Audi Q8 road test: New flagship SUV is pure elegance inside & out
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The newly launched Audi Q8 isn’t just another coupe-ish luxo SUV. The course this model sets for Audi and its Q-badged SUV line-up is much more significant.
So much so that what you’re looking at is Audi’s new flagship SUV, showcasing the best the brand can pack into a low-slung, high-ride, luxury five-seater.
After more than a decade at the top of the tree, the popular seven-seat Audi Q7 has been moved down a notch in the German marque’s people-hauler line-up, making way for a wider, more aggressive Q8.
Audi is the last of the German big three to launch a luxury coupe SUV. Rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz have filled the seemingly contradictory — yet growing — segment for as long as a decade in the form of the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLC.
Despite being late to the party, Audi hasn’t cut any corners in the design and engineering of this model. Its mission with the Q8 was to combine the elegance of a four-door luxury coupe and the versatility of a large SUV.
The Q8 is the first SUV penned by Audi’s new head of design, Marc Lichte, who introduces a new design philosophy for Audi’s Q SUV, as well as featuring a few top-tier Audi design cues debuted with the A8 luxury sedan launched this year.
The front grille is much larger than the Q7’s and features six distinctive vertical chrome fins that connect to the LED headlights and front spoiler, making the front end look upright and solid.
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The Q8’s design also draws inspiration from Audi’s Quattro S1 rally car from the 80s, with the items such as the rear tail light section and pronounced feature lines with wide, muscular contours over each wheel arch modelled directly after of the Group B competitor.
As standard, the Q8 rides on 20in wheels. A move up to the Q8 S-line like our test car adds 21in wheels, adaptive air suspension, satellite navigation and HD Matrix LED headlights.
In the rear, the low roof line is finished off with frameless doors and a rear spoiler and diffuser.
One Q8 model will introduce the nameplate to Kiwis — the Q8 50 — powered by a 3-litre turbo diesel V6 engine coupled with a mild hybrid system. Combined they produce 210kW of power and a punchy 600Nm of torque from 2250rpm.
Coupled to an 8-speed automatic gearbox and Audi’s quarto all-wheel drive system, the 2.1 tonne Q8 can accelerate from 0-100km/h in 6.3 seconds while top speed is electronically limited to 245km/h.
Thanks to the 48-volt hybrid system and 10Ah battery stored under the boot liner, the Q8 can coast with the engine switched off between 55 and 160km/h in the right conditions. The diesel engine offers a ute-like 3.5 tonne towing capacity.
Large frameless doors and waist-high seats make entering and exiting the Q8 easy. The front row is dominated by Audi’s MMI touch-screen display that disappears into a single black-panel when switched off.
The slender dashboard and interior styling are deliberately clean and simple to use. At night the interior ambient lighting illuminates the centre console and front and rear door sills.
The driver also benefits from Audi’s 12.3in digital Virtual Cockpit that, with help from steering wheel-mounted buttons, can adjust the main functions of the central infotainment system.
But the best place to be on any journey in the Q8 is the rear row. Nestled behind privacy glass, the rear offers limousine-like leg and head room and adjustable leather seats.
At just under 5m long, 2m wide and 1.7m high, the Q8 is shorter (66mm) than the seven-seat Q7 and 27mm wider. And Audi says that with a wheelbase of almost 3m, the interior space the Q8 offers exceeds that of all direct competitors.
The low-slug roofline is undoubtedly sporty but isn’t as pronounced as its two main German rivals — and that means the Q8 doesn’t suffer when it comes to boot space.
Large families will still need the 770 litres in the Q7. But the Q8’s 605-litre boot is more than you get in the a SUV coupe-styled Beemer X6 (580) or Mercedes GLC Coupe (500). Two golf bags or a family-load of suitcases will fit in a Q8.
On the road the Q8 has a firm hold and compliant ride in any drive mode. Fitted with five radar sensors, six cameras, 12 ultrasound sensors and a laser scanner, the Q8 can spot hazards on crowded roads before even the most observant driver.
Coupled with adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist, the Q8 is capable of driving itself on motorways. Turn the assists off and the Quattro AWD system with 40:60 front-to-rear torque split keeps everything in check.
With the growing popularity of high-end models such as the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga, a lightly optioned Audi Q8 for half the price with a comparable feature set and equal build quality is going to appeal to luxury SUV buyers.
And remembering, a faster, lower and potentially wider Q8 is said to be on its way.
Luxury SUV buyers, you are officially spoilt for choice.
Price: From $149,900
Engine: 3-litre V6 turbo diesel, 210kW, 600Nm
Pro: Styling inside and out, limousine-like interior, build quality.
Con: Speed freaks will want the faster one, which no is doubt coming