Audi’s super-SUV, the RS Q8, has arrived in Singapore and considering the competition, it’s actually a real bargain
Forget about the electric vehicle for a moment. Bellowing twin-turbo V8 engines are still a thing, and stuffing them into large, luxury SUVs are an even bigger thing. Witness the Maserati Levante Trofeo, Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo, Aston Martin DBX, BMW X7 M50i and here we have the Audi RS Q8.
It’s one of a breed where the engineers go about bending the normal laws of physics and attempt to make a big car drive as quickly as a properly sorted sports car. Twenty years ago this would have been laughable, but these days, automakers have already cracked the code with the help of adaptive suspension and active four-wheel drive systems.
The base model Audi Q8 is already a decently big and luxurious drive, but if you really want your SUV to go like a rocket then you’ll plump for the RS Q8. It’s got the credentials to back it up too. As of now, it’s the fastest series production SUV to lap Germany’s Nurburgring test/race track, the benchmark testing ground of practically every continental performance car. The RS Q8 set a new lap record of 7:42mins in November 2019, five seconds faster than the time set by the Lamborghini Urus a year before that.
Here’s a little secret: the Audi RS Q8 and Lamborghini Urus have nearly identical drivetrains.
Both brands come under the umbrella ownership of the Volkswagen Group, and using the same base underpinnings across various cars in different brands allow for shorter development times.
There’s another member of this 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 SUV family too, in the form of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo. The Audi is the middle child of the trio with 592 horsepower, while the Lamborghini gets 650 horses and the Porsche gets by with ‘just’ 541 horses.
Then there’s the same engine block in a lower state of tune in the Porsche Cayenne GTS too, but carrying a bigger price tag than the Audi.
The Urus may be a tiny bit quicker in a straight line, but over the curves, dips and bumps of the infamous Nurburgring the RS Q8 comes out tops thanks to a more developed drivetrain and suspension setup. It’s been whispered that it was done simply to one-up the Urus, just because they could.
It’s not all about agility and power though, as the RS Q8 is a very well-appointed luxury SUV that boasts the best tech and materials that Audi has to offer. The very well insulated cabin is a very comfortable place to be in when you’re just commuting, but once you go into full attack mode the car responds in kind.
There’s plenty of software-based setups to wade through and options galore, but the RS button on the steering wheel allows for two separate setups to be saved and recalled immediately.
It’s unlikely that the car’s most aggressive setup will be useful on any public road, but a happy medium can be reached with some adjustment. There’s also a new ‘runway’ dashboard instrument graphic, and the RS modes helpfully show the tachometer on the heads up display as well.
In the default comfort mode the transmission has a tendency to hang on to the highest gear for as long as possible and will not kickdown readily. It’s not actually a bad thing because once the car is set to any of the sportier modes it starts to feel and drive like a large rocketship.
You do feel the weight of the car through corners and from a hard launch, but the adaptive suspension does an incredible job of keeping everything sorted. It’s not just a tarmac crusher either, there’s an offroad mode in the settings menu and the car has five levels of adjustable ride height.
Now one would argue that these days, an electric Tesla is just as quick, and it’s no secret that we are in the sunset years of big internal combustion engines and turbochargers, but there’s still plenty of passion in these cars. It’s been properly honed as a sports car, and has the Nurburgring record to back it up.
The sports exhaust and engine block combine to deliver that familiar V8 rumble, and it’s not just a gassy barpy note like some cheap ‘performance’ exhaust pipe either. It’s a proper supercar-like growl that can only come from a complete orchestra of the eight cylinders, two turbos, air intake and exhaust all working in total harmony.
It’s incredibly spacious inside the cabin, especially for the back seat passengers that have acres of legroom. This isn’t a luxury limo though so there are no accessories for the passengers to occupy themselves with, but there are window shades for more privacy.
The front seats do have built-in massage functions and modes, but accessing them requires wading through a few menus on the main touchscreen. There are few real buttons on the dashboard, but Audi’s touchscreen interface is one of the better ones around with larger touch panels that are easy to see in your peripheral vision.
The obvious way to view the Audi RS Q8 is as a much cheaper Lamborghini Urus, and we fully expect many supercar owners to buy one of these as the family car. Or if you want to maintain just one fancy car in the half-million dollar price range and definitely need more than two seats plus luggage capacity, this will do nicely too.
The fact is, there’s no shortage of super SUVs available at the moment, so a car needs to be quite special in this segment to stand out. The Audi may not carry a supercar brand logo on the nose, but it sure goes like one, and in a very practical package too.
Audi RS Q8
|Engine||3,996cc, V8, twin-turbocharged|
|Power||592hp at 6000rpm|
|Torque||800Nm at 2200-4500rpm|
|VES Banding / modifier||C2 / +S$20,000|
|Price||S$577,630 with COE|
|Verdict||As far as performance versus cost ratios go, this is the best SUV you can get for the money|