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First UK drive: Audi Q8. Image by Audi.

First UK drive: Audi Q8
Audi's flagship SUV, the Q8, tested for the first time on British tarmac.

 



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Audi Q8

4 4 4 4 4

This is our first chance to get to grips with Audi's flagship Q8 SUV on UK roads, after the international launch in far-flung climes. So, can the luxury 4x4 cope with the run-of-the-mill regularity of driving around Ampthill, as well as it deals with the rigours of crossing the Atacama?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi Q8 50 TDI S line
Pricing: Q8 starts at 65,040; car as tested 85,565
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with 48-volt mild hybrid (MHEV) electrical system
Transmission: eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, quattro all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 178g/km (VED Band 171-190: 830 in year one, 450 per annum years two to six, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 41.5mpg
Top speed: 152mph
0-62mph: 6.3 seconds
Power: 286hp at 3,500-4,000rpm
Torque: 600Nm at 2,250-3,250rpm
Boot space: 605-1,755 litres

What's this?

The Audi Q8 and, no, it's not named after one of the founding member states of the OPEC alliance, but is instead the new flagship for the Ingolstadt company's SUV line-up. Which is strange, because it has less seats and less space on board than a regular Audi Q7, but of course fashion-conscious buyers in this marketplace value driveway-illuminating style above outright carrying capacity, hence Audi considers the Q8 a rival to the likes of the BMW X6, the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, JLR's Range Rover Sport and the oft-overlooked Maserati Levante.

Initially, in the UK, we get just the one engine in the Q8 - the 286hp/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, which results in '50 TDI' badging for the Q8's sloping hatch. This is teamed to an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox, quattro all-wheel drive and Audi's favoured 48-volt mild hybrid electric vehicle (MHEV) fuel-saving system as standard. Following on from the 50 TDI, a 340hp petrol '55 TFSI' and a lower-rated, 231hp '45 TDI' version of this same V6 motor will join the ranks. It's also not hard to imagine a high-performance SQ8 model turning up before too long, using the magnificent drivetrain from the mighty SQ7 and Bentley's stately Bentayga Diesel.

Befitting its status as a top-end product, Audi is paring back the UK trim lines, so there are no SE and Sport models to ease you into ownership of the Q8 - instead, things kick off with the S line, from 65,040, which gains HD Matrix LED headlights, 21-inch wheels, adaptive air sport suspension, Audi Drive Select, keyless go, electrically adjustable and heated front sports seats in Nappa/Alcantara, Audi Pre-Sense Front, lane departure warning, cruise control, Parking System Plus (front and rear sensors, and a rear-view camera too), the three-screen digital interior of all modern Audis, dual-zone climate control, a powered tailgate, ambient interior lighting, MMI Navigation Plus with MMI Touch, Audi Connect, Audi Sound, DAB and Audi Phone Box (with wireless charging) and an S line leather multifunction steering wheel as standard... among much more. Phew! That's a lot, eh?

From S line, however, it's a whopping 18,000 walk-up to the Vorsprung range-topping trim, which basically throws the technological equivalent of the kitchen sink at the Q8's angular form, so it's dripping with equipment - 22s, Super Sport front seats, Valcona leather upholstery, heated rear seats, a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, exterior Titanium Black detailing, four-zone climate control, Dynamic All-Wheel Steering, a head-up display and 13 additional driver assistance systems, which are all part of the Comfort and Sound/Tour/City Assist Packs that are fitted from the off. Yes, there are still options on the Vorsprung that would allow the unwary buyer to push the 83,040 list price further upwards, but on the other hand, fitting all of the above to the S line would cost more than 18 grand - as evinced by our loaded-up test S line model, which (among other things) was on 22s and Dynamic All-Wheel Steering to simulate a Q8 Vorsprung, clocking in at 85,565. Blimey.

How does it drive?

Before we get onto the dynamics, a word on the looks and interior. We happen to like the Q8's aesthetic. Its daring grille and headlights treatment means you won't mistake it for a Q7 when it's heading towards you (or, more likely, looming large in your rear-view mirror on the M62 one gloomy evening), the full-width light-bar and 'ur-Quattro'-aping black panel on the tailgate work well, and it carries off bold colours like Dragon Orange metallic as well as it does more traditionally Audi sombre hues as well. We happen to think it's a looker, although not all critics are as convinced by its styling.

Inside, the digitised dashboard is just lovely to behold and operate (all three screens are becoming ever more intuitive to us as we receive more exposure to them, so owners will no doubt soon get the hang of the button-free cabin), while the Q8 maximises what space it has got well. The boot's big, the outer two rear seats are generous and... the centre-rear one isn't quite, so much. Not for the usual impediment in four-wheel-drive machines, which is a high transmission tunnel in the footwell (the Q8's is broad but low), but rather because the seat squab is high and there's a moulded light fitting drooping down from the headlining in the middle of the back row, which severely limits headroom for even average-height people.

Nevertheless, the Audi will easily pass the showroom test with potential buyers. It's therefore a slight shame that it doesn't drive appreciably differently to a Q7. This, again, will be no problem at all to the people that lust after the Q8 - it's as grippy as any quattro Audi, it's as composed as many of its saloon siblings and it has the sort of phenomenal ease-of-use that's quite startling on something that weighs more than 2.1 tonnes. In essence, you get into the Q8 and start driving it and it's as if you've owned the thing for years, rather than you're just making your first acquaintance with it. It's also blessed with that luscious 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine, which is just a peach, plain and simple.

But much of Audi's latest dynamic foibles come into play. The company simply cannot do air suspension as well as Mercedes, because the Q8 always fidgets a little more than you'd like it to when it's traversing rippled surfaces. Like so many German machines on colossal alloys, if the roads are smoother then the Audi's suspension does a good job of languidly controlling the body, but bumpier country routes show up a slight brittleness to its ride. There's also a weird hesitance to the Tiptronic gearbox when you slap the throttle down, a hesitance that persists even with the Audi in Sport mode. It requires pre-emptive inputs for overtakes and sharp manoeuvres out of junctions and side turnings, because it feels almost like turbo lag if you get the timings wrong; you can often have the Q8 marooned between gears, when you would rather it was accelerating smartly into the middle-distance.

Its steering is also something and nothing. Back-to-back drives in a 22-inch-shod, AWS Q8 and a two-wheel-steer version on 21s proved that it's not the Dynamic All-Wheel Steering that is to blame for a tiller that is light on weighting and lacking in feel. It can sometimes feel recalcitrant and sticky at low manoeuvring speeds, too, so it's another example of Audi steering that is somewhat less than stellar. And while the handling of the Q8 is game, it's not exactly invigorating. No matter what that sweeping roofline might say to you before you get into the coupe-SUV and drive, once you're on the move it feels like... well, it feels like a two-tonne SUV, and in no way sporty or particularly engaging. Proficient. Solid. Safe.

Verdict

There's no point marking the Q8 down because it's a less-practical Q7 that costs more money than its progenitor, because the Audi isn't doing anything different to BMW offering the X6 alongside an X5, or Mercedes coupe-ifying the standard GLE. Nor is it much of a surprise that the Q8 isn't the sharpest thing to steer in the world - most punters won't really care, as long as it's terrifically easy to get on with.

Which the Q8 is - that's Audi's forte, after all. We'd like a bit more grace from the air suspension's ride quality on rougher routes, granted, but otherwise this is an attractive, high-quality and technologically devastating big SUV that's bound to see a lot of Range Rover Sport drivers chopping in their 65-plate SDV6 models for the 'Next Big Thing' in designer SUVs. Because, undoubtedly, the stylish Audi Q8 50 TDI is 'It'.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 22 Aug 2018









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