by Manoli Katakis
Underpinned by the same VW MLBevo platform as siblings like the fiery Lamborghini Urus and luxurious Bentley Bentayga, the coupe-styled Audi Q8 storms into the now-oversubscribed midsize luxury SUV realm as one of the cheaper two-row entrants on the platform. Jam-packed with the latest technology, aggressive styling, and a 335-horsepower 3.0-liter turbo V6 sending power to all corners, the Q8 takes pride of place at the pinnacle of Audi's SUV lineup. But it's tough at the top, with rivals like the BMW X6 and new Mercedes-AMG GLE Coupe spoiling for a fight. In this company, is the Q8 merely another contender, or does a pedigree shared with far more exotic machinery help place it in a league above the standard premium fray? We got behind the wheel of a very loaded Q8 for a few days to find out.
Since the Audi Q8 was only just launched for 2019, the 2020 model requires little to keep it fresh and interesting. More safety equipment has been added to the Premium trim, with automatic high beams and lane departure warning thrown in. In addition, Audi's enhanced digital display known as the virtual cockpit plus is also added. Other changes include the addition of an optional Black optic package with gloss black trim and 21-inch wheels. A couple of other appearance packages are also added, namely S line and S line Plus. More leather has also been added to Prestige models with the Luxury package to take the Q8 further upmarket.
Despite being effectively placed as a coupe version of the Q7, the Q8 gets bespoke styling that gives it the necessary aggression to rival the BMW X6. It boasts LED lighting at the front and at the rear, with a large hexagonal grille dominating the front and adding visual width. RS-style grilles add aggression while the clever design makes the profile look sporty with a lightly sloped roofline topped by a tailgate-mounted spoiler. 20-inch wheels are standard, with 21s fitted to higher trims and 22-inch wheels optional. Subtle but fake rhombus-shaped exhaust outlets frame either end of the rear, while all models also feature a panoramic sunroof.
The Q8 is Audi's flagship luxury SUV, and as such, measures an expansive 196.6 inches from end to end. The wheelbase is 117.9 inches while height is an impressive 67.2 inches. Width is similarly imposing, at 78.5 excluding the wing mirrors, but standard ground clearance is not particularly great, measuring just 5.75 inches. Curb weights start at 5,004 lbs. Interestingly, the Lamborghini Urus, with which the Q8 shares the MLBevo platform, is almost 200 lbs lighter, and the Q8 also differs from relatives like the Porsche Cayenne, which has a shorter wheelbase.
As is often the case, black and white are the standard no-cost options. Here, their particular names are Carrara White and Night Black. $595 buys you access to metallic colors like Dragon Orange, Florett Silver, Galaxy Blue, Glacier White, Orca Black, Samurai Gray, and Vicuna Beige. The mid-range Premium Plus trim, as well as the top-end Prestige variant also get Navarra Blue metallic and Daytona Gray pearl options for the same price. Each model can also be equipped with the Black Optic package, accenting the exterior with attractive gloss black trims that add aggression and a slightly more premium feel.
Our tester arrived in the vivid Dragon Orange. The overall design of the Q8 can speak for itself, but this zesty hue does amplify the tight creases and lines all over the bodywork, while contrasting well with the dark accents and wheels. Overall, a Dragon Orange Q8 looks very Lamborghini-esque, especially from the back three-quarter.
The Audi Q8 comes with just one engine choice in the US in standard form, with the more performance-oriented SQ8 and RS Q8 reviewed separately. Audi has assigned this sole engine the '55 TFSI' nomenclature. The motor is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 generating 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, good enough for a maximum towing capacity of up to 7,700 lbs. While others can tow more, it's worth noting that sportier variants like the SQ8 and RS Q8 will outshine this base variant and offer more capability and acceleration.
Speaking of straight-line performance, the Q8 uses a proper quattro all-wheel-drive system that allows the bulky SUV to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 5.6 seconds. This acceleration isn't all down to the engine, however. Thanks to stricter emissions regulations, the only way that big, heavy, luxury SUVs like this are allowed to continue to exist is with the assistance of electricity, and the Q8 features a 48-volt mild hybrid setup to comply. The benefits are equally measured between performance than economy, as the system is designed to fill the gap between the moment you put your foot down and the point in the rev range where the turbo comes in with full boost. Along with aiding acceleration, it helps save fuel when you let go of the accelerator pedal, keeping the Q8 coasting along. It also helps make the effects of the stop/start system more seamless and powers ancillary devices, leaving the engine to power the wheels rather than the air conditioning. Despite the extra weight that a hybrid system adds, the Q8 is no slouch. Keep your right foot planted, and the eight-speed automatic gearbox will keep assisting your progress until you reach a terminal velocity of 130 mph.
The Q8 comes with a single powertrain choice on our shores - a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 gas engine with 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. This is paired to an eight-speed automatic, and Audi's signature quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Overall, the engine/transmission combo can trick you into thinking that it's more than just 335 hp being sent to all four wheels. For example, Audi advertises a 0-60 time in a favorable 5.6 seconds, which is pretty damn good for something that weighs over 4,700 lbs. As mentioned, power is indeed sent to all four wheels, but with a 40/60 torque bias that favors the rear wheels, with up to 85 percent of total torque capable of being sent to the rear wheels in optimum conditions. At full throttle off the line, a bad transmission could have spoiled the experience here, but we are happy to report that there was no such issue. The eight-speed felt clever and well-calibrated, which means that you hardly realize it's there. A mark of any good gearbox. Of course, we tended to keep things in Dynamic mode, which makes everything feel as honed as possible.
It's rare that one encounters a crossover with reflexes that match demanding standards. Here is one aspect where the Audi Q8 is absolutely worth the money. Everything is crisp, sharp, composed and quick. At least in dynamic mode, anyway. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Q8 is related to the mighty Lamborghini Urus, sans a fire-breathing twin-turbo V8. This all comes with a lovely serving of duality. In comfort mode, this tiger retracts its claws for a more docile gait. Along with the dynamic and comfort modes, there's the auto, and individual modes. What's more, the optional adaptive air suspension adds an offroad mode, should you find yourself tempted to treat your Audi Q8 like a Land Rover Defender. But you probably shouldn't.
On a very snowy night in rural Michigan, the Audi's quattro system was put to the test in conditions that left the road completely covered in powder. The adaptive cruise control systems were, unsurprisingly, unable to function as Old Man Winter gave the Mitten State one last what-for before yielding to spring. In short, driving conditions absolutely sucked. But I was piloting a snowspeeder. The drivetrain of the 2020 Audi Q8 didn't seem to mind what was going on around it, although it became very pushy through a roundabout (even with the $2,750 adaptive chassis package that includes all-wheel-steering). To which, I'll blame this on the lack of snow tires.
Despite mild-hybrid assistance, the Audi Q8 is not a particularly economical family car. Fuel economy estimates are given as 17/21/18 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles. A Porsche Cayenne also fitted with a V6 engine is a little more economical, returning figures of 19/23/21 mpg. Nevertheless, the Audi Q8 has a fairly large 22.5-gallon gas tank, estimated range with mixed driving is a respectable 428 miles.
Our observed fuel economy on the 335 horsepower Audi Q8 averaged 19 mpg over 461 miles. Driving was mixed between urban streets, interstate freeways, rural highways, and curvaceous backroads. I'm a leadfoot, so don't let my number deter you from trying to do better (because you probably will). In vehicles I've driven in the past in the same manner, a 19 mpg average is similar to what I've seen in full-size V8 sport utility vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade. Which offers nearly 100 more horsepower, a whole third row of seats, and sizable towing and hauling improvements. For the money, a well-equipped Q8 and an Escalade are within the same price range.
That being said, if you can afford a $68,000-$90,000 SUV, what do you care what the price of gasoline might be today? I suppose if you did, you wouldn't have to look far to lay eyes on the similarly proportioned e-tron SUV if you're looking for something that consumes electrons rather than petrol.
If you're averse to futuristic-looking tech and lots touch-sensitive controls, the Audi Q8 won't win your heart. That's what is required to stay at the top, though, and the Q8 upholds Audi's reputation for stunning interiors with a stunning 12.3-inch configurable driver display and two more screens in the center of the dash. A 10.1-inch touchscreen handles most infotainment and navigation requirements, while a second 8.6-inch touchscreen below it is used to adjust the climate control and other systems. A panoramic sunroof is fitted to all models, and leather upholstery is also standard along with tri-zone climate control.
The two-row Audi Q8 seems to hide its sloping roofline rather effectively on the inside, largely thanks to rear seats that are lowered in comparison to the Q7 to achieve similar headroom. This means that second-row passengers, even those at six feet tall or a little more, won't feel too claustrophobic, and the 40/20/40-split seatbacks feature adjustable reclination. Up front is of course where the pilot and first officer of this AWD starfighter get to occupy, and with four-way power lumbar seats, you can't go wrong. Legroom and knee room felt ample on all sides, and even wider bodies will feel comfortable within the confines of the Audi Q8's interior dimensions.
Our Audi Q8 tester came loaded to the brim with both the Prestige Package and the Luxury Package fortifying what was already a fantastic interior. Special leather seats with heating, ventilation, and massage functions coddle both the driver and the front passenger, while every inch of the roofliner is coated in decadent Alcantara. There's really nothing to complain about here when it comes to the fit and finish of the cabin. The driving position feels even more special with the right hand resting on the gear lever, which seems to mimic the throttle handle of a personal space shuttle from the year 2220. The cherry on top is the configurable ambient lighting. I had the tendency to prefer the 'Caribbean' setting, which made things feel the most sci-fi with its Tron-like blue glow. Which, when considering the technology in this thing, is very appropriate.
In terms of colors and options, the Premium and Premium Plus boast four no-cost color leather choices: Black with Rock Gray stitching, Okapi Brown, Pando Gray, and Saiga Beige. These can each be paired with trim inserts of either Fine Grain Brown Ash, Lava Brown Eucalyptus, or High-gloss Gray Oak wood inserts. However, on the Prestige, shoppers can opt for Valcona leather in Sarder Brown (part of the Design Selection Package), or either black or Saiga Beige as part of the $6,150 Luxury Package that also adds the aforementioned Alcantara headliner. Unique to this trim is the option of Basalt Gray Eucalyptus trim insert.
The Q8 features a large 30.5 cubic-foot cargo area that is accessed by means of a power liftgate. That's enough to fit meaningful luggage for all five occupants, but if you need even more space, the rear seats can be folded in a 40/20/40 split to open up a whopping 60.7 cubic feet of volume. Porsche's Cayenne is not far behind, offering a maximum of 60.3 cubes.
In the cabin, small-item storage is less well catered for, with narrow door pockets and a small glovebox. Nevertheless, you do at least get a pair of cupholders in the front and another pair in the back, and there's a space below the center armrest to store phones and wallets.
The Q8 is packed with standard features, among which is Audi's aforementioned Virtual Cockpit Plus, which features a 12.3-inch driver info display. LED ambient lighting, 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats, and tri-zone climate control are also standard, as is the rearview camera that is required by law. A hands-free power tailgate, heated wing mirrors, and a panoramic sunroof are also included. Keyless entry and ignition, cruise control, lane-departure warning, parking sensors, and Audi's crash preparation system for forward and rearward collisions are also standard. This includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, while other features include LED headlights with auto high beams, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a tire-pressure monitoring system are also included. Options are plenty, and you can have 18-way power front seats with ventilation and a massaging function, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, adaptive air suspension, a surround-view camera, a head-up display, all-wheel steering, adaptive cruise control, four-zone climate control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, traffic-sign recognition, animated LED taillights, a night-vision camera, soft-close doors, and an air quality system with aromatization. The top trim also gets HD Matrix LED headlights for better visibility.
One thing that immediately sets the Audi MMi touch response infotainment system apart from the rest of the pack is the integration of Google Maps into the 10.1-inch upper touchscreen. Mapping data pulled from an assortment of sources combines together to give a high-resolution view of the overworld, with landmarks and buildings coming into frame just as they are passing by from beyond the dual-pane windows. The second is that all HVAC controls are on a separate haptic touchscreen. Adjustments can be made with a simple tap or a slide, and because they're independent of the upper screen's navigation, radio, and Bluetooth controls, adjusting the cabin temperature is far more direct than it would be otherwise. Of course, we're sitting here wondering where all the buttons and knobs went.
For the audiophiles, the 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen system upgrade is impeccable (a vast improvement over the standard ten-speaker system on the base model or the 17-speaker B&O system on Premium Plus and Prestige models), and it nearly transformed my typical prog metal playlist into a rich three-dimensional experience that the music deserves. Lastly, it should go without saying that both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are present and accounted for. But here's the cool part: Apple CarPlay is wireless now.
Thus far, the 2020 Audi Q8 has been free of recalls. However, the 2019 model was subject to a single recall in February 2019 for shock absorber forks that may develop cracks. Since then, no issues have been reported.
Only one complimentary maintenance visit is covered for the first year or 10,000 miles, but regular warranty coverage includes a limited and a powertrain warranty for the first four years or 50,000 miles.
The Audi Q8 has performed well in the NHTSA's overall crash ratings, scoring a full five stars in their tests. Over at the IIHS, similar results were achieved with a best-possible overall rating of Good. However, headlight ratings were only scored as Acceptable when the top-spec model with its HD Matrix LED headlights was tested, with lesser trims being scored Poor due to glare. Despite this, the Q8 was still awarded the IIHS' second-highest honor as a 2020 Top Safety Pick.
The Q8 is fitted with six airbags as standard (frontal, side-impact, and curtain airbags with rear side airbags optional taking the tally to eight), complementing other standard safety equipment like a rearview camera, lane departure warning, front and rear parking sensors, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, rain-sensing wipers, and Pre Sense, Audi's crash preparation system. Features like blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, a head-up display, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera require extra cash, as do lane keep assist, a night vision camera, and traffic sign recognition.
This segment was born with the BMW X6. And it was hard to take seriously. What the hell is a four-door coupe SUV? How is this even logical? Is this an experiment in doublespeak? Will it help explain the Nazca Lines? Is any of this even real?
Whatever you make of it, nobody is scoffing now. All major German premium brands have marked their territory in this segment, and it's only a matter of time before mainstream brands follow (go figure that Volkswagen is leading the charge with the Atlas Cross Sport). Between the BMW X6 ($64,300), the more punchy Mercedes-Benz GLE 43 Coupe ($71,350), and Porsche Cayenne ($66,800), the Audi Q8 ($68,200) comes in at the pricier end of the segment. But it's also the newest, for what it's worth. And it's based on a platform that supports utility vehicles from far more exclusive brands. We're talking about the Bentley Bentayga (circa $165,000) and Lamborghini Urus (circa $210,000). Our tester came in just shy of $90,000, with extras like the S line plus package, $6,150 Luxury package, and the $5,000 Bang & Olufsen 23-speaker sound system upgrade.
Nevermind the pricing comparison for a moment. There's this quirk we can't get over. And that's the fact that this $90,000 utility vehicle doesn't have remote start. And there are currently no plans for Audi to add the feature. This Q8 also represents a $90,000 vehicle with the base engine. That's hard to overlook when the 500 horsepower Audi SQ8 was recently priced at $89,000.
For this kind of money, there's an ocean of variety to navigate beyond the German four-door coupe SUV segment. Vehicles like the imposing Lincoln Navigator come to mind, as does a well equipped Volvo V90 wagon. Though if your desires are a bit more algorithmic, the Q8 is arguably the most stylish of the German four-door coupe SUVs, and the spaceship interior is nothing short of endearing.
Lastly, just remember, while there's plenty out there for the money, the 2020 Audi Q8 is a Lamborghini Urus in training. And, for us, that's a big plus.
The 2020 Audi Q8 is not a cheap vehicle, but it's not as bad as you may expect. The base Premium trim starts at $68,200, before a $995 destination charge. The mid-level Premium Plus trim retails for at least $72,200, while the top-spec Prestige trim costs $77,700. Fully loaded, it can get very pricey, however, with the total cost exceeding $100,000.
The 2020 Audi Q8 is only available in three variants: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige.
The base model rides on 20-inch wheels and features LED headlights, leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch digital driver display, tri-zone climate control, navigation, a 10-speaker sound system, and a panoramic sunroof. You also get smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and even Amazon Alexa, as well as HD Radio and SiriusXM satellite radio. Cruise control, lane departure warning, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, heated mirrors, and a hands-free power tailgate are also included. In addition, the front seats are 12-way power-adjustable and are heated.
The mid-level Premium Plus trim is largely similar but adds features like 21-inch wheels, a surround-view camera, a 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, wireless charging, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, auto-dimming wing mirrors, four-zone climate control, upgraded ambient lighting, perforated leather upholstery, 16-way heated and ventilated front seats, and access to more options including adaptive air suspension, all-wheel steering, and adaptive cruise control.
The top-spec Prestige trim gains lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control with traffic sign recognition, a head-up display, front cross-traffic alert, animated LED taillights, and HD Matrix LED headlights, also with animation. Soft-close doors, extended leather upholstery on the dashboard with Valcona leather on the seats, an Alcantara headliner, 18-way power-adjustable front seats with massage functions, and dual-pane glass. A 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen upgraded sound system is also available on this model, along with a night vision camera and a full leather package.
If you're happy with the Q8's standard features, you may wish to instead turn your attention to its looks, and enhance its appearance with the addition of the Black optic package. For $1,500, this package adds 21-inch wheels and gloss black roof rails, window surrounds, and front and rear bumper trim. The front fascia also gets a gloss black "grille mask" added. A Cold Weather package that adds a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats costs $600, while a Convenience package that adds a signal booster and wireless charging along with auto-dimming wing mirrors, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a vehicle exit warning costs $850. The Premium Plus trim gains access to adaptive air suspension and all-wheel steering as part of the Adaptive Chassis package, and these additions cost $2,750. The Driver Assistance package is also one worth considering on this trim. For $1,750, it adds adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, lane-keep assist, and traffic sign recognition.
Anybody who is opting for a fully loaded Q8 should at least consider ordering up and waiting for the SQ8 instead. With a starting MSRP of just under $90,000, the inbound SQ8 comes in with a superior performance:dollar ratio, and that's something that customers will immediately feel, rather than having to snoop around the cabin for various upgrades. With that said, a fully optioned Audi Q8 is a wonderful place to be, and if power isn't as important to you, loading one up is the next best thing. The Prestige takes the cake in this regard, but with careful selection, you can get a wonderfully specced Premium Plus with all the right features for a little less.
Who would've thought that the day would come when the mighty Q7 would not be the range-topping Audi SUV? Now that the day has arrived, we are presented with a vehicle that is very different. Whereas the Q7 seats seven and comes with two engine choices, the Q8 only has room for five individuals and has a single engine option. The Q7 has a considerably lower asking price, with the base model starting at under $55,000, but that gets you a 2.0-liter turbo with 248 hp and 273 lb-ft. Equipped with the same engine as the Q8, however, pricing is still more attractive, with the Q7 starting at just over $60,000. In addition, the Q7 has 69.6 cubic feet of maximum volume while the Q8 is 10 cubes less capacious. However, despite the Q7's ability to seat more people, long-legged individuals will be better accommodated in the second row of the Q8 than in that of the Q7, although the latter offers more headroom. The Q7 has also been heavily updated for 2020 and offers similar tech to the Q8. In the end, the Q7 allows for more stuff to be carried, as well as a greater number of passengers, but the Q8 is the more stylish and slightly more advanced model that will please the fashion- and performance-conscious.
Looking for a premium luxury SUV with horrendous fuel economy, seating for five, and all-wheel-drive? The Lamborghini Urus uses a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 to produce 641 hp and 626 lb-ft of torque. It too has a hugely futuristic interior, a highly-attractive body, and ultra-high quality materials. However, the Urus, in Lamborghini's typically flamboyant way of doing things, is more of a raised supercar than a family-friendly people carrier. Cargo space is considerably less in the Lambo, with 56.4 cubic feet of total volume. Headroom in the rear is also severely compromised by the sporty, sloping roofline. Despite the huge price tag that starts at over $207,000 the Urus is short on many of the Q8's standard features, including ambient lighting, a power tailgate, a panoramic sunroof, and even roof rails. On the plus side, at least you get four-zone climate control and a badge worth its weight in gold. If it were our money, though, we'd either stick with the Q8 or hold out for the $141,000 RS Q8 coming in 2021.
Check out some informative Audi Q8 video reviews below.