2020 Audi SQ8 Test: Satisfaction, not Surprises
Audi’s performance SUV feels sporty, keeps you comfortable, and draws attention if you want it to.
SAN DIEGO—The 2020 Audi SQ8 hit showrooms earlier this year, and it quickly became known as the discount Lamborghini Urus. There is no shame in that sentiment, as the 2020 Audi SQ8 belongs to the same corporate family and its automotive attack plan that also includes Porsche and Bentley. In fact, since everything we do now requires calculated planning, this test drive of the 2020 Audi SQ8 motivated me to hunt for outdoor dining in San Diego's delightful climate.
2020 Audi SQ8 Test: Powertrain and Exterior Color Options
A new member of the performance SUV "coupe" segment, the 2020 Audi SQ8 is powered by a 4.0-liter, twin-turbo V-8 producing 500 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque. The twin-turbo V-8 sends power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, and Audi says the SQ8 has an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph, with 0-60-mph happening in 4.3 seconds. We would have opted for the exciting Galaxy Blue, Dragon Orange, or Matador Red of the nine optional metallic exterior colors; however, the 2020 SQ8 tested here was coated in Daytona Gray ($595). Though uninspiring, this darker exterior color did a decent job of concealing dust that tends to collect on cars in Southern California no matter how committed you are to keeping them clean.
2020 Audi SQ8 Test: Standard Equipment and Upgrades
Among the standard equipment found on the swoopy Audi SQ8 are 21-inch wheels, exterior aluminum finishes, the Quattro AWD system, heated and ventilated front seats, an S-specific adaptive air suspension, a panoramic sunroof, S sport seats in Valcona leather, and a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel. You also get Audi Virtual Cockpit, the Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, a complimentary six-month subscription to Audi connect, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic assist, MMI navigation with MMI Touch Response, and a top-view and rear-view camera system. This 2020 Audi SQ8 came fitted with the Sport package for $5,900, an upgrade that tacks on a torque-vectoring rear differential, red brake calipers, and active anti-roll bars.
Stickering for $107,490 with options and destination included, if there is another equipment upgrade worth further investment, it is the $5,000 Bang & Olufsen Advanced 3D premium sound system. The sound quality is outstanding, and the door-panel speaker grilles are razor-sharp. This test vehicle also came equipped with the $5,500 Prestige package that adds driver-assistance systems, rear-passenger window shades, a head-up display, heated rear seats, power soft-door closing, and HD Matrix headlights. Critics might say the interior-trim carbon-fiber vector inlays, a $500 option, are overkill, but they complement the Valcona leather S sport seats in Arras Red.
2020 Audi SQ8 Test: One Small Complaint
Admittedly, the digital-centric cabin featuring a 12.3-inch instrument cluster operated by steering wheel controls, an infotainment system with a 10.1-inch touchscreen, and a lower 8.6-inch touchscreen for climate settings can be a bit too much. The center stack screens feature the MMI Touch Response system with haptic feedback to navigate through different menus, and you need some time to get used to it all. However, the biggest gripe was having to dig up the controls for making adjustments to the driver's-seat side bolsters and cushion extension.
2020 Audi SQ8 Test: San Diego Bound
Flying high on the Bang & Olufsen's sound while heading south on Interstate 5 made leaving the world behind feel like an easy accomplishment. For a more relaxed cruise, slip into Comfort mode and lower the windows to feel the breeze in the cabin. The superb chassis tuning can make you forget you are driving a 5,000-pound SUV, and coupled with the Sport package, it transforms the 2020 Audi SQ8 into an SUV that moves with precision and a palpable feeling of sportiness.
Following a pit stop at the San Onofre campgrounds, we steered the Audi to downtown San Diego. The Gaslamp Quarter, as usual, was jam-packed with foot traffic, and it was no place for the SQ8 and its social-distancing driver, so it was time for a detour toward Coronado Bridge. In Auto and Dynamic modes, the SQ8 rewards you with swift handling, firm suspension damping, excellent throttle response; turning into corners at speed is way too easy. Hustling the SQ8 onto Silver Strand Blvd., we switched to manual-shift mode, and it actually raised the enjoyment level. Driver inputs on the perforated-leather steering wheel are rewarded with lovely feedback, and likewise, the brisk acceleration is more than satisfying.
Back on the freeway, the pops from the dual-quad exhaust attracted attention from other drivers on the road, some of whom actually seemed like they wanted to race. We laughed uncontrollably when two of the would-be challengers included an older-generation Kia Soul and a Toyota Prius. Instead of vanquishing them with speed, we exited for Old Town San Diego, and after a stroll through Heritage County Park, searched for outdoor dining options. We settled on an Italian restaurant in the Liberty Station residential district.
The evening soon turned into night, and for the last leg of the San Diego trip, the 2020 Audi SQ8 came alive on Harbor Island Dr., where roundabouts on each end provided the perfect playground for fast-paced turning and aggressive braking. We circled back to Little Italy for some caffeine, then headed north toward Los Angeles, more than content with the way the 2020 Audi SQ8 accomplished its mission. Given its family ties, none of its performance and comfort came as a surprise.
2020 Audi SQ8 Highlights
- Twin-turbo V-8, 500 hp
- 3-inch digital instrument cluster
- Bang & Olufsen Advanced 3D Sound System
- Arras Red S sport seats
- Nine optional metallic exterior colors
- S-specific adaptive air suspension
|2020 Audi SQ8 Specifications|
|PRICE||$89,995/$107,490 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||4.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-8/500 hp @ 5,500 rpm; 568 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||15/21 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||196.2 x 78.5 x 67.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.3 sec|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph (electronically limited)|