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First drive: Audi Q8. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi Q8
Does the edgier styling of the tech-laden Audi Q8 mark a new era for its SUVs?

 



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Audi Q8

4 4 4 4 4

With unapologetically bold styling, the Audi Q8 is a fresh face in the upper stratosphere of the SUV market, sitting above the Q7 in the range. It mixes the latest in drivetrain and infotainment technology with a look that draws inspiration from the original Ur-Quattro. Should the establishment be worried by its arrival?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi Q8 50 TDI S line
Pricing: estimated to start at 65,000
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door SUV
Top speed: 143mph
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?

Audi's Q8 now crowns a broad range of SUVs from the German company, and it's going up against the likes of the Range Rover Sport and BMW X6. There's no doubting its identity, thanks to its signature Audi grille, but here that grille gets a more three-dimensional appearance, with a contrasting surround on higher grade models. Despite being shorter and lower than the seven-seat Q7, it's wider and isn't lacking in presence, especially on 21-inch alloy wheels.

At launch, the Q8 can be powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder turbodiesel or a 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that produces 340hp, each mated with eight-speed automatic all-wheel drive transmissions. The diesel, tested here, generates 286hp, but it's the 600Nm of torque that makes it more appealing, giving it real shove off the line.

As with the Audi A7 and A8 saloons, Audi equips the Q8 with a mild hybrid (MHEV) system that includes a small lithium-ion battery in the rear of the car. When the engine isn't under load, the belt alternator starter (BAS) enables it to shut off at speed and coast, while the battery powers the car's onboard systems such as power steering, air conditioning and other ancillaries. The BAS then restarts the engine so smoothly it goes almost entirely unnoticed.

In keeping with Audi's current form, the interior layout and quality of the Q8 are top notch. A dual-screen setup in the centre console replaces the majority of physical buttons, while in front of the driver is the now familiar 12.3-inch digital instrument display. Audi has committed to keeping the Q8 strictly a five-seater, and so the rear passenger space is generous even with that sloping roofline. The boot space is also useful, easily swallowing a couple of large suitcases.

How does it drive?

Our first taste of the Audi Q8 came in the stunning Atacama Desert in Chile. Despite the exotic environment, the road surfaces were quite similar to those closer to home, so we were able to get a good idea of how it should perform.

The Q8s we get will feature a 'Sport' version of the air suspension, which is firmer than the standard system. That said, even with the 21-inch wheels that accompany the S line specification, most of the harsher surface imperfections are impressively absorbed. Unlike the Audi SQ7 and its other Volkswagen Group relations (the Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne), the Q8 doesn't get an active anti-roll bar setup. It doesn't feel less of a car for not having it. There is only a minimal amount of body roll when you carry greater speed into bends, helped in part by the lower centre of gravity.

Adding to the Audi's agility, especially in urban settings, is an all-wheel-steering setup. The ability for it to turn the rear wheels as much as five degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels at low speeds makes it feel like a much smaller car. For the most part, the steering is light, but like so many Audi systems, is lacking in feedback when you decide to push on with some more spirited driving. You can add some weight by switching to the Sport mode, and this feels less artificial.

When you are driving more enthusiastically, the all-wheel-drive transmission can deliver its power with a more rearward bias. Up to 85 per cent of the drive can be dispatched to the rear axle, while in other scenarios as much as 70 per cent can go to the front. The setup of the transmission feels as if it has a sportier flavour to it, as well.

Verdict

The Audi Q8 meets all of the requirements of a modern luxury SUV. Not only does it feature an eye-catching design on the outside, but it also has a very well-appointed cabin without compromising on the practical stuff. Many of its rivals in the segment ought to be wary of its arrival as this is one of Audi's most complete models to date.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Dave Humphreys - 21 Jun 2018









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