Q8 3.0 TFSI S-Line: sensual, stylish and smart
In what seems to be a world inundated by SUVs and SUV coupés, is there place for something like Audi’s Q8?
This Audi’s SUV cum crossover model straddles the entire spectrum of the SUV and crossover universe: from the Q2 (subcompact SUV), Q3 (compact SUV), Q5 (mid-size SUV), Q7 (full-size SUV). Indeed, the Q8 is quite hard to classify. It’s shorter than a Q7, but looks even wider, sportier, and possesses a more rakish profile.
But leave cynicism and stereotype behind, open your mind, and take the Q8 for what Audi wants it to be: a stylish, luxurious and true technological tour-de-force. Think of every single conceivable technology offered in this segment and you’ll find it in the Q8.
The Q8 hails from Volkswagen-Audi Group’s Bratislava factory in Slovakia. It utilizes the VW MLB platform that underpins the Porsche Cayenne, Audi Q7, Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, as well as the now industry favorite ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. Diesel and gasoline engines are available, though it remains to be seen when the diesels will actually arrive in the country.
Interestingly, the Q8 gets a 48-volt mild hybrid tech, which is basically a lithium-ion battery in the trunk that feeds a water-cooled steroidal starter motor up front. This system 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 fuel consumption and exhaust emissions figures considering the size and weight (at 2,155kg for the gasoline 3.0 TFSI S-Line) of this SUV. Audi claims a combined fuel average of between 8.9 land 9.1 liters consumed per 100 kilometers in European standard testing format, which is roughly 10.8 to 11km/liter for the gasoline TFSI. In my time, I actually saw a much better result: 12.5km/liter although this was achieved mostly on highway driving down south. All-in, the direct-injected, twin-scroll turbocharged V6 engine outputs 340hp and 500 Newton-Meters of torque. More than enough, but the top-end diesel delivers an even more numbing 600 Newton-Meters of torque!
The Q8 features an evolution of the trademark Audi horseshoe grill first seen on the recently launched A8 executive sedan. The grill is now octagonal rather than a simple square (a nod perhaps to the many wealthy Chinese individuals who are expected to buy the A8 and Q8 simply because they are “8”, a lucky number in Chinese culture) and the fact that it is wider and taller than before. Other interesting design cues carried from the A8 include the frameless door windows. Traditionally found in some high-end luxury saloons, sports cars/exotics, frameless door windows was never used in SUVs, until now. It’s also harder to engineer and design as the lack of window framing makes sealing the cabin from the outside elements, noise and insulation a huge challenge. This means engineers also need to be more creative in coming up with a stiffer door, as most chassis utilize the doors as a structural stiffener once closed.
The inside is a departure from previous Audis as well. The brand has always been known for making some of the best looking, most stylish, forward-thinking, and highly functional, not to mention intuitive, interiors with excellent ergonomics. The Q8 takes things further by doing away with so many buttons, replaced by more luxurious, simpler and classier piano black trim, part of which also happens to be touch screen controls for the Audi MMI Multi Media Infotainment System. A knob with quick select buttons and a touchpad with haptic feedback are also standard. There’s a large LCD display screen on the center console to show the MMI settings and a front/rear/bird’s eye-view camera of the large Q8, making parking-lot maneuvers a breeze despite its considerable footprint. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit LCD display gets less complicated, more intuitive to use over time and rounds out the nice interior touches, further emphasizing its high-tech aura. An awesome Harman Kardon surround sound hi-fi system delivers clean, clear and powerful tunes even when music is sourced through MP3 files.
On the road, the Q8 feels serene, supreme and somewhat superflous: the chassis can handle a lot more power. Say an extra 100-150hp more, easily. But rumor has it that an RS variant will make an appearance eventually so that’s good and will truly test the Q8’s capabilities. The Quattro all-wheel drive can send as much as 85 percent power to the rear, or 75 percent power to the front, depending on conditions. The massive 21-inch wheels shod with 285/45R21 tires looks chunky despite the massive diameter so road imperfections are simply smothered. You can opt for even larger 22-inch wheels which look better given the Q8’s athletic proportions.
But despite its size, it feels light and easy to drive. Progress is effortless, overtaking cars even on a tight winding road is easily dispatched, the suspension always has ample stroke, the brakes powerful but a tad over-assisted, and the steering, though somewhat lacking in feel, is precise, accurate and surprisingly quick, further aiding the massive Q8’s agility. Kneading through slower moving cars on the expressway is a joy. Just don’t forget that it is practically 2 meters wide
(with the side mirrors)! Select DYNAMIC Mode on the Audi Drive Select menu and the Q8 takes on a more aggressive nature, but still comfortable and composed enough to preserve your composure.
The Q8 truly is amazing. It has real presence, oozing with confidence, has real talent underneath its stylish skin, is packed with technology and delivers a memorable driving experience, whether long or short trips. A real sense of occasion and charm surround the Q8. That is a rare trait indeed, even rarer in a mainstream model variant that can oftentimes leave drivers impressed but unmoved.
The SUV coupé segment will get busier as the Q8 joins rivals from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and soon, the Cayenne Coupé from Porsche. But none will have the unique blend of attributes as the sensual, smart and stylish as the Q8.