon Alexa, and foolproof smartphone hook-ups.

When it comes to kit, Baby, has this SQ8 got it all. The list is extensive: highlights include heated, ventilated, and massage power-operated Super Sports seats, soft leather upholstery, the virtual cockpit mentioned above which incorporates Audi's much-praised MMI Touch system with multiple screens, 360-degree camera with full-blown parking system and on-board 'valet' to carry out the tricky parking stuff for you, powered tailgate, four-zone climate control, panoramic roof, Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, powered door closing, keyless entry (all four door) and engine Start, rear window sunblind, heat-insulated glass, and privacy glass.

To that you can add plenty of items from Audi's technical arsenal, such as quattro permanent all-wheel drive, head-up display, Matrix LED headlights with an adaptive high-beam pattern, active anti-roll bars and sports rear differential, adaptive cruise control, all-wheel steering, adaptive air suspension, fast-acting auto dip/main beam switching, camera-based traffic sign recognition, Audi Pre-sense Front and City Assist for collision avoidance and automatic emergency braking, Cross-Traffic Assist Front, Lane departure warning with emergency assist, and Pre-sense Rear.

Unrestricted by any seats behind the second row, the SQ8's rear cabin is a spacious haven for those who prefer to be chauffeured. In fact, thanks to the decent ride, refined setting, and more legroom than many a legitimate limo, it's an ideal place to chill out; two adults will enjoy a full fist of headroom, masses of foot room and can stretch their legs right out while cosseted in their heated seats. Even three can sit side-by-side and remain on the most cordial of terms.

Further boosting the rear cabin's appeal are powered sun shades for the side windows, a dedicated climate control panel, pop-out cupholders incorporated into the made-for-sharing central armrest, large seatback pouches, and 1.5-litre bottle holding door bins.

Not only do the air
springs and adaptive
dampers successfully
manage this behemoth
s
body movements but
they insulate all aboard
from all but the largest
potholes — and even
they produce nothing
worse than a passing
thump that does little to
dishonour the ride
or degrade the SQ8
s
sporting abilities.
Motorway journeys are
as good as they get in
this super-sized SUV,
which gobbles up
the miles with
zen-like serenity....”
Given the 22-inch alloy wheels and the low-pro rubber wrapped around them, the SQ8's ride is amazingly fluent for an XXXL-sized SUV. Sure, pop the drive mode select into its Dynamic setting and it firms up noticeably (the better for spirited driving) although even that doesn't spoil things. Much of the way it rides is down to the standard-fit air suspension. Range-topping Vorsprung versions go one better, deploying an active anti-roll system that counteracts lateral body movements beautifully.

Not only do the air springs and adaptive dampers successfully manage this behemoth's body movements, but they insulate all aboard from all but the largest potholes — and even they produce nothing worse than a passing thump that does little to dishonour the ride or degrade the SQ8's sporting abilities. Motorway journeys are as good as they get in this super-sized SUV, which gobbles up the miles with zen-like serenity.

Weighing-in at well over two tonnes, this all-wheel drive uber-SUV demands plenty of power and torque — and it gets it. Audi has recently swapped the SQ8's original diesel V8 for another V8 — a petrol-drinker that's more than up to the job. In fact, this same 4.0-litre V8 is to be found under the bonnets of both Porsche's Panamera as well as the Bentley Continental GT. Naturally this V8 makes full use of all the core technical tweaks such as a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers crouched within the engine's 'V', cylinder deactivation for those times when it's safe to coast, variable timing for both the exhaust and intake valves, and even active engine mounts.

The beauty of this V8 is its power-spread — it's flexible enough for you to play good cop, bad cop: feather your right foot and its 568lb ft of torque (instantly on call between 2,000 and 4,000rpm) will waft you around effortlessly; select Sport and stomp the pedal to the metal and it will blitzkrieg you towards the horizon with a lustiness that quickly projects three-figure numbers on the head-up display. The SQ8's Yee-Ha! get-up-and-go is always available but you don't need the addictive shove in your back, or us, to remind you that this a beguilingly easy car in which to add points (lots of them) to your licence.

Channelling all this mechanical fury to all four wheels is an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and a centre diff. For the record, Vorsprung models also benefit from a clever torque-vectoring rear differential that enhances turn-in and improves traction (by braking a wheel as necessary or adding more power as appropriate to pull the nose tighter into line). From the helm it's all very laid-back thanks to an autobox that shifts fast and smoothly, and which is always on the same page as your right foot. If you buy a car like this you won't be expecting headline-making economy. Our test 22.3mpg is what you'll see, unless you give in to its siren-song performance... in which case you'll be able to afford it!

Even when not
hammering down a road
this SQ8 feels imperious.
Partly that
s down to
its hewn-from-rock
solidity, partly its joie de
vivre, and partly the
cleverness of its tech-
rich underpinnings and
their ability to, if not
fundamentally change
the laws of physics,
then at least stretch
them a little.
While it does occupy
a large chunk of road
space, it
s surprisingly
easy to thread
down tighter tracks...”
Even when not hammering down a road the SQ8 feels imperious. Partly that's down to its hewn-from-rock solidity, partly its joie de vivre, and partly the cleverness of its tech-rich underpinnings and their ability to, if not fundamentally change the laws of physics, then to at least stretch them a little. While it does occupy a large chunk of road space, it's surprisingly easy to thread down tighter tracks. The commanding driving position and well-fettled controls ensure little effort is required to keep it honest and respect its physical boundaries in urban landscapes, where side, front, and rear proximity sensors and cameras keep you aware of the its extremities.

Crucially, the SQ8's precise steering gives you every confidence that the nose will not only follow but relentlessly stick to your chosen line; it changes direction equally confidently and with commendable verve given the wide 285/40 Hancook rubber gripping the blacktop. As already mentioned, the Vorsprung version's active anti-roll system does a great job of keeping it shipshape and level through the twisties and corners. And while Audi's headline carbon-ceramic brakes don't make it onto the SQ8 (you will find them on the even more potent RS Q8) it stops meaningfully; the initial bite of its big ventilated front and rear discs is powerful and more than reassuring.

There's a lot to be said for sticking to five seats and a lot of those things concern luggage space. Thanks to the SQ8's generous 605-litre boot, none of your passengers need worry about a baggage-cap. Making life more civilised is a fast-acting, powered tailgate with a hands-free luggage cover roller-blind that opens and closes automatically for you as the tail rises and shuts.

If you're travelling light — solo or deux — then it's even better as you can make full use of the pretty enormous 1,755-litre loadbay created by dropping the rear backrests. Taking the strain is a switch in the boot, which lowers the floor height when loading. Finally, part of the larger section of the split rear seatback folds down to provide a very big load-through hatch. The backrests, incidentally, sit perfectly level (and lock down for added safety) and merge seamlessly with the boot floor for an uninterrupted cargo bay floor. Should you ever need to tow, then the SQ8 is more than happy to oblige and will haul anything up to a braked 3,500kg.

The SQ8 is worth every penny of the 104,100 it would cost to own one. For the lucky few who can afford one, it is highly desirable — and far more than just its bewitching performance. A week behind the wheel reveals its true character; look past the hard-charging SUV and you'll discover a beautifully appointed, all-weather, all-road, all-rounder — a grand-tourer that's easy to savour from any seat, but especially so from the driver's. ~ MotorBar
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Audi SQ8 Vorsprung 500PS TFSI Tiptronic | 104,100
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.1 seconds | Test Average: 22.3mpg
Power: 500bhp | Torque: 568lb ft | CO2: 290g/km

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