Audi reveals new Q8 and SQ8 e-tron

A new name and new look, plus more range and more agility, for Audi's original electric SUV

By Matt Bird / Tuesday, 8 November 2022 / Loading comments

It can be hard to keep track of the electric SUV craze, with a new BEV behemoth seemingly here every day. Great news for Audi; having launched the e-tron back in 2018, it’s sold 150,000 of them. Not bad going for an expensive SUV in what’s become a very competitive sector (and without a particularly brilliant range). It also means that the mid-life facelift for the e-tron is more important than usual, given the electric SUV seems to be where most of the industry’s attention – let alone just Audi’s – is focused.

The name has changed, first off: these cars are now the Q8 e-tron and Q8 Sportback e-tron, with an SQ8 e-tron and SQ8 Sportback e-tron at the top of the range. Though recognisable from the old model (more on the styling changes shortly), adding a familiar Q8 name will surely prove beneficial for those customers thinking about making the swap to EV. Audi says the new moniker ‘signifies positions flagship electric SUV and Sportback’. So they’ll not get any bigger just yet…

Or any more powerful, though it’d be a brave person to bet against an RS Q8 e-tron in time.  UK buyers will be offered three models: the 50 e-tron has up to 340hp and 489lb ft, the 55 e-tron has up to 408hp and the same torque, while the three-motor SQ8 models deliver maximums of 503hp and 718lb ft. A bigger battery means an increased range, too, even if that seems quite an old-fashioned way to more miles in what’s meant to be the future of family transport.

The base model’s 89kWh (net) means a WLTP range of 281 miles, or 290 for the Sportback. Both 55 and S versions are powered by a chunky 106kWh battery pack; for the former, that means up to 343 WLTP miles (Sportback), or 330 miles for the 55 SUV, a big gain given the current 408hp e-tron is only rated at 252 miles. The SQ8 is capable of 284 miles on a charge, or 295 for the slipperier Sportback, which is substantial given the e-tron S was only good for 222 miles before. Battery charging performance has improved, too, with the base 50 now capable of accepting 150kW of charge (previously 120kW), and the other two models hoovering up juice at a peak of 170kW. In a dream scenario where there’s not a queue at the services, the M1 is moving, the kids are sleeping and there’s nobody else charging, 10-80 per cent of charge (or 240 miles) can be achieved in 31 minutes. Standard AC charging is 11kW, with 22kW optional.

With that out of the way, we can discuss the interesting stuff. Far more than just a facelift and more range, the Q8 e-tron ushers in a comprehensive chassis update, which is encouraging. The air suspension has been tweaked to ‘optimise the lateral dynamics’, the ESC has been revised to ‘allow for even more adjustability’ and ‘noticeably more agility’ should be coming courtesy of modified progressive steering and new, stiffer front axle suspension bearings. Not a modification we were expecting. Interestingly, too, aerodynamic performance for both models has been improved, which will have benefits for both range and refinement. The Sportback is down to 0.24Cd (from 0.26) and the SUV is reduced by a similar amount (now 0.26 from 0.28) thanks to new underbody parts that divert airflow, self-sealing shutters for the radiator and larger front axle spoilers.

Not that this is a drastically different looking e-tron, Audi and its customers presumably pretty chuffed with the first go. The press material suggests that both boast ‘new front and rear designs that carry Audi’s electric design language forward’, but it’s really going to need a back-to-back (and a head-to-head) to tell much difference. It’s probably the badges – including some new ones on the B-pillar – that mark this Q8 e-tron out from the old model. Still a smart looking thing, but might be hard to show off how new this is in the school car park. Same goes for inside, with the dual display dash pretty familiar. You’ll have to point out the recycled carpet, Tech Layer with optionally available recycled PET material and solvent-free Dinamica upholstery instead. In Europe, the Q8 e-tron will be certified as net carbon neutral.

This new range of Q8 e-trons will be on sale from the middle of this month, with deliveries due in April. There aren’t prices just yet, but we’d expect a small increase on the £60k-£100k currently asked. As well as a plethora of new rivals announced come the spring.

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