When it comes to new cars, 2018 has made us spoilt for choice: among a selection of SUVs, hair-raising sports cars and more sensible family saloons, we have Audi’s latest flagship SUV: the new Audi Q8 2018.
Touted as a rival to the BMW X6, Mercedes GLW Coupé and even the Range Rover Velar, this coupé-style luxury SUV is the first of its kind in the Audi range.
Marketers at the Germany-based automotive manufacturer describe the new Q8 as “intelligence in its truest form” with “next generation Audi innovations”. Are they simply referring to the MMI dual-touchscreen infotainment system inside, or do they mean something more all-encompassing?
We took the Q8 for a spin to find out.
To justify the Audi Q8 2018 price, starting at an eye-watering £63,745, we’d have to expect something pretty special.
What we have is an aggressive, imposing SUV that, despite the name, is actually a little smaller than the Q7.
This is by no means to its detriment however – with Audi’s SUV range spanning the Q2, Q3, Q5 and Q7, the Q8 is the natural progression in terms of innovation, but it still shares the same wheelbase and cabin width as the Q7.
In truth, it’s been based on the Q7, but its tech is its defining feature, with such upgrades as the all-wheel steering to bring it into the next generation.
The official Audi Q8 release date is “summer 2018”, but expect more developments in 2019. For now, we have the 50 TDI, a 282bhp, 3.0 litre V6 diesel. This is the subtler of the models, featuring 48-volt electrical architecture, a vast lithium-ion battery and a supercharged engine starter generator.
That may sound impressive enough, but later on in the year we can expect the 231bhp ’45 TDI’, and for 2019, a vastly more powerful 340bhp 55 TSI V6 petrol.
Like many Audis and indeed, Range Rovers and other SUVs, we have an eight-speed automatic gearbox, but unlike others, (for which we have to upgrade) air suspension and quattro AWD come as standard.
If you’re into aesthetics and tech, then you’ll have a choice of two trims – the Vorsprung (with its own heart-pounding Audi Q8 price of £83,040) and the S-Line.
While “it’s what’s inside that counts” may very much be the Audi SUV 2018 Q8’s motto, it has come in leaps and bounds when it comes to design.
With size and dimensions of 4,986mm L x 1,995mm H x 1,705mm W, it may be smaller than the Q7 but it’s got an angrier exterior, with a sloping, lower roofline than its predecessors and wider tracks (manufacturers claim that active roll control is now redundant as a result).
This meaner look culminates in the front-end, with a large front grille that’s taking no prisoners. You’ll also find large arches and feature lines, prominent wheel arches and frameless doors. With all this to gawp at on the outside, what could there possibly be left to impress from the interior?
The most noticeable feature of the interior, besides the intelligent infotainment system, is the lack of buttons.
Depending on your preferences, this could be a blessing or a curse – from a design perspective, it’s less busy and more simple, but does this provide an unnecessary distraction from the road? Unfortunately, in some cases, yes, though this effect is lessened somewhat by the shortcut keys.
But let’s focus on the positive for now – it looks stunning. With a triple wide screen dashboard and high definition displays, there’s plenty to feast your eyes on.
Said touchscreens feature haptic feedback, and everything can be controlled from the Virtual Cockpit, including what information you would like to be displayed in front of you.
There are electronically adjustable front sports seats, which have clearly been designed for comfort thanks to their adjustable lumbar support and extendable base.
You can also electronically adjust your steering wheel to your own requirements, giving you better visibility all around the car. Parking such a beast may sound like a chore, but with the aid of a reverse camera and Matrix LED headlights, it doesn’t need to be.
Luggage wise, it’s closer to the Range Rover Sport’s space and practicality, with 605 litres. Of course, there’s no option to upgrade to a seven-seater here, but what it lacks in potential for family outings, it makes up for in practicality.
The back seats, for example, can split, giving you even more room for luggage, while there’s plenty of legroom for passengers.
The beetle back could be a bit of a pain if you’re storing a cello or an equally large item, but generally speaking there are lots of ways to give yourself the extra room you need.
Slip it into comfort mode if you want an effortless drive that’s only interrupted slightly by bumps in the road. Just like the Q7, it’s rapid, and takes to corners with ease, but equally, it’s not the most exciting or sporty SUV to drive.
In dynamic mode we see the steering switching to take on more weight, while the suspension firms up in unison. This offers more stability thanks to the 40mm drop, but if you want something completely different, watch as you rise by 50mm in off-road mode.
The all-wheel drive mode features torque-vectoring on the rear axle, together with up to 70 per cent torque split on the front or 85 per cent on the rear. It all comes down to the conditions on the day.
Having tested only the TDI, we think there’s a lot more growing room for the new models set for release later this year and in 2019.
That’s not to say it’s not impressive: the TDI reaches 62mph in 6.3 seconds, and it certainly feels smaller than it is to drive.
Pulling away is smooth and comfortable too. Every model will have the 48-volt mild hybrid technology, which affords the engine a gentle stop/start function, reduced turbo lag and the ability to coast nicely off-throttle.
An added bonus is the recoup, giving you a combined MPG of 41.5 of 178g/km. Once again, it gives the impression of being smaller than it is, which will come in useful for road tax.
One minor gripe we had was with the eight-speed automatic gear box: even in sport mode, it hesitates a little in crucial situations such as slowing down suddenly or overtaking. Keep it in manual mode if you want the most responsive setting for those unpredictable situations.
Despite the gentle pull-off, it’s a little noisy on the get-go, but this calms down once you’ve reached a cruising speed. The door mirrors can generate a little added noise on the motorway, but it’s really nothing noticeable.
At two metres wide, there are significant blind spots, but this need not be a cause for concern. As mentioned before, the tech more than makes up for this, so if you can swallow your pride and rely on technology over your own judgement, then the Audi Q8 is the SUV for you. The tech features include the Emergency Assist, Crossover Assist, Audi Pre Sense 360, Rear Cross Traffic Assist, Lane Change Warning and Kerb Warning. Who needs brain power?
As a new model, the Q8 comes with a selection of safety features including the abovementioned ‘Tour Assistance Package’.
The Q8 will struggle against Audi’s previous customer satisfaction record, having scored just 18th in the 26 brands surveyed.
Even more off-putting is the first-year ownership statistic, which revealed that 18.6 per cent of owners reported a problem within this time frame.
Despite history, we’re willing to give the Q8 a chance. It’s been hugely revamped in terms of technology, which could mean there is more potential for things to go wrong, but from where we’re standing, we think it’s got it right.
The Q8 may not be the sexiest or most exciting SUV to drive, but it scores top points on practicality.
With a generous fuel economy and an extremely comfortable interior, it’s best suited to long journeys where relaxation is top priority.
Audi’s latest release is clearly trying to appeal to the tech-savvy market, or “digital natives” as younger people are now being referred to.
Of course, the price tag doesn’t exactly line up with the younger target market, so it may instead be better placed with Audi enthusiasts who’ve done the Q7 to death and want to try something new.
There’s a lot of ‘cool’ appeal as well: offering up to 22-inch wheels, it certainly looks the part (though this may divide opinion amongst Audi enthusiasts).
We sense this is just the beginning for the Audi Q8 – there’s plenty of time to refine the 2019 model, and the scope for power is immense, given that we’ve started at 0-62 in 6.3 seconds already. We can’t wait to see what’s next.