The Good Doctor is the benevolent name the South Africans have given to the strong southeastern wind that blows across the Cape Town region. The wind brings clear skies and expels pollution out over the Atlantic Ocean. Today, however, as we drive south along the highway towards the Cape of Good Hope, the strong wind picks up coastal sand that drifts across the roadway and occasionally obstruct our view of the surrounding landscape.
The 2024 Audi SQ8, newly updated for ‘24 but still as sure-footed as ever, moves us forward undeterred by the sand drifts and persistent crosswind. We are in South Africa to experience Audi’s flagship SUV in two flavours: the all-powerful SQ8, and its more reserved sibling, the Q8 SUVs.
We’re driving German-spec cars with the steering on the left, which, of course, presents a bit of challenge in South Africa where they drive on the left. Thankfully, we’ve got a passenger aboard who acts as a spotter, scouting the road ahead so we can unleash the full 500 horsepower of the twin-turbo V8 to rocket past slower machinery on these twisting, undivided roadways.
The cabin of the large Audi SUV was already a benchmark in premium design and ergonomics, however, an improved digital display on the virtual cockpit as well as additional choices for surface finishes and inlays, take the Q8’s cabin to the next level.
Our route out of Cape Town includes a stop at Boulders Beach to visit the now-famous colony of penguins that mysteriously travelled north from Antarctica to set up in this most unusual of habitats. The penguins seem a bit cagier than the last time we visited and are keeping their distance, choosing to retreat to large rock clusters in the surf. Perhaps they found the Q8s intimidating.
By the time we arrive at the Cape of Good Hope, these foreign vehicles are attracting a good deal of attention. In the parking lot, mingled between a slew of tour buses, questions from the curious abound. We pointed out the new front and rear bumpers, underlined by redesigned LED light signatures at both ends. New, optional, 23-inch wheels under flared Audi-Sport-inspired wheel arches add extra visual impact. Our SQ8 is bathed in Ascari Blue paint, which along with Chili red, are two new exterior colours exclusive to the high-performance SQ8. Sakhir Gold, another new exterior paint, is offered on both the S and Q8 models. (The bus tourists listened politely.)
Heading back along the road to Granger Bay in Cape Town, sign posts suggest interesting vantage points for travellers to appreciate the spectacle of the South African coastline. After a number of whale watching stations, a most unexpected announcement causes us to pull over; there’s a “shark watching stop.” Great Whites are a constant presence in the area. One marine biologist we spoke to points out that this is likely the only spot where Great Whites breach like whales. Alas, we didn’t see any. Again, we’re choosing to blame the imposing SQ8.
Our expansive drive across the African Cape region touches both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans in an afternoon. Reflecting on the kilometres covered and the hours spent behind the wheel, we’re faced with an epiphany: the combination of elevated cabin comfort, copious power, refined handling, abundance of room and storage space feels more inline with the tradition of a grand touring sedan than an all-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle. The SQ8 and Q8 are indeed “crossover” vehicles in the full sense of the word. They are equally at home as grocery getters or daily urban drivers, long range cruisers or all-weather cottage transports. (There’s also plenty of room for a few sets of golfs clubs in the back.)
This level of luxury, comfort and performance has a price of course. The 2024 Audi Q8 starts at $92,000 while the performance-oriented SQ8 gets going at $121,250. Both models are currently available for sale in Canada, where you’ll happily find no issue with having the steering on the left.