Interesting, tech-laden SUV flagship that’s more practical and useful than it looks
It’s not exactly subtle. Or cheap
What is it?
Cram as many superlatives into an official description as you can, and you’ll have an idea as to how Audi regards its Q-brand range-topper. It’s not a simple vehicle intellectually or practically, but Audi hasn’t skimped, which means there’s a lot going on here that needs unpacking.
Most obviously, it apes the A8 saloon’s slick, chunky and mega-mouthed design language, while being stuffed full of various strains of tech and looking expensive. It’s also a four-door, five-seater ‘with coupe styling’ – which just means the rear slopes more than a Q7 – though the frameless doors are actually really very neat, and unique in the segment.
There are big arches, fantastical feature lines, funky LED lighting and some bulging wheel arches. Boring it is not. Whether it’s to our taste is currently running at 50:50 based on an entirely unscientific straw poll of a few days of exposure.
As you might expect, all Q8s will feature quattro AWD (with a standard locking centre diff) plus air suspension as standard, all get a slick eight-speed automatic gearbox, and in the UK we get two trims: S-Line and Vorsprung, both with considerable kit to play with. There’ll be three engines available, this 50 TDI (286bhp, 3.0 diesel) now, with a 231bhp version of that same engine badged ’45 TDI’ and a 340bhp 55 TSI V6 petrol coming in 2019.
It’s not cheap, but neither is it particularly stiffly priced for the segment, weighing in at a basic price of £65,040 for the S line and £83,040 for the Vorsprung, though it’s wise to note that the latter is pretty much bingo on the ticking of the options boxes, so it works out at decent value if you want all the toys in one go. Both the BMW X6 30d and the Mercedes GLE Coupe 350d slot into pretty much the same area depending on spec.
The tech pervades all on this particular model, mind, as you might expect from an Audi with an ‘8’ in the badge. There’s dynamic all-wheel steer (optional on S-Line, standard on Vorsprung), a clever materials mix, and quite a bit of progressive thinking.
All cars get 48-volt mild hybrid tech, which is basically a little lithium-ion battery in the boot that feeds a water-cooled steroidal starter motor up front, a system that allows for engine coasting off-throttle, extended and improved (as well as smoother) stop/start function and reduced turbo lag. And it recoups, too, so you end up with pretty decent mpg and CO2 figures (41.5mpg combined, 178g/km) considering the size of the thing.
All Q8s get HD Matrix LED lighting which is animated and interesting, leather, climate, electrical assistance and Audi’s really rather lovely multi-screen Virtual Cockpit. There are 39 driver assistance systems available depending on spec. You will not be short of buttons to push.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
It’s a complex car, the Q8. What feels initially like yet another thinly- sliced niche actually resolves into a very capable SUV that’s a good deal more practical than the looks would suggest.
It’s polarising in terms of styling, but it certainly isn’t dull, and you can change the entire aesthetic with a choice of exterior colour. The interior is fantastic, the technology enough to make you feel like an early adopter, and it’s all executed in a way that makes you feel like this is definitely a class-leader in terms of gadgets. It’s not a driver’s car, but neither is it embarrassed by anything. An interesting, clever car from Audi.