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Driven: Audi Q8 sets sail from $128,900 BOCs

Up-spec mild-hybrid V6s push Audi into growing luxury SUV coupe territory with Q8

14 Dec 2018

AUDI Australia’s all-new flagship crossover, the Q8, will kick off from $128,900 plus on-road costs for the 55 TFSI quattro petrol in late January, before it is joined by the identically priced and specified 50 TDI quattro turbo diesel later next year. 
Late to the SUV-coupe party started by the Range Rover Sport nearly 15 years ago but made more famous over the past 10 years by two generations of the BMW X6, the Q8 – unveiled in China in June – also has the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, Maserati Levante and Range Rover Velar in its crosshairs.
Audi Australia corporate communications manager Shaun Cleary would not reveal volume forecasts, but he said that given that it was a fresh offering from Audi in the niche segment, most buyers would be new to the brand.
“Yes, we are anticipating a high degree of conquest sales,” he told GoAuto at the launch of the Q8 near Canberra earlier this month.
The Q8 will only launch with one variant for now, and it features an S line exterior package, 21-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, adaptive dampers, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, 39 driver-assist safety systems including autonomous emergency braking and an electric tailgate with gesture control.
It will also be offered as standard with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, pinch-and-zoom mapping sat-nav, voice control with handwriting recognition tech, wireless charging, DAB+ digital radio, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable front seats with heating and ventilation and a sliding rear bench.
Options such as air suspension, 22-inch alloys, Matrix LED headlights, uprated audio, rear air-conditioning and cabin lighting elements are bundled in an $11,000 Premium Plus package, while Nappa leather (at $8900) and a sunroof are stand-alone extras.
A yet-to-be-revealed SQ8 performance variant is also expected to follow in about 2020 to take on the circa-$145,000 Mercedes-AMG GLE43 Coupe, while overseas reports claim a more hardcore RS Q8 has been spotted on the Nurburgring testing circuit in Germany. 
E-tron plug-in hybrid variants are also expected to swell the numbers in time. Look, too, for lower-output V6s in the future.
Based on the same MLB Evo modular longitudinal architectural principles as the second-generation Audi Q7, the monocoque Q8 is related to other Volkswagen Group SUVs such as the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg, as well as the Audi A8 limousine, A7 Sportback, A6, A5 and A4 passenger cars.
However, while the Q8 also shares the same Slovakian production line – and the 2995mm wheelbase – as the seven-seater Q7, it is 66mm shorter at 4986mm, 27mm wider at 1995mm and 38mm lower at 1705mm (vs 1741mm), with no body panels in common.
It is also a five-seat-only proposition. 
The newcomer also ushers in Audi’s fresh SUV design language, characterised by an octagonal variation of the brand’s Singleframe grille, full-strip tail-lights and high-gloss black back panel, as well as blistered pumped-out wheelarches and frameless door windows, for a sleeker and sportier look.
Inside, the Q8 also adopts a variation of the twin black-panel dash, with two large displays as well as Virtual Cockpit, as seen in the latest A8 and A7. Look for these cabin items in future iterations of the Q7 as well. Luggage capacity is rated between 605 litres and 1755L – the former figure being some 165L short of the Q7 in five-seat mode.
At the other end of the 55 TFSI quattro is the company’s faithful 3.0-litre direct injection 90-degree twin-scroll turbo V6 petrol, delivering 250kW of power at 5500rpm and 500Nm of torque between 2900-5300rpm.
Top speed is 250km/h, with the 100km/h marker reached in 5.9 seconds, while all four wheels are driven via an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. The latter uses a purely mechanical centre differential sending 40 per cent of torque to the front wheels, but that can be as little as 15 per cent in certain circumstances.
The Q8 follows the A8 in adopting mild hybrid tech in the form of a 48-volt belt alternator starter for the 48-volt main electrical system, employing a lithium-ion battery for coasting, start-stop up to 22km/h and 12kW of regenerative braking capability back into the battery pack (located in the rear axle) for added performance and economy. 
According to Audi, the 55 TFSI quattro averages 9.2 litres per 100km of fuel use, and has a carbon dioxide pollution rating of 210 grams/km.
Meanwhile, next year’s 50 TDI produces 210kW and 620Nm from its 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, for 6.3s to 100km/h and 6.7L/100km fuel consumption.
Weighing in at 2145kg, the 55 TFSI quattro is no lightweight, but does deploy aluminium for the doors, front guards, tailgate, floor, side panel, rear wheel housing, suspension and roof, covering 23.7 per cent in total; hot-shaped steel components comprise of 14.4 per cent, and includes the backbone of the passenger cell, lower bulkhead, side sills, rear longitudinal members, B-pillars and roof frame.
Along with boosting strength and rigidity, such materials also help noise, vibration and harshness mitigation and aid aero-acoustic properties. Audi says the Cd figure is as low as 0.34. 
While the regular chassis consists of a five-link rear suspension layout with steel springs and variable-ratio (14.6:1) rack and pinion steering, more money brings air suspension with up to 90mm ride-height variability, offering a maximum of 254mm of ground clearance, versus the steel setup’s 220mm fixed height. 
Buyers can also order an all-wheel-steering system, using an electric spindle drive and two track rods to turn the rear wheels up to five degrees in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speeds, and up to 1.5 degrees in the same direction at velocities above 60km/h. It reduces the turning circle by 1.1 metres.
The Q8 features an audible driver exit warning system with door-opening delay actuators to help prevent cyclists being doored.
Audi says 82 per cent of Q8s will be purchased by men, with 61 per cent for private use and 39 per cent business use.

2019 Audi Q8 pricing*

55 TFSI quattro (a) $128,900
55 TDI quattro (a) $128,900

*Excludes on-road costs

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