Manufacturers seem very proud of their big, spectacularly powerful V8 super SUVs these days. Even in an age where you’d think these bulky, resource-hoarding goliaths would be unfashionable, we can’t seem to move for the things.
The sheer amount of choice is mind-boggling. Mercedes-AMG alone makes five V8-powered ‘63 SUVs, and although the BMW X3 M uses a ‘mere’ inline-six for spectacular forward momentum, its X5 M and X6 M big brothers will happily blast down the road using the M5’s 4.4-litre twin-turbo lump.
At the higher end, there are the likes of the Bentley Bentayga (also available with a W12 if you’re particularly keen on visiting your local petrol station) and the Lamborghini Urus, while only a few weeks ago, the Lambo’s Audi relative - the RSQ8 - was revealed. They’re all impressive, but after a few days with an SQ8, I wonder if you’re better off dropping down a tier.
Yes, the cars I’ve just mentioned have impressive power figures starting with a number 5 (or 6, in the case of the Urus), while the 4.0-litre diesel V8 in the SQ8 develops ‘only’ 429bhp. But here’s a stat that’s arguably more relevant for the real world: 664lb ft of torque.
That’s more than any of the petrol-powered super SUVs, with the exception of the W12 Bentayga, which it matches. That means the SQ8’s mid-range offers up some mighty clout. If you’re not happy with the speed you’re doing, it only takes a few seconds of wide-open throttle to rectify that.
It’s not all that laggy, either, thanks to a healthy dose of science. Like the SQ7, the V8’s two turbochargers are supplemented by a ‘compressor’ sitting just downstream of the intercooler. It’s powered by the SQ8’s 48-volt subsystem, so it’s not reliant on exhaust gases to spin up. Nope, it spools up to 70,000rpm almost instantly.
It’s a great-sounding engine, too. It’s the least diesel-sounding diesel I’ve ever come across, with a lovely old-school V8 rumble going on. And it doesn’t matter that the lump tops out at 5000rpm due to the meaty mid-range mentioned earlier. Plus, if you’re into acceleration figures, how does 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds sound?
You can’t expect heroic MPG figures from it - the SQ8’s engine may be diesel, but we are talking about something with eight pistons moving around in four litres of displacement. However, the 34mpg I managed with the car on a long, boring motorway run is far more than you’d get from a petrol-fuelled alternative.
It’s not like the SQ8 is a poor relation to those cars dynamically, either. You’ll find the same air suspension system and electronically-controlled anti-roll bars of the SQ7, but for the 8, Audi has tweaked the software that controls them.
The SQ7 is already impressive for a car of its size and weight, but the SQ8 takes things a step further by being noticeably sharper. It rolls less, is keener to change direction, and the steering is well set up too.
There does, of course, come a point where it’ll slap down your overly-ambitious entry speed with a dose of understeer, but up to that point, the SkewEight handles itself brilliantly.
During less enthusiastic driving when you’re set to Comfort mode, the SQ8 rides smoothly on its air suspension, which is able to alter the ride height by up to 90mm. After crashing around in the uber-stiff BMW X3 M not so long ago, this is a breath of fresh air.
The interior tech is all very fancy, although it’s disappointing to see that Audi is abandoning rotary controllers with big touch screens that aren’t as easy to use on the move. The displays are as responsive as they need to be, at least.
There’s a lot to like here, though, and while we have to foist in the usual caveat of these vehicles being a tad pointless, it should be a firm contender if you’re after this sort of thing. It’s also - with a starting price of £81,740 - substantially cheaper than the likes of the Range Rover Sport SVR, despite not being all that far behind from a performance perspective.
See? Even in 2020, diesel still has its uses.