Doesn’t look like an electric car, interior design, efficiency modes
Doesn’t look like an electric car, electric mirrors an acquired taste
What is it?
Audi’s quest to confuse us all with its naming strategy continues at pace with this, the new Q8 e-tron. Nothing to do with the existing petrol, diesel and hybrid Q8, this is a heavy facelift of its first electric car – the e-tron SUV – introduced in 2019. Still there? Probably easier to think of it as a rival for Merc’s blobby EQE SUV and BMW’s face-only-a-mother-could-love iX.
Which is a good place to start, because compared to those two the Audi is a chiselled underwear model, nicely proportioned, striking from the front with the grille now melting into the headlights, and the obligatory full-width light bar at the back. For even more style points go for the swoopy-roofed Sportback version, you might think. But no, don’t be that person. What attempts to be a coupe twist on a trad SUV shape ends up looking gawky and way too try-hard. We’d stick to the SUV version (pictured above) as Audi UK expects two thirds of customers to do.
Blurring lines is what the Q8 e-tron is all about: it doesn’t scream about its electric powertrain, it just quietly gets on with the business of flinging you down the road with the sort of premium solidness you’d expect.
What flavours does the Q8 e-tron come in?
If you’re interested in all the Q8 e-tron detail then dive into the Buying section for more – it does get complicated. There are three versions of the electric powertrain to choose from (50, 55 and S), two body styles (the normal SUV and the more coupe-like Sportback version) and four trim levels. All the trim levels are available on the 50 and 55 cars, whether SUV or coupe, but the S-badged cars only come in the two highest specs. Phew.
But is it well equipped?
The Q8 e-tron is as executive as you’d expect here. Even the base trim of the Q8 e-tron is so well equipped that you can hardly imagine how Audi might be able to ram more stuff in and up the price (spoiler: it succeeds). You get 20in wheels, air suspension, LED headlights, an electric opening boot, electrically adjustable front heated seats, all the touchscreens you could want and 360-degree parking sensors. The scrimping on the entry powertrains – the 335bhp 50 model – comes with the battery, which is a ‘mere’ 89kWh for a range of up to 290 miles. Upgrade to a pricier 55 car and you get a 106kWh battery that will manage up to 343 miles in aero friendly coupe form.
What about charging?
Audi says that the Q8 e-tron has been upgraded to charge at a maximum of 170kW – lower than some headline grabbing rivals the firm admits, but what the clever engineers have done is go for a lower charging sweet spot that the car can sustain for longer, because they wanted the car to be more dependable to live with. In the real-world that means charging from 10 to 80 per cent on the smaller battery ‘50’ model can take as little as 28 minutes in ideal conditions, or 31 minutes for the larger battery.
Is it practical?
There’s quite decent room in the back of the Q8 e-tron, and you don’t get the obvious sense that the floor has been compromised by hundreds of battery cells being crammed under the floor. Even in the Sportback version there’s a decent amount of headroom for rear passengers. Three adults on the rear bench might be a bit of a chore with the diminished legroom in the middle, but kids would be fine.
What’s it up against?
The electric SUV segment is awash with contenders, so you've got the likes of the Tesla Model X, Jaguar I-Pace, BMW iX and Mercedes EQE to consider if the Q8 e-tron doesn't do it for you at the eye-wateringly expensive end of the spectrum. Cue a timely hyperlink to our Devonshire group test of the Tesla, Jag and Audi.
What's the verdict?
It’s not a profound facelift that Audi’s made to its flagship electric SUV, but the Q8 e-tron is one of the easiest ways to go electric – you’ll hardly notice you’re doing it. It hits all the right Audi notes of premium, solid quality without resorting to brash gimmicks to try and get you to notice it.
It’s heavy, yes, and expensive too, so it’s hardly like it’s making electric propulsion available to the masses and has no particular claims to be saving the planet. This is the electric vehicle as a luxury tool, and as a refined, imposing grand tourer it makes a solid case for itself over most of its electric rivals.
Audi will tell you about torque vectoring and improved dynamics, and may even try and upsell you to a triple-motor 496bhp SQ8 with a 284-mile range, but don’t be fooled. This is a 2,500kg+ car that you’ll never throw around with intent, it’s a waft-express that’s comfy, isolating and quiet. An easy to live with safe-bet, if your pockets are deep enough.