2019 Audi Q8Cars 

2018 Audi Q8 First Drive: Video

The Audi Q8 is Ingolstadt’s X6/GLE Coupe rival is a big five-seat luxury SUV that only the Germans seem to get right.

In a year where we’ll soon see the humungous BMW X7, the Q8 takes a different route. It’s shorter than the car it’s based on – the Q7 – but wider and centred on moving four or five people in style.

Audi Q8 Interior

What’s also neat is the interior. Like the new black glass dominated A7, the Q8 is even more impressive. Build quality is tighter than the lips of an arrested bikie and easily feels better than its distant relative, the Bentley Bentayga.

The giant 2.9m wheelbase means space galore for front and rear seats – I reckon this car is going to be used all over the world as a limo.

On the move it’s super quiet – you can barely hear the engine at all and it’s not until you’re at three figure speeds that you will hear the wing mirrors. A bit.

Q8 Exterior Design

It doesn’t look anything like its size in the pictures, which is pretty neat. Audi’s top-end LED Matrix lighting is standard here and like the A7 and A8, animates on startup and shutdown. This is a nice piece of theatre.

The big new grille has what Audi calls a mask – that’s the big Bane-like thing around the edge of the grille that will grace more Q-cars as time goes by.

I like the little ur Quattro references like the full-width rear light bar, spoiler and the shape of the side glass.

But it has fake exhausts!

People seem to hate the fake exhaust pipes. I’m not entirely sure what the fuss is about. Tons of cars have fake exhausts and I  find it extremely difficult to get worked up about them, but if it matters to you, yes, they’re fake.

Audi Q8 55 TFSI

Chassis

Obviously, it’s a Quattro drivetrain. That’s the easy bit. The 55 TFSI uses ZF’s awesome and always brilliant eight-speed automatic to send the power out and about the four corners of the car.

The centre diff manages the power with a standard ratio of 40:60 front to rear, with up to 85 percent going to the rear tyres and 70 to the front. Hopefully not mid-corner… (obviously not, before you get upset)

Front and rear suspension are both five-link with adaptive damping in the traditional selectable settings. You can also specify air suspension, which is fitted to the orange car you see in the pictures.

That car also has the optional 22-inch wheels, instead of the 21s as standard.

It’s a chunky lad at over 2200kg. Audi says that the shell is a bit heavier because of the frameless windows. Like its A7 and A5 siblings, the coupe-like (or actual coupe) configuration means that frameless windows work better and feel sportier. But that means a lot more steel in the roof to keep you safe in a rollover and ensure general structural integrity.

Engine and Drivetrain

Well, let’s start at the top. The 55 TFSI has a 3.0-litre petrol V6 under the big bonnet, spinning up 250kW (340PS) and 500Nm. Peak power arrives at 5500rpm and maximum torque spread from 2900-5300rpm.

The engine’s two twin-scroll turbos are crammed into the 90-degree vee. This means the turbo pressure comes up really quickly. Being so close to the exhaust header means less pressure loss so less lag.

Like its distant A7 cousin, the Q8 rolls with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. The engine has a belt alternator system, harvesting energy and sending it to a small lithium-ion battery under the boot floor.

The engine can cut out at 22km/h as you coast to a stop, turn off at moderate to high cruising speeds for periods of time and deploy a bit of extra torque when the planets align. All the while it keeps your climate-control and various other systems running such that many drivers and passengers won’t notice.

It works really nicely in the A7 and by contrast to the SQ7 where it’s there to spin up the electric turbo, it is all about fuel-saving. Which is just as well – despite all the weight-saving aluminium, this bad boy weighs over 2200kg.

Driving

I don’t know about you, but this car had me scratching my head. 

I mean, what’s the point? Why is it so big only to carry five people? Why is it so heavy? Why does it look so much like an ur Quattro? Wait, that’s not a complaint.

Climbing in, it feels big. The new cockpit layout is genuinely brilliant getting comfortable is super-easy. The seats up here in the 55 TFSI are really nice, very comfortable both for the driver and passenger.

That extra width over the Q7 is enough make it look really muscular on the outside and properly big inside – it spans a lane and on some of the narrow B-roads I swept through, feels like you need to swerve to avoid oncoming traffic. You don’t obviously, but you need to keep your wits about you.

The cars I drove either had the full-fat all-wheel steering and air suspension package or the standard steel springs with adaptive damping and no rear-wheel steering.

From a ride and handling perspective, there’s not a great deal of difference between the two. Normal driving reveals a very accomplished chassis with a really nice balance for such a big car.

But with the all-wheel steer, something clicks into place and the Q8 becomes a hell of a lot more agile. Low-speed manoeuvres are obviously much easier as the turning circle tightens with the rear wheels going in the opposite direction.

At speed, though, is what we’re really interested in here. The front wheels instead turn in the same direction and make all the difference. Coupled with the air suspension, you can really hustle the Q8. The front end is pretty good to start with – massive, grippy tyres will do that – but with a bit of help from the rear end, it feels more like a biggish Q5 rather than a slightly shorter Q7, if that makes sense.

As always, the 3.0-litre V6 is brilliant. Moving this kind of weight is no easy feat, but it does it virtually silently. It’s almost like those fake exhausts are trying to tell you something – you can’t hear 3.0-litre. You genuinely have to check it’s on. Clearly, Audi is saving the noise for Audi Sport customers willing to wait for the RSQ8.

But boy is it strong. The petrol unit gets the Q8 to 100km/h (62mph) in under six seconds. The strong mid-range means country-road overtaking requires only a little planning.

Audi Q8 Pricing

 55 TFSI50 TDI
Australia$128,900 + ORC$128,900 + ORC
United KingdomN/A£65,040 - £83,040
USA$67,040N/A
South AfricaTBC
Hong KongTBC
SingaporeS$369,600

Full Australian price and spec here.

So is it for me?

It doesn’t make a huge amount of sense until you’re in it. I approache it quite warily but once I’d spent time behind the wheel and more time climbing around it, it started making sense.

Do you need a car this big? Hugely unlikely unless you’re a family of basketballers. It’s an alternative to both a big wagon (like, er, the A6 Avant) and the seven-seat utility like…um…the Q7. So basically, it’s an SUV version of the A8.

I didn’t think I’d be okay with that. But it turns out, I am.

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Peter travelled to the New South Wales Snowy Mountains region as a guest of Audi Australia. Flights, accommodation and gingerbread men were all supplied as part of the trip.

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