Car reviews - Audi - Q8
Design, interior, quality, refinement, 22-inch air-suspension ride quality, standard safety tech, cabin space
Room for improvement
Not cheap, 55 TFSI quattro performance not electrifying considering its outputs, expensive options
Audi plays BMW X6 catch-up with style, safety, tech and – thankfully – grace
14 Dec 2018
AUDI might be late to the large luxury SUV coupe party, but the new Q8 brings a number of advances in safety, efficiency and – perhaps most importantly for the target audience – in the company’s relentless pursuit of high design.
Only a single variant is available for now, the 55 TFSI quattro, but at least it’s been pitched intelligently, hitting the mark for pricing and spec. The question is, is Ingolstadt’s newest niche SUV a worthy stablemate to the excellent Q7?
When it comes to large luxury SUV coupes, logic as well as good taste can often fly out the window and over a high cliff, just like Thelma and Louise in their fateful, fugitive T-bird.
Take the BMW X6 – a massive international success despite costing more yet offering less in terms of space and practicality than the larger (and to many eyes prettier) X5. It sells because of bold styling, an aggressive personality and potent performance – on some variants at least.
That it took Audi a decade to respond to the Bavarian crossover has been one of modern motoring’s great mysteries, especially as the firm is fond of mining a niche or two. To its credit, though, the resulting Q8 does have substance behind the style.
Let’s begin with the latter. You wouldn’t necessarily know that it is based on the 2015-vintage Q7, since the SUV’s new face, taut lines, wide stance and striking tail-light treatment seem a whole generation fresher. The Audi manages to look different and – are you listening, Munich – more handsome than the model that begat it. Advantage, Ingolstadt.
The same applies inside. Nobody is complaining that the Q7’s cabin is anything other than a triumph in design and execution, yet its slightly smaller five-seater cousin ushers in the brand’s new era of interior. More black touchscreens, fewer buttons, plusher materials, higher tech, better multimedia, same obsessive attention to detail.
It is much the same as what you’ll find in the latest A8 limo, only at a lower entry (but higher hip) point. This somehow previews the next decade. In contrast, the Q7 seems like 2015; the X6… 2010.
Next up: powertrains. The sole 55 TFSI quattro on offer for now ushers in a 48-volt electrical and mild-hybrid system to the company’s SUV line-up, bringing worthwhile efficiency gains of up to 10 per cent, as well as claimed performance enhancements. So, on paper, that’s another reason to buy the Q8 over some rivals as well as the diesel-only Q7 – plus, a mild-hybrid petrol powertrain is much less on the nose than the smelly oily stuff.
Our only qualm here is that, despite boasting a 250kW/500Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo and seamless eight-speed torque-converter auto for a sub-six second 0-100km/h claim, the 55 TFSI quattro didn’t really feel that fast or responsive; in fact, a slight hesitation in acceleration probably betrays the portly 2.2 tonnes that the five-metre five-seater has to haul around – a corollary of all the extra electrification gubbins. The instant throttle attack we were expecting just wasn’t there.
That aside, though, and once on the go, the Q8 rolls along with gusto, poise and civility; our air-suspended examples soaked up the road bumps and (most) gravel irregularities alike with isolating ease, all while offering a level of handling precision and roadholding control that transcends its mass and bulk, though the steering remains remote in that Audi SUV way.
Our day behind the wheel of the 55 TFSI quattro – albeit with over $40,000 worth of options that turns the $128,900 Q8 into a sumptuous tech-fest of gadgets and gizmos – highlights the hard yards that Audi has put in to make its flagship SUV better rather than worse than the model on which it is based. Certainly, in terms of design and technology, and that helps justify the significant price difference compared to the Q7. Surely there’s logic in that.
More importantly, for buyers of high-end large SUV coupes, the handsome Q8 is a tastefully executed and thus welcome alternative to a number of loud and brash contenders out there that have all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop.
All in all, then, if you have the means and love what you see, the 55 TFSI quattro has been worth the wait.
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