New Audi RS Q8 2019 review

The new 592bhp Audi RS Q8 arrives as one of the fastest SUVs in the world, but can it justify its £103k price tag?Verdict4Whether the world really needs another 2.3-tonne uber-SUV like the Audi RS Q8 is questionable at this moment in time. But if you do want a vehicle such as this and have a spare £103,000 to spend, the Audi is deeply impressive. Its dynamics are extraordinary for such a big car, and its interior is a genuinely luxuriant and spacious place in which to spend time. Hard to justify, but very easy to like – assuming you’re that way inclined.

A few years ago the idea of a genuinely sporting SUV was mostly a thing of hyperbole; a concept dreamt up by whatever any given car manufacturer’s marketing department needed to justify its existence.

Nowadays, though, there are lots of truly impressive, seriously fast, surprisingly sharp SUVs on the market – ones that have cutting edge dynamics, vast amounts of power and massive performance, but costing major amounts of money.

• Fastest SUVs in the world

There’s the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, for example, as well as the Range Rover Sport SVR, BMW X5 M and – the current governor of them – the Lamborghini Urus. But now there’s a new kid on the block: the £103,750 Audi RS Q8.

It actually uses a lot of the hardware featured in the Urus, including a version of that car’s all-wheel drive system, a similar four-wheel steering system, and a mildly detuned version of its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 – with mild hybridisation to make it slightly cleaner and more efficient.

In this respect, the Audi could be perceived as good value beside its posher but mechanically similar cousin from Lamborghini. The headline figures stand at 592bhp, with 800Nm of torque available between 2,200 and 4,500rpm. Zero to 62mph takes just 3.8 seconds, thanks in part to a full launch control system – its top speed would be a whole lot higher were it not tethered by its limiter.

The hottest Q8 also features full air suspension for its quattro drivetrain and has a vast carbon ceramic brake disc at each corner. It rides on enormous 22-inch wheels with a bespoke set of tyres developed by both Continental and Pirelli. If that’s not enough, the regular wheels can be optioned-up to a whopping 23 inches, says Audi.

To give you an idea of how quick the RS Q8 is, it’s recently lapped the Nurburgring race track in an astonishing seven minutes 42 seconds – the fastest time ever recorded by an SUV. More incredible, is that Audi claims – and has proved – that the surface was damp in places when the lap was set, and reckons it would have gone five to six seconds faster in perfect conditions. That means the RS Q8 can lap the world’s craziest race track in roughly the same time as Porsche 911 GT3 RS.

Yet inside, the RS features beautifully trimmed, luxurious new Super Sport seats, a fully integrated MMI touchscreen infotainment system with two screens, plus an elegant TFT instrument display. It also has four-zone climate control, 690 litres of boot space, and a genuinely spacious rear bench seat that folds flat to increase the luggage capacity to 1,755 litres.

And on the outside it has been extensively restyled to reflect its RS engineering, with a wider body, an aggressive new grille at the front, two different wings at the back that generate real downforce, plus a pair of suitably gigantic oval exhausts. In the flesh it looks impressively aggressive. All up it weighs 2,315kg. 

On the road it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer breadth of the RS Q8’s ability. On the one hand you can select D and dial it into Comfort, at which point it drives much like a regular Audi Q8. In its standard setting it is fast, refined, relatively smooth riding and luxurious, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the high class interior, wafting your way from one place to the next.

But when you select one of the more aggressive drive modes via one of the two new RS buttons on the steering wheel, the Q8 turns into an absolute monster of an SUV. It demonstrates insane shove, sharp steering, a wondrous V8 soundtrack, and genuinely decent handling to match. It even rides quite well in the harshest RS2 mode, providing the roads aren’t too rough. As for the way it stops? Well, it isn’t lacking there either. 

Should you wish, you can then press another few buttons to raise the ride height, allowing you to take the RS places most owners would never dream of going.

It’s an extraordinary vehicle, the RS Q8. It costs lot of money, yes, but for that eye-watering list price you also get an awful lot of car.

Key specs

  • Model: Audi RS Q8 quattro
  • Price: £103,750
  • Engine: 4.0-litre V8 turbo petrol
  • Power/torque: 592bhp/800Nm
  • Transmission: 8-speed auto, four-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 3.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy/CO2: 20.5mpg/277g/km
  • On sale: Now

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