The Audi Q8 sits above the Q7 as the brand's new flagship SUV, but what's it like on the road? We find out…Verdict4The new Audi Q8 delivers as a luxurious flagship SUV package, and there are more reasons to step up to the flagship over the more practical and cheaper Q7 than just styling. The powertrain in this 50 TDI model is the only choice for now, but it’s probably the one you want, blending smooth, refined characteristics with respectable performance.
With SUVs continuing to dominate the new car scene, the latest addition to Audi’s line-up was almost inevitable. The Q8 is the new range topper, positioned above the Q7 as a more stylish and desirable choice thanks to its more rakish design and completely new interior. It also means Audi now fields a true rival for the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupe, two cars that have come to define the coupe SUV niche in the last few years.
So then; what exactly changes over the Q7 this car shares its platform with? In truth, quite a lot. Plenty has changed at Audi in the last two years and this car proves it. The firm’s latest design language is carved into the coupe shape with a larger grille and sportier, more angular front apron, new headlights, plus a full-width LED lighting strip on the tailgate. Frameless windows inject a bit of drama. As such, it immediately feels more than just a rakish Q7 when viewed in the metal.
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The interior pushes things on even further, with a design inspired heavily by Audi’s latest launches. Like the uber-luxurious A8 limousine the new dashboard is heavily clad in a combination of smooth, sharp looking piano black plastics and brushed metals. It feels extremely modern and the metalwork is sumptuous, but a push and prod reveals that some of the plastic surfaces can be just a little creaky in places.
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The design centres around the crisp looking new MMI Touch dual screen infotainment system, again found elsewhere in the upper echelons of Audi’s range. A main 10.1-inch display sits in the centre of the dashboard with a secondary 8.6-inch screen right above the centre console for secondary functions like the radio and climate control.
We’ve said many times before that eliminating tactile controls from the cabin isn’t necessarily a good thing, as touchscreen-only setups can be fiddly to use on the move. The haptic feedback offered by the displays does at least mean that the system feels more like clicking a virtual button than swiping and tapping at a smartphone, and if you’re into in-car technology you’ll probably love it. The 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital dashboard panel is standard fit too, which is as simple to use, configure to your desires and read as ever, and still the best digital instrument setup on the market.
As for practicality, passenger space doesn’t really take too much of a knock compared to the Q7. Room up front for driver and passenger is copious, and even in the rear headroom isn’t too penalised by the pert back end, as the coupe styling makes its impression over the boot more than the cabin.
That does mean that cargo space slumps down to 603-litres with all seats in place and there is no seven-seat option. At this sort money you’ll get far more space in the back of a Range Rover Sport, though compared to other coupe SUVs the Audi is nothing out of the ordinary. There’s a slightly awkward tall lip to access the boot, and it sits in between the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupe for outright space.
To drive the Q8 feels much like any other big Audi on the VW Group’s MLB Evo platform, but there are some minor changes to the format compared to the Q7. For instance, air suspension is standard fit, with Sports air suspension equipped on UK cars. Keep the Q8 in its most comfortable settings and it’s a wonderful cruiser, the ride only picking up minor fidgets at lower speeds while still remaining decently flat around corners.
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Push things into Dynamic though and things come undone a little. There’s no doubt that it’s an SUV you can press on with confidence in, with the Q8’s 2.1-tonne curb weight the only thing to put you off. However, the ride becomes extremely brittle and susceptive to thumps and jostles – use it sparingly and on only the best surfaces.
There’s little about the Q8’s steering and engine that hasn’t already been said in the context of other Audi models. The wheel feels light in the hand in all but dynamic mode and is devoid of road feel, but it’s tightly strung and responsive to inputs and direction changes.
The 3.0-litre V6 under the bonnet is joined by a 48v mild hybrid system for seamless engine shut-off and coast on motorways. In the lighter A7 Sportback it’s a unit we like very much, and while it doesn’t feel quite as fast as the performance figures Audi quotes for the hefty Q8, its still supremely refined. The only thing that lets it down is the eight-speed torque converter automatic it’s linked to, which is a little hesitant and notchy off the line.
- Model: Audi Q8 50 TDI quattro S-Line tiptronic
- Price: £65,040
- Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl turbodiesel MHEV
- Power/torque: 282bhp/620Nm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
- 0-62mph: 6.3 seconds
- Top speed: 152mph
- Economy/CO2: 41.5mpg/178g/km (est)
- On sale: Now
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