Driving the 2024 Audi SQ8 Sportback e-tron calls to mind a scene from the Walt Disney animated feature, “Fantasia.” In particular, it’s the one where hippopotamuses dance to Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours from La Gioconda. Who would believe that hippos could do pirouettes?
OK, it’s fantasy.
But a similar suspension of belief is needed when considering driving the 2024 Audi SQ8 Sportback e-tron. Once behind the wheel, you will believe a hippo can dance – all 6,118 pounds of it. While Audi already makes a Q8 e-tron, as well as a Q8 e-tron S-Line, which gets the look of a speedier stallion, but without the extra electrons to make it happen. That’s where the 2024 Audi SQ8 Sportback e-tron differs.
It’s the sportiest rendition of Audi’s largest battery-electric SUV, with one electric motor on the front axle and two on the rear, delivering all-wheel drive. Altogether, the three motors generate 496 horsepower and 718 pound-feet of torque from its 106-kWh battery. Compared to the base Q8 e-tron and its 86.5-kWh battery, there’s an extra 94 horses and 228 pound-feet of torque on tap. That’s enough muscle to bring up 60 mph in 4.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of 130 mph. And it can tow 4,000 pounds with up to a 400-pound tongue weight.
Sounds sweet; but how sweet? To find out, we ventured to the twisting roads in the hills above Malibu, California to put this puppy through its paces.
Is it fast? You bet; effortlessly so. But straight-line speed isn’t difficult to produce. The real trick comes when it’s time to tackle the twisties, and that’s when this rig gets really, really good.
This Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system is rear biased. And since there’s no physical connection between the two rear wheels, the two electric motors can vary the torque they deliver to either wheel. So, the outside rear motor provides 162 lb-ft more torque than the one on the inside while cornering, providing torque vectoring. Throw this puppy into a corner a bit too hot, and you’ll whip that tail around, tires squealing. It thrills and enchants, capturing the heart.
Yet it’s all very controllable thanks to the SQ8 Sportback e-tron’s taut suspension and crisp, precise steering. The SQ8 Sportback e-tron’s steering is never ponderously, artificially heavy. Instead, it proves to be just right, especially when dialed into its Dynamic driving mode. Aiding and abetting all of this are the optional 22-inch wheels, replacing the standard 20s. Their handling prowess comes at some expense in ride comfort, but that’s to be expected. Then there’s the range trade-off. The 22s reduce range to 218 miles, down from the 20s’ 253 miles.
That said, for those who like one-pedal driving, you’ll find it surprisingly lacking.
They’re part of the $3,500 Black Optic Package, which shrouds this vehicle’s exterior trim in black. Our vehicle also had the $1,895 AC Charging Package, which adds a second charging port on the passenger’s side of the vehicle. And despite a base price of $98,600, Audi charged an extra $595 for its metallic paint. All told, our fun electric bauble cost $105,740. But fun has its price.
And you’ll find that despite the high-speed athleticism, the cabin proves to be library quiet. Its ambience is typical of modern-day Audis, with a mix of leather, suede and aluminum trim. But being an S model, you’ll find the seating finished quilted leather, emblazoned with S logos, in case you forgot which trim level you chose.
Infotainment comes courtesy of a 10.8-inch touchscreen mounted above an 8.6-inch screen that controls the climate and other comfort functions. It works flawlessly, as you might expect.
But you don’t need outside entertainment when driving the 2024 Audi SQ8 Sportback e-tron. This vehicle is all the entertainment you’ll need.