- The SQ8 e-tron and swoopier-styled SQ8 Sportback e-tron are Audi's two largest all-electric models.
- As a sporty variant of the Q8 e-tron, the SQ8 e-tron gains a third electric motor, sport-tuned suspension and a few other enhancements.
- It's significantly quicker than the standard SQ8 e-tron, but it doesn't thrill in the same way as Audi's RS-tuned models or vehicles from Mercedes-AMG or BMW's M division.
2024 Audi SQ8 e-tron Review: Big Changes, But Not a Game-Changer
A third electric motor makes the SQ8 e-tron quicker, but it still lacks the feel and performance of other electric SUVs
The e-tron was one of the first fully electric luxury SUVs that came to the U.S. market, and for 2024 Audi has given it a new Q8 e-tron moniker along with many updates for the 2024 model year. As part of the update, the previous performance version — the e-tron S — is now called the SQ8 e-tron. Available as both a regular SUV and the coupe-style Sportback version, the SQ8 e-tron gains enough changes for 2024 to help keep it competitive in the face of newer competition. We had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of Audi's updated sport-ute on some of our favorite roads in Southern California.
How does the SQ8 e-tron compare to the regular Audi Q8 e-tron?
The SQ8 e-tron adds more than just an extra letter. While the Q8 e-tron and SQ8 e-tron models share the same upgraded battery that provides more range for 2024, the biggest difference between the pair is the addition of a second electric motor at the rear axle. The SQ8 e-tron's tri-motor setup adds an additional 94 horsepower and a stonking 228 lb-ft of torque when compared to the Q8 e-tron's dual-motor layout, bringing output up to 496 horsepower and 718 lb-ft of torque. The tri-motor setup gives the SQ8 e-tron standard all-wheel drive. The bias is set up to supply most of the power to the rear axle for a sportier feel.
The SQ8 e-tron gets a revised suspension setup, too, with the wider suspension yielding wider front and rear tracks. The 1.4-inch-wider track means extra bodywork to cover the wheels, making this Audi's only S (but not RS) model with wider fenders compared to the standard model. An air suspension is standard, and the control arm bushings, dampers and sway bars have all been stiffened for the SQ8. Compared to the original e-tron, the Q8 e-tron and SQ8 e-tron get a quicker steering ratio.
There are some visual tweaks, too. The grille, mirror caps and exterior trim are all bright silver for the S model (though the optional Black Optic package changes that all to gloss black), and the designs for the front and rear fascias have been slightly tweaked here. Inside, the SQ8 e-tron gets carbon-fiber trim and sportier and more heavily bolstered seats than those in the regular Q8 e-tron. More relaxed heated, ventilated and massaging front seats are optional.
How does it drive?
The extra motor significantly improves acceleration relative to the Q8 e-tron (Audi's 0 to 60 mph estimate drops by more than a second from 5.4 seconds to 4.2 seconds) and also helps the SQ8 e-tron's handling and traction. The extra motor allows the vehicle to adjust output to each individual rear wheel, improving traction and helping make the SQ8 e-tron feel more nimble than its size would suggest. In a turn, the electric motor can send more torque to the outside rear wheel and apply the brake to the inside front wheel to help the car rotate and corner tighter. This is still a big, heavy SUV, but the third motor makes it feel smaller and more nimble than you might expect, and it's a genuine improvement over the somewhat milquetoast driving dynamics in the standard Q8 e-tron.
Handling is further improved by the SQ8 e-tron's standard sport-tuned air suspension and wider wheels and tires. Combined with the third motor and tighter steering ratio, the SQ8 e-tron moves with some verve on winding canyon roads. You can really get on the power early out of a corner, knowing the Audi will have enough traction to handle the power you're asking for. There's still a bit of understeer in tighter corners (you'll never be able to fully mask the SQ8's sizable proportions), but it's generally tight and balanced, with only a mild amount of body roll.
The biggest thing holding the SQ8 e-tron back in overall performance were the brakes. While we don't doubt their ability to slow the car in a panic situation, the brakes felt stiff and wooden in both routine and spirited driving. The pedal doesn't bite well and feels uneven. You have to give it more of a squeeze than you expect to really slow the vehicle down, which isn't great considering how quick and how heavy this SUV really is.
On the street, the SQ8 e-tron and SQ8 Sportback e-tron feel as comfortable as the non-S models, especially when it comes to wind and road noise. They are truly quiet vehicles, with very little outside intrusion in the cabin. That's true of other EVs, too, but Audi nailed refinement here. We also like the standard sport seats, which are more heavily bolstered than the regular Q8's seats but not so much that they're tight or stiff.
What about the competition?
When the original e-tron debuted for 2019, there weren't many other all-electric SUVs on the market. That's changed quite a bit over the last few years thanks to the introduction of the BMW iX, Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV and Rivian R1S. The iX and EQE are both available in performance versions that offer more range and better in-car tech than the SQ8 e-tron, though they are both more expensive than the Audi, which starts around $90,000. That said, on paper the base iX is both less expensive and as quick as the Audi. The R1S largely charts its own path with its enhanced off-road capability and third row of seating, though at the Edmunds test track it sprinted from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds, 0.8 second quicker than Audi's estimate for the SQ8 e-tron. The Tesla Model X is also around, and while it's not as comfortable or as luxurious as the Audi, the enhanced range and access to Tesla's Supercharger network make it worth a look. The Model X Plaid performance variant isn't as nice inside or as comfortable, but like the Rivian, it's significantly quicker than the Audi.
The rebranded Audi SQ8 e-tron is a big improvement over the original thanks to additional range, improved handling and quicker acceleration. It's not the sharpest, quickest or most capable electric SUV, but the SQ8 e-tron is a reasonably well-rounded all-electric SUV. It's fun on the road without being punishing to ride in, and the interior is one of the most serene you'll find in any electric vehicle.