Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
If we went through each of the SQ8's cutting-edge systems we’d have to write a book, so we'll concentrate on the most important one: its 48V electrical system. Also seen on the closely related SQ7, this supports an electric compressor which (along with two turbochargers) boosts the power of the 4.0-litre V8 diesel engine. And, crucially, because it’s electrically powered, it works near-instantaneously.
That helps to overcome a common complaint about turbocharged engines: the delay between you pressing the accelerator and receiving full power. So, the SQ8 is more responsive than rivals such as the BMW X6 M50d from low engine revs and a devastating overtaking machine.
The fact the engine is blessed with a whopping 663lb ft of low-down muscle also helps, as does the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox, which isn’t slow to kick down in the way that the auto ’boxes in regular Q8’s can be.
If you’re after a sports SUV that will be comfortable enough for your daily commute, there’s more good news. Go for the range-topping Vorsprung model and the 48V system not only powers the electric compressor, but also the car’s clever active anti-roll bars, which are designed to limit body lean in corners without compromising ride quality over bumps.
In reality, it doesn’t quite manage the latter, with the SQ8 picking up on some road surface imperfections that you wouldn’t be aware of in a regular Q8, even when the air suspension is in its softest setting. However, by the standard of sports SUVs, it’s still remarkably forgiving.
In addition, those active anti-roll bars help the SQ8 corner with much greater composure than most similarly-sized rivals, including the X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupé. Its precise steering and tight turn-in add to your confidence, too. Just bear in mind that the Porsche Cayenne Coupé is more engaging at similar speeds, as is the cheaper (and smaller) Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
Sit at a steady 70mph and there’s some roar from the fat tyres, but the SQ8 still cruises more quietly than all of its key rivals. There’s minimal wind noise and the engine is mostly very refined, although you do feel some buzz through the accelerator pedal at town speeds.
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