It could get both gasoline and diesel engines

Launched in June 2018, the Audi Q8 is the company’s latest SUV offering and competes in a small niche dominated by the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, and the Porsche Cayenne. With the coupe-styled Q8 now ready to hit dealerships, Audi is working to expand the lineup. The first iteration to join the new family is the performance-oriented SQ8, which was spotted testing on public roads only a few weeks after the regular Q8 debuted.

The S badge will add notably more oomph under the hood, but it will also enhance the crossover’s exterior with sportier features. It won’t be decidedly more aggressive than the Q8, but it will get just enough unique design elements to stand out. The SQ8 will become the range-topping model and will challenge the more powerful versions of the X6 and GLE Coupe. That’s until Audi will launch an RS version, which is likely to happen sometime in 2019. As for the SQ8, it could debut by the end of 2018 or at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

Continue reading to learn more about the Audi SQ8.

2019 Audi SQ8 Exterior

  • Sporty bumpers
  • Big grille with black inserts
  • Diffuser-like element
  • LED lights
  • Several available upgrades
2019 Audi SQ8
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The skid plate was replaced by a diffuser-like element, while the rectangular exhaust outlets were ditched in favor of four oval tips

Design-wise, the SQ8 isn’t very different from the Q8. It takes a really good look to notice any differences up front. There isn’t as much chrome as on the regular model, while the grille inserts are black. Beyond that, the SQ8 boasts the same Singleframe grille that’s wide and has sharp corners, slender headlamps with LED technology, and the same bumper with massive vents onto the sides. The engine hood remains standard too, but it’s sporty enough for this model thanks to the noticeable bulge in the middle.

The profile is basically identical. Fortunately, the standard Q8 is sporty enough as it is and I can’t say I’d like to see a more aggressive finish on the SQ8. The sporty side skirts, the tall beltline, and the squared-off roof that pays tribute to the original Audi Quattro give the SQ8 the athletic look it needs. Audi did add a few unique features though, like the all-black mirror caps, black roof rails, and twin-five-spoke wheels through which you can see the beefed-up brake calipers.

The rear fascia remains familiar and features the same slim, angular taillights with vertical LED strips and the horizontal light bar that runs the entire width of the tailgate. However, the skid plate was replaced by a diffuser-like element, while the rectangular exhaust outlets were ditched in favor of four oval tips.

2019 Audi SQ8 Interior

  • Premium look
  • Sportier seats
  • Competitive headroom and trunk
  • Big digital displays
  • New infotainment system
  • Extra trim options
2019 Audi Q8 Interior
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The cabin will carry over with minor changes, so look for the same Q7-based layout

Our paparazzi didn’t manage to get any snapshots of the interior, but it’s not like we would have seen major changes in there. The cabin will carry over with minor changes, so look for the same Q7-based layout as in the regular Q8 model.

There will be a continuous air vent strip at the top of the dashboard and a lower section finished in gloss black that also includes the infotainment display. The MMI touch system consists of two different screens. There’s a 10.1-inch unit in the center stack and a smaller, 8.6-inch screen above the center console. The latter features controls for heating and air conditioning, which results in a clean layout with almost no buttons or knobs.

The instrument cluster is fully digital like it should be in a modern premium car, with 12.3 inches of room to display drivetrain data and the navigation map. The regular model has two views selectable from the multi-function steering wheel as standard, while the third, sportier display is optional. In the SQ8, the latter should be included at no extra cost.

2019 Audi Q8 Interior
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The comfortable seats that flank the wide center console should get a slightly more aggressive design

The comfortable seats that flank the wide center console should get a slightly more aggressive design in the SQ8. However, they should continue to be wrapped in fine leather with a diamond-quilt pattern. The optional sports seats could come in Alcantara though. Expect the SQ8 to include LTE Advanced data transfer, Wi-Fi hotspot, a navigation system with intelligent suggestions, and Car-to-X services for traffic and hazard information as standard. The optional Audi Connect key will allow you to lock/unlock the car and start the engine using an Android smartphone. The four-zone climate control and the air quality package should also be optional.

The performance model should remain just as comfortable as the regular Q8, which Audi claims will offer superior legroom and headroom compared to its rivals. Tall passengers may have some issues in the rear seats, but the crossover looks comfortable enough even for longer trips. Luggage room will remain unchanged at up to 62 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. That’s significantly more than what the BMW X6 can offer at 53.8 cubic feet.

2019 Audi SQ8 Drivetrain

  • Diesel V-8 engine
  • Gasoline V-6 option
  • Four-wheel steering
  • Mechanical differential
  • Optional air suspension
2019 Audi SQ8
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The SQ8 TDI could get the exact same engine in the SQ7, which gets its juice from a turbodiesel V-8

While we can’t have a look under the hood, there is a very important hint on the tailgate, in the form of a "TDI" badge. This suggests that the SQ8 spotted here uses a diesel engine. This is by no means strange for an S-branded model, as Audi offers oil burners in the SQ5 and SQ7 as well. The SQ8 TDI could get the exact same engine in the SQ7, which gets its juice from a turbodiesel V-8. The mill is rated at 435 horsepower and 660 pound-feet of torque, which is more than enough to take on the X6 M50d.

Unfortunately, the diesel won’t make it Stateside.

The good news is that the SQ8 could come here with a gasoline engine. It’s still unclear what drivetrain it will use, but it could get a more powerful version of 3.0-liter V-6 in the regular model. The unit pumps out 335 horsepower and Audi could squeeze more than 450 horses out of it. The Germans could also go with a detuned version of the new V-8 engine that’s scheduled to motivate the upcoming RS Q8. No matter the unit, Audi needs to aim at the X6 xDrive50i model, which comes with 444 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of twist.

2019 Audi SQ8
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The gas version could get a more powerful variant of 3.0-liter V-6 in the regular model

The SQ8 should also feature the mechanical center differential that transfers torque to the front and rear axles at a ratio of 40:60 and an Quattro all-wheel-drive system as standard. The SUV will ride on the same suspension system with damper control, but there will be an optional air suspension with controlled damping that adjusts ride height by as much as 3.5 inches. The underpinnings will be a bit stiffer though for a sportier feeling.

2019 Audi SQ8 Prices

2019 Audi SQ8
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With pricing for the Q8 not yet available, it’s difficult to estimate an exact figure for the SQ8. However, with the Q8 likely to begin from around $60,000, the SQ8 could fetch about $78,000 before options.

2019 Audi SQ8 Competition

BMW X6

2015 BMW X6 High Resolution Exterior
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The crossover that started this whole coupe-style trend, the BMW X6 received an extensive update for the 2015 model year. Design-wise, it gained a narrower front grille, a more aggressive front bumper, and revised taillights and exhaust pipes around back. The update also made the crossover 20 pounds lighter than its predecessor, notable improvement given its slightly longer and wider body. Under the hood, the second-gen X6 comes with several engine choices, including the familiar 3.0-liter inline-six and the 4.4-liter V-8 units. Two models are set to compete with the SQ8 if the Audi gets both diesel and gasoline options. The X6 M50d uses a 3.0-liter turbodiesel rated at 376 horsepower and 546 pound-feet, while the xDrive50i version uses a twin-turbo, 4.0-liter V-8 that cranks out 444 horses and 479 pound-feet of twist. The M50d is not available in the U.S., but the xDrive50i model is and retails from $77,700.

Read our full review of the 2015 BMW X6.

Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe High Resolution Exterior
- image 585191

Mercedes-Benz joined this market in 2015 with the GLE Coupe, a coupe-style version of the M-Class SUV, renamed the GLE for its mid-cycle facelift. The GLE coupe is the oldest of the bunch though, as its underpinnings and design were introduced all the way back in 2011. As a result, the GLE Coupe comes with some of Mercedes’ older engines, while the tech package won’t be as advanced as the one from Audi. The GLE Coupe is available with many gas and diesel options, but in the U.S., it can only be had with an AMG badge. The base AMG GLE43 uses a turbocharged, 3.0-liter V-6 that delivers 385 horsepower. While that’s nothing to scoff at, the Merc is significantly less powerful than the SQ8. Pricing starts from $70,500. A brand-new GLE will be launched soon, at which point I will update this section.

Read our full story on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.

Porsche Cayenne Coupe

2019 Porsche Cayenne Coupe Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
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Rumored to break cover by the end of 2018, the Cayenne Coupe will share many of the SUVs design features, but it will have a more aggressive look thanks to its coupe-style roof. The interior will also borrow almost everything from the regular crossover, but much like all coupe-style SUVs, it will have less rear-passenger headroom and a smaller trunk. Drivetrains will be identical, with the S model likely to be the best competitor for the SQ8. Using a twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6, the Cayenne S hits the road with 440 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque, specs that should remain unchanged for the coupe model. The Cayenne Coupe could be a bit more expensive though, with the S model likely to fetch in excess of $85,000.

Read our speculative review of the 2019 Porsche Cayenne Coupe.

Conclusion

2019 Audi SQ8
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It’s by no means surprising to see the SQ8 hit public roads only weeks after the regular Q8 debuted. The SUV market is one of the most dynamic out there and automakers need to move fast in order to attract as much customers as possible in dealerships. The SQ8 is the next natural step for the Q8 lineup and it’s good to see that Audi is moving the coupe SUV into performance territory. While the RS Q8 will look angrier and sexier, the choices offered by the competition are forcing Audi to bridge the gap with an SQ8 model. And this is good news for the customers.

  • Leave it
    • * Not that different on the outside
    • * Diesel not coming to the U.S.

References

2019 Audi Q8 Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2019 Audi Q8.

2019 Audi RS Q8 Exterior Spyshots
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Read our full speculative review on the 2019 Audi RS Q8.

The Audi Q8 Sport Is More Potent and Makes the Q8 e-Tron Easy to Forget High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2017 Audi Q8 Sport Concept.

2017 Audi Q8 E-tron Concept Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 700403

Read our full review on the 2017 Audi Q8 E-tron Concept.

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