Audi SQ8 e-tron 2024 achieves triple success
Despite his muscular build at five-foot-10 and 268 pounds, former Major League Baseball star Pablo Sandoval was surprisingly agile in his prime. The beloved player helped the San Francisco Giants win three World Series between 2010 and 2014, having already earned the nickname “Kung Fu Panda” after gracefully leaping around a catcher to avoid a tag in a 2008 game, his dexterity defying his portly frame.
The same can be said about the three-ton Audi SQ8 e-tron. At 193.5 inches long and 77.8 inches wide, the SQ8 e-tron – formerly known as e-tron S – is almost as long as an Audi A6 midsize sedan, while being significantly wider and longer. However, in the mountains outside Los Angeles, this high-performance luxury SUV showed off some crowd-challenging athleticism.
Although it’s not a full-fledged RS model, the SQ8 e-tron is the highest-performance model of Audi’s largest electric SUV. Three AC electric motors – one on the front axle and two at the rear – produce a combined power of 496 hp and 718 lb-ft of torque, 94 hp and 228 lb-ft more than the standard Q8 e-tron. Audi estimates 60 mph in 4.2 seconds – certainly not slow but not quite as fast as other performance-focused electric cars, either.
The real highlight comes in the corners. The Audi electric car’s quattro all-wheel drive system is rear-biased, and the two rear-mounted motors use electric torque vectoring to give the SQ8 e-tron unexpected agility. The system can send additional torque to the outside wheel while simultaneously braking the inside wheel, adjusting as needed every five milliseconds. The result is sharp cornering when attacking curves, and we can feel the engines quickly redistributing torque as needed, helping us carry more speed through corners. The way the rear can compress under force adds a level of excitement that instantly separates the SQ8 from the comfort-focused Q8 e-tron.
This engaging character is underscored by the new 14.6:1 steering ratio introduced on all Q8 e-tron models, providing quick but not rushed response. In Comfort mode, steering weight is minimal, and while Dynamic mode is heavier, the SQ8’s steering wheel doesn’t feel particularly heavy. It’s not the most communicative steering in the business, but there’s a touch of precision to the SQ8 e-tron’s controls that helps this car feel lighter and smaller than it really is.
The SQ8 is also distinguished from its pedestrian counterparts by its suspension and chassis tuning, with stiffer bushings, stiffer anti-roll bars, and revised damper tuning. These upgrades mitigate body roll, and the SQ8 remains impressively flat through corners no matter how hard you push. Standard air springs deftly absorb mid-corner bumps, keeping the SQ8 stable. Handling is also improved thanks to a 1.4-inch wider track that falls under the bulging fender flares, making it the only non-RS Audi to feature a wide stance.
The combination of optional 22-inch wheels with summer tires and a ride tuned for spirited driving means that the occasional harsh impact rattles the cabin. Comfort mode keeps the suspension fairly compliant around town, but this isn’t the smoothest luxury SUV to drive. For those looking for a compromise between this and the regular Q8 e-tron, the SQ8’s standard 20-inch wheels and all-season rubber should soften the ride (and boost efficiency) at the expense of some handling finesse.
More importantly, given the SQ8’s mass, the brakes are strong, with six-piston calipers and 15.7-inch rotors up front and single-piston calipers with 13.8-inch rotors at the rear. Pedal feel is firm and consistent, seamlessly blending regeneration and traction while putting some competitors’ spongy and inconsistent stoppers to shame. However, the three regenerative braking modes don’t allow for full one-pedal driving, which would have been welcome when we returned to the crowded streets of Los Angeles.
In addition to the new name, the 2024 SQ8 e-tron has a larger battery, with the old 86.5 kWh unit replaced by a new 106.0 kWh pack. Improved battery chemistry and more efficient packaging allow Audi to fit that larger battery into the same-sized cabin. The Sportback’s EPA-estimated range rises from 212 miles to 253 miles. When fitted with 22-inch wheels and summer tires, as our example was, range drops to 218 miles, but that’s still a significant increase over the 185-mile rating of a similarly equipped 2023 e-tron S Sportback.
The revised aerodynamics of the SQ8 e-tron not only contribute to its longer range, but also improve the SUV’s appearance. New front bumper curtains direct air around the front wheels, while wings underneath help reduce wheel turbulence. The sleeker grille incorporates active shutters, while the flat lower section is decorated with golf-ball-shaped dimples that further improve aerodynamic efficiency. Thanks in part to its new slip, the SQ8 e-tron remains incredibly silent inside, even when an unusual rainstorm in Los Angeles battered the car’s steel and aluminum body. Minimal wind noise creeps into the cabin at highway speeds, and that clarity is only interrupted briefly for the occasional suspension pat on broken pavement.
The cabin is very similar to the previous e-tron S model, with a mix of leather and suede with bright silver accents. The back seat is roomy, and despite the sloping roofline of the Sportback model we drove, headroom was not compromised. Climate controls are located in a secondary screen, and while we prefer physical controls for some functions, the Audi’s display is clear, well-designed and intuitive.
The 2024 SQ8 e-tron doesn’t represent a complete overhaul of Audi’s largest electric vehicle, but the automaker has refined the electric crossover into a more usable daily driver while maintaining its sporty character. The SQ8 may not be cheap, but the surprising agility and dynamic connectivity provided by its three-motor setup has us excited for the future of high-performance electric vehicles.
2024 Audi SQ8 e-tron
Vehicle type: Front and rear drive, 4WD, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback or wagon
Base: SQ8 e-tron $90,995; SQ8 Sportback e-tron, $93,795
Front motor: AC induction, 210 HP
Rear motors: 2 induction air conditioners, each with a power of 185 hp
Combined power: 496 hp
Combined torque: 718 lb-ft
Battery Pack: Liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 106.0 kWh
Internal charger: 9.6 or 19.2 kW
Peak DC fast charging rate: 170 kW
Transmission, F/R: direct drive
Wheelbase: 115.1 inches
Height: 193.5 inches
Width: 77.8 inches
Height: 65.0-65.5 inches
Passenger Size, F/R: 53/49–50 ft3
Cargo volume, front/rear: 55–56/27–29 ft3
Curb weight (grandfather Estimates: 6,350 lbs
performance (grandfather east)
60 mph: 4.5 seconds
100 mph: 12.5 seconds
1/4 mile: 13.1 seconds
Top speed: 130 mph
EPA fuel economy.
Combined/City/Highway: 63–73/62–72/63–75 mpg
Range: 218-253 miles
Associate news editor
Caleb Miller started blogging about cars when he was 13 years old, and fulfilled his dream of writing for a car magazine after graduating from Carnegie Mellon University. Car and driver a team. He loves exotic and obscure cars, aims to one day own something exotic like a Nissan S Cargo, and is an avid motorsport fan.