The go-faster 4x4s have swapped diesel for petrol power. 500 bhp of it.

Audi’s updated SQ7 and SQ8 high-performance SUVs will go on sale this autumn with prices starting at around £78,000 and £83,000 respectively. Refreshed for 2021, the two cars will swap their big V8 diesel engines for 4-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engines that churn out 500 bhp.

The change of direction has seen power increase by 71 bhp, allowing both cars to manage the dash from 0-62 mph in a smidgen over four seconds. That’s the same time it takes a Porsche Panamera GTS to accomplish the same feat. Perhaps more usefully, the SQ7 and SQ8 will both manage 50 to 75 mph in 3.8 seconds, before surging on to an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.

But Audi claims the arrival of petrol power has been made possible by the increase in efficiency provided by modern technology. With cylinder deactivation that shuts down four of the engine’s eight cylinders when it’s under light load, Audi says it has made “great efficiency gains” – a statement that suggests the gap between its petrol and diesel engines is closing. We expect to hear more when full pricing and specifications are announced closer to the cars’ on-sale dates.

Gallery: Audi SQ8 (2021) with V8 petrol power

As well as a new engine, the SQ7 and SQ8 will also benefit from some specification upgrades, including the fitment of four-wheel steering as standard. Previously reserved for high-end Vorsprung versions of the SQ7 and SQ8, it turns the rear wheels by up to five degrees in the opposite direction to the steering input, reducing the turning circle to improve low-speed manoeuvrability. At speeds of 37 mph and above, the wheels turn slightly in the same direction as the front wheels, improving stability during fast changes of direction.

That comes alongside the application of S-specific adaptive air suspension across the line-up, while the SQ8 gets electromechanical active roll stabilisation (eAWS) and a sport differential. The eAWS system features stabilisers designed to reduce roll through fast corners, while the sport differential can shift torque between the rear wheels as required to improve handling.

“Petrol engines are becoming increasingly prevalent in the high performance SUV segment on the strength of the great efficiency gains made in recent years, and we are acknowledging that trend with these upgraded models,” said the director of Audi UK, Andrew Doyle. “Equipping the SQ7 and SQ8 with a new TFSI unit enables them to break through the 500PS barrier for the first time, and deliver even more stirring performance. We are ensuring that they remain firmly rooted among the front runners in the pack.”

Gallery: Audi SQ7 (2021) with V8 petrol power