Audi’s Q8 flagship SUV impresses with characterful design and performance, as well as a competitive price point
For those who love Chinese numerology, it’s a great time to buy a car, since in the past quarter of 2018, there’s been a total of four new models bearing that lucky digit in their name.
BMW’s sexy GT, the 8 Series, as tested by us in M850i xDrive form is one, the revised Audi R8 sports car is another (here’s our test of the pre-revision model in coupe and Spyder variants), then there’s the fourth-gen A8 limousine, and finally, the Q8.
As you’ll notice the ‘8’ denotes the big kahuna of each ‘range’: A8 for Audi limos/sedans, R8 is the top of Audi Sport, and so the new Q8 is the flagship for Audi sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
It’s also fitting that the Q8 behaves almost as a combination of the two other categories. It’s not the largest SUV Audi has, since the closely-related Q7 is 66mm longer and 38mm taller, but it does have an excellent balance of stateliness and sportiness.
The latter characteristic is the most visually apparent, since as a direct competitor to BMW’s coupe x SUV the X6, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, it has a shapely rear end (resembling the new A7 Sportback’s) and more flowing roofline.
Audi’s the most conservative of the German luxury three when it comes to design, but the Q8 goes out on a limb with its Iron Man-esque face (not to mention the Dragon Orange paintwork) and taut lines.
While we personally wouldn’t buy a coupe/SUV, we feel the treatment works well here without being too busy or bizarre – the ‘quattro blisters’ above each wheel don’t just add athleticism, but also remind us of Audi’s gloriously dirty past in tribute to the original quattro.
Perhaps the key reason why the Q8 works as a coupe-SUV is that it doesn’t do anything that makes you say, “That’s the price I pay for driving a sporty car.”
To be honest, when we saw the test car running massive 22-inch wheels we expected the worst in ride quality (it’s a sporty SUV after all) but the Q8 lives up to its flagship promise with comfortable transport over the rough stuff, perhaps because of the tyres’ generous side profile. Kind of ironic, since the base A8 3.0 itself has a less-than-tranquil ride itself.
So it’s very stately progress in the Q8, noticeably quiet thanks to increased insulation over the Q7 and a double-layer windscreen. The 3.0-litre single-turbo V6 purrs and gently gives the torques you need, the only twitch spoiling this being the occasional jerk back to life when start-stop fires the engine back up.
The view from the cabin is surprisingly good. The tall seating position is part of the stately feel, and while you can’t get around the fact that the Q8 is big, the rear view isn’t compromised by a tiny window, nor is the side view unmanageable (there’s blind spot indicators too), and you’re also helped along by the 360-degree camera that also has a 3D virtual exterior view.
The cabin is almost a lift from the A8, with the same triple-screen Audi MMI Touch Response system that’s totally touchscreen controlled, for better or worse.
There’s a multitude of drive modes, including Allroad (for rough roads) and Offroad, and the Q8 does a convincing job of backing up the labels with the requisite performance. As a sporty SUV, the all-wheel drive and all-wheel steer add a playfulness and poise that’s not present in the Q7.
It’s not quite on a level with related higher-luxury SUVs, keep in mind the Porsche Cayenne and Lamborghini Urus both have the same MLB platform, air suspension and all-wheel steering tech, but it’s not a hangaround-slouch either.
And when you do want to slouch, the Q8 picks up the slack. As mentioned, it’s very refined, relatively easy to drive, there’s plenty of room in the back, and since it doesn’t need to fit seven souls aboard, it has space for 605-litres of cargo.
We admit we were fully prepared to dislike the Q8, since big coupe-SUVs have been as a whole, entertaining but not quite the life-changing, emotional devices the marketing makes them out to be.
But even within the Audi line-up, the Q8 makes financial sense too: The A7 Sportback is almost the same price, the A8 is more expensive but not as comfortable, even if it does pack all the neat tech tricks. As a new addition to the range, the Q8 can provide a measure of both those cars’ capabilities in an enticing package, at an enticing price.
Audi Q8 3.0 TFSI
|Engine||2,995cc, V6, turbocharged|
|Power||340hp at 5200-6400rpm|
|Torque||500Nm at 1370-4500rpm|
|Top Speed||5.7 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||C2 / 203g/km|
|Price||$369,300 with COE|