by Adam Lynton
In a world where coupe-styled SUVs have become the norm, Audi needed to go big on its range-topping Q8. Designed from scratch, as opposed to taking a normal crossover and giving it a raking rear roofline, it's stylish and chunky with frameless doors, sitting on massive wheels housed in puffed-up wheel arches. As you'd expect from the German carmaker, the interior is to die for, laden with tech and plenty of space for five passengers. I spent two weeks and 1,250 miles with the Q8 driving from London to the west coast of Ireland and back again, with two kids and plenty of luggage. Throughout that time, the Q8 was a joy to live with. More expensive, less practical than the Q7 it might be, but the Q8 is a complex animal that ticks every box in the book.
The Audi Q8 is a brand new model and takes its place in the Audi lineup one spot above the Q7. The flagship Audi SUV is assembled at the Volkswagen Bratislava Plant in Slovakia and is the first Audi SUV to be designed by Marc Lichte, Audi's new head of design. Built on the Volkswagen MLBevo platform it shares underpinnings with the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, and the Porsche Cayenne.
New head of design Marc Lichte penned the Q8, introducing a new design language for the Q range of Audis. Notable changes that the Q8 brings to the table include a large, octagonal grille and full-LED headlamps and taillamps, which is a first for any SUV. The chunky D-pillar gives a subtle nod to the Audi Quattro rally cars of the 1980s that brought the now infamous quattro all-wheel-drive system into the public eye, and onto the podiums of numerous rally championships; a refreshing change from the constant push for cutting edge designs. The new design takes a step away from the rounded and homely Q7 and brings forth a much more distinctive and futuristic look and feel that will be the face of all new Audi SUVs for some time to come, which isn't a bad thing at all. Housed in chunky wheel arches are 20-inch alloy wheels as standard on Premium models, while the Premium Plus and Prestige get 21-inch alloy wheels with the option to upgrade to even larger ones.
The newcomer sits lower and wider than the Q7 on which it's based, measuring 67.2 inches in height, over an inch lower than the Q7, and 78.5 inches wide, one inch wider than the Q7. The 2019 Q8 and Q7 share the same front and rear track width and both ride on a 117.9-inch wheelbase. The Q8 and Porsche Cayenne are very similar in size, sharing the MLBevo platform, but the Audi makes use of a longer wheelbase and is slightly taller and broader. Calling the Q8 a heavyweight would be an understatement, as it tips the scales at 5,004 lbs - 50 lbs heavier than the Q7 and nearly 200 lbs heavier than the Lamborghini Urus.
A striking new design deserves a palette of striking colors, and Audi has provided owners with 11 different tones that complement the Q8's ultra-sleek styling and intimidating size. For those who prefer more traditional colors, Audi has included classics such as Carrara White, Night Black, Florett Silver Metallic, Glacier White Metallic, and Orca Black Metallic. But, for those who are more adventurous, the Q8 can be had in Cobra Beige Metallic, Galaxy Blue Metallic, Samurai Gray Metallic, Navarra Blue Metallic, Daytona Gray Pearl, or the in-your-face Dragon Orange Metallic equipped to our test unit. Dragon Orange is perhaps a little garish for most tastes, and we're of the opinion that darker colors suit the sleek profile of the new Q8, so Navarra Blue or Samurai Gray should do the trick. However, the orange Q8 was met with approval while driving across southern Ireland and certainly helps it stand out in a parking lot.
Luxury meets aggression as the Q8 takes on a sportier aesthetic than the softer Q7. For something prioritizing style, though, it delivers on performance too. Despite a considerable curb weight of just over 5,000 pounds, the force-fed six-cylinder engine found beneath the hood manages to get things going at an impressive rate that won't leave the average driver wanting. 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque see off the zero to sixty sprint in just 5.6 seconds, which is brisk in any motor vehicle, but more than half a second quicker than key rivals like the Range Rover Sport SE, despite the Range boasting more power. As is the norm in this segment, all-wheel-drive is standard, with the Q8 boasting a genuine quattro setup unlike the Haldex-based system on lesser Audi models.
It's not all play and no work, however, as the Q8 can tow up to 7,700 lbs - 1,700 lbs more than the BMW X6 xDrive35i and just 17 lbs fewer than the Range Rover Sport SE. Internet warriors will be quick to point out that both the Range Rover and X6 have more potent versions available, but let's not forget Audi has both S and RS badged variants of the Q8 on their way to fight the bigger battles.
Powering the new Audi Q8 is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque, augmented by a small 48-volt hybrid system incorporated into the main powertrain to assist with start/stop functions, reduce turbo lag and enables the engine to coast when off the throttle. Power is channeled through an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi's trademark quattro all-wheel-drive system. This combination enables the 2019 Q8 to accelerate faster than the supercharged Q7, and will also outgun the BMW X6 xDrive35i.
The Q8 we tested, however, was the 50 TDi (available outside the US) meaning motivation came from a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 diesel rated at 286 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the tarmac via the same eight-speed auto and AWD system, and the 48-volt battery. The diesel-powered Q8 hustles to 62 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is fast enough for such a large vehicle. Even with a car carrying four and a loaded trunk, the Q8 felt rapid off the line but it was obvious that the brilliant chassis can easily handle way more power. The upcoming Audi RS Q8 will be proof of that.
Complaints of the Q8's transmission being hesitant and clunky around town were in my mind when driving the car, and while there is a brief hesitation in Comfort mode when getting on the gas, if you leave the Q8 in Dynamic, the transmission reacted with snappy obedience. Don't expect much in the way of aural communication as even when the V6 does make itself heard, somewhere around the 3,500 rpm mark, it's more of a distant rumble than a raucous bellow thanks in part to the work done to insulate the cabin.
To hear that the Q8 is a competent, comfortable, and effortless highway cruiser won't be a surprise, but where the big SUV shines is on twisty, uneven terrain. With the sports steering wheel in hand, if it wasn't for the high riding position, you'd think you were in a car half its size when tackling switchback roads. With a car that measures almost five meters long and two meters wide, it feels odd calling the Q8 agile. But it darts around the corners and changes direction with such swiftness, the narrow country lanes of south Wales and Kerry in south-west Ireland never felt daunting. Aiding that agility is the optional four-wheel steering, which came in very handy when making a three-point-turn out of a Soho side street the SatNav had failed to detect was a dead-end.
With a range of dynamic modes, the Q8 adapts to different tasks with aplomb. The soft 'Comfort' mode gave me a chance to relax when driving on motorways, while in 'Dynamic' the car drops by 40 mm (1.6 inches) and becomes more responsive, and an off-road mode raised the suspension by 50 mm (2 inches), which proved useful down some dirt roads. Even with the 22-inch wheels that come with the top-of-the-line Vorsprung trim (the top trim on Audi's premium models in the UK), the SUV remained consistently composed.
Steering isn't overly communicative, but the Q8 goes exactly where you put it, providing further confidence when threading down a lane wide enough for two European-sized hatchbacks built in the 1950s. In fact, inspiring confidence is arguably the Q8's best trait. An imposing car from the outside, but a sweetheart from behind the wheel.
The fact that the turbocharged V6 in the Audi Q8 is expected to haul along 5,004 pounds of German SUV doesn't do the gas mileage figures any good; Audi gives an EPA mileage estimate of 17/22/19 mpg city/highway/combined. The Q7 with its 3.0-liter supercharged V6 and quattro AWD does slightly better with an estimated 19/25/21 mpg while the 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 Porsche Cayenne will achieve 19/23/21 mpg. Fitted With a 22.5-gallon fuel tank, the Q8 will travel an estimated 428 miles in mixed conditions before it runs out of gas.
If only Audi sold the diesel-powered Q8 in the US. After driving 1,250 miles, a fair chunk of which was on the highway, it returned 31.2 mpg, with a full tank managing in the region of 600 miles.
Audi designs and builds some of the best-looking interiors in the automotive world and has been a benchmark of quality and innovation for over a decade, so it comes as no surprise that the Q8's interior is a study in cutting edge modernist minimalism, with superb attention to detail. Standard features include a panoramic sunroof, three-zone automatic climate control, and leather upholstery, but it's all about the tech inside Audi's flagship SUV. Screens abound within the Q8, with the latest version of Audi's 12.3-inch virtual cockpit instrumentation sitting ahead of the driver, while the center stack features a dual-screen layout - the upper playing host to Audi's latest MMI touch response system housed in a 10.1-inch display, while climate control systems and other frequently used functions are more easily accessed via the lower 8.6-inch touchscreen.
SUV coupes are derided for sacrificing practicality in the pursuit of style, but that accusation cannot be leveled at the Q8. Not only is it one of the best-looking SUVs on the market, but the Q8 also offers plenty of space. Tall rear passengers won't feel cramped with excellent head- and legroom, more so than they would get in a Q7. Trunk space isn't as capacious as its seven-seat stablemate, but we managed to get four large suitcases loaded without having to lower the rear seats. A family of five will find the Q8 to be more than enough car and with split rear seats, there's useable space when faced with practical needs.
The seats themselves are also superb, offering a sporty driving position as well as support and comfort and, depending on your view of quilted grey leather, a degree of style. Top-of-the-line models also get massaging functions, which you should never judge until you've tried them.
Room for phones, accessories, and drinks and snacks (important on a two-week road trip) was sufficient. There isn't a ton of personal storage space, but you won't complain either.
The Rotor Grey Valcona leather with Anthracite stitching (the US equivalent would be Pando Gray with Rock Gray cross-stitching) complements the brushed metal and gloss-black that feature throughout the cabin. Buyers can alternatively opt for Black, Okapi Brown or Saiga beige. All the materials feel and look high quality and the finish is top-notch.
The five-seat Q8 impresses with its generous amount of trunk and cargo space. 30.5 cubic feet of space behind the second row of seats greets you as the power tailgate is lifted. With the second row of seats in the upright position, there's enough space to fit a large German Shepherd, and with them folded down, there's 60.7 cubic feet of space, enough for moving the contents of a small apartment across town. In terms of the total trunk and cargo space the Q8 slots in between the Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. The Q7 offers over five cubic feet more space with the rear seats folded up, and nearly ten cubic feet in total. The Porsche lags behind with a total cargo capacity of 60.3 cubic feet.
Personal storage is surprisingly limited, and despite Audi offering large door pockets, the rest of the traditional storage spaces such as the center armrest console only provide enough space for a cellphone, wallet and other small personal items.
As the latest addition to the Audi stable, the German automaker has made sure that the features list looks as impressive as the rest of the car. Standard exterior features across the range include fully-automatic LED lighting, auto-dimming, power-folding, and heated side mirrors and a power tailgate. On the inside, a full panoramic sunroof creates a sense of roominess, while a standard three-zone climate control system is upgraded to four-zone from the Premium Plus. Heated 12-way power front seats with memory function can be upgraded to 18-way adjustable seats with added ventilation and massage functionality. Moving up to the mid-level trim, the Q8 gains headlight washers, and a top-view camera system with a virtual 360-degree view, while features such as a head-up display system, traffic sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control are reserved for the range-topping model. Optional features include adaptive air suspension and even all-wheel steering. Audi's Virtual Cockpit is standard across the range, as are front and rear park sensors, and the full suite of Audi Pre Sense driver assists, although rear cross-traffic alert and vehicle exit warning are reserved for the options list.
Audi's dual-screen infotainment system dominates the dashboard with a 10.2-inch screen that sits above an 8.6-inch unit ahead of the gear selector. Everything, from the sat nav to vehicle settings, is controlled via the upper screen, while the lower screen can be customized to display the features used most frequently such as radio and climate control. The touchscreens boast haptic feedback, offering a satisfying level of resistance and a subtle audible signal to a firm-fingered input that you quickly get used to. Intuitively laid out with quality graphics, while it may appear daunting at first, it's a dream to live with and far less distracting than you might imagine.
Audi's Virtual Cockpit has made analog dials redundant with twin screens displaying everything you could possibly want to see and more, from sat-nav directions shown on detailed color maps to music playlists. It dovetails with the infotainment system beautifully.
Despite being new to the market for 2019, the Audi Q8 has already suffered one recall. The recall was issued on February 20 2019 and affected certain Q8 models, which could be equipped with shock absorber forks that may crack, adversely affecting handling. Only 34 Q8s were potentially affected. The new SUV comes with a four-year/50,000 mile warranty which includes a drivetrain warranty for the same time period and distance, a 12-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty and four year's worth of roadside assistance. Audi will maintain a new Q8 for one year or 10,000 miles with complimentary services during that period.
With a reputation for building seriously safe cars, Audi was under serious pressure to deliver a vehicle that would keep its occupants alive and well, no matter which poorly executed apocalyptic movie they decided to place it in. The NHTSA gave the new Q8 a laudable score of five out of five while the IIHS handed it a prestigious Top Safety Pick award despite achieving a poor rating in the headlight category. Audi's pre-sense active safety system contributed significantly to the Q8's overall level of safety.
Standard safety features across the Q8 range are impressive: there are six airbags in total, electronic stability control, ABS, tire pressure monitoring and a rearview camera, but the highlight of the safety features list has to be the extensive range of active safety technology. Driver assistance tech such as active frontal collision avoidance, rear cross-traffic alert, and vehicle exit warning turns the Q8 into the perfect family SUV, guaranteed to keep the whole household in showroom condition. The list continues with adaptive cruise control, parking assistance, and auto headlights and window wipers. Higher trim cars are equipped with traffic sign technology and a head-up display system, as well as a surround-view camera with a virtual 360-degree display.
SUVs have become so dominant that even in the niche luxury coupe-style SUV market there are a few options to consider, most notably the BMW X6 and Porsche Cayenne Coupe. None, however, are as well styled or easy on the eye as the Q8. On top of that, it has plenty of space for both rear passengers and cargo, a class-leading interior, and offers a breadth of performance. You couldn't ask for a better companion on a long journey while it has the agility and composure of a sports car for when you want to have fun. With the recent reveal of the RS Q8 we can't wait to see what the chassis can do with 600 horsepower to play with. That Audi Sport-fettled super SUV will be for those that demand their SUV to be a proper driver's car. For everyone else, the Audi Q8 is one of the best luxury SUVs you can buy.
Clearly priced at the top of Audi's SUV range, the base model Q8 Premium starts with an MSRP of $67,400, which places it next to the $65,700 Porsche Cayenne, but costs over $6,000 more than the 2019 BMW X5. The mid-range Premium Plus Q8 goes for $71,400, and the range-topping Prestige will cost you $76,550. Audi has priced its new flagship SUV to compete with the traditional leaders in the premium luxury SUV category. A brand new design and generous features list should place it at the top of its class in terms of value. Our test vehicle was priced at just over £85,000, the equivalent of around $110,000, but budget for around $70,000 - $75,000 to get all the features you really need.
There are a total of three trim levels available for the 2019 Q8: Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige.
The base-level Premium is equipped with standard 20-inch alloy wheels, full-LED matrix headlights, and a panoramic sunroof, while inside you'll find full leather upholstery, four-zone climate control, 12-way heated front seats, Audi's 12.3-inch virtual cockpit instrumentation, navigation, and the latest generation 10.1-inch MMI infotainment system with ten speakers.
The Premium Plus Q8 adds a premium Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system with 17 speakers, added driver assistance tech such as rear cross-traffic assist and vehicle exit warning, a top-view camera, high-beam assistant, and Audi phone box signal booster and wireless charging pad. Interior convenience is improved with four-zone climate control, perforated leather for the ventilated 12-way power front seats, and interior ambient lighting. The mid-spec model also benefits from hands-free trunk release, 21-inch alloy wheels, and auto-dimming exterior mirrors.
The Prestige gets the best; adaptive cruise control, active lane assistance and traffic sign recognition turn it into a fortress on wheels, as do the cutting edge HD matrix-design LED headlights and animated taillights. Adding further luxury are power soft-closing doors, a leather dashboard, rear side window shades, and the option of a night vision camera.
Starting with the base model, the $850 convenience package incorporates Audi's side assist and pre-sense rear technology into the existing safety offering. The package also includes power-folding, auto-dimming and heated exterior side mirrors with memory as well as a wireless phone charging pad. The Premium Plus can be pimped out with the $2,250 Year One appearance package which sees the Q8 roll on a set of 22-inch wheels wrapped in 285/40 all-season tires and includes blacked-out roof rails, illuminated door sills, red brake calipers, and S-line front and rear bumpers for a more aggressive look.
The Driver Assistance package on the Premium Plus costs $2,750 and consists of adaptive cruise control, active lane departure warning, intersection assist, and traffic sign recognition. Adaptive air suspension and four-wheel steering can be added for $2,750. For $5,950 the Prestige can be turned into a five-star hotel on wheels via the luxury package: Alcantara headliner, dual-plane glass, individual contour seats and Valcona leather sound like the spec sheet on Post Malone's private jet.
Having driven the top-spec Q8 Vorsprung in the UK, packing very similar features as the Prestige line in the US, we'd suggest the Premium Plus would be more than sufficient for most people's needs. At just $4,000 more than Premium, it also represents excellent value for money, with additional goodies including the B&O sound system, the top-view camera - extremely useful when maneuvering the large unit in tight spaces - bigger wheels, four-zone climate control, and perforated front seats. Buyers looking to maximize the Q8's practical side will want the Towing package for $750. However, once you start considering the adaptive air suspension for almost $3,000, it might be worth biting the bullet and going for the fully-loaded Prestige trim.
The Q7 has officially been dethroned by the Q8 as the king of the Audi Q lineup, but what are the major differences between the two Teutonic SUVs? The most obvious is the fact that the Q7 is a seven-seater, whereas the Q8 only makes space for five. The Q7 is available with two engine choices; a 2.0-liter four-pot turbo and 3.0-liter supercharged V6. The larger power plant can achieve 19/25/21 mpg city/highway/combined, and produces the same 335 hp as the turbocharged V6 in the Q8, but offers over 30 lb-ft less. Size-wise the Q7 shares a lot its exterior dimensions with the Q8, and both roll on a 117.9-inch wheelbase. The Q7 offers less legroom overall, but more headroom space. The Q7 can also carry more stuff, but can't match the Q8 for tech. Larger families will love the Q7 for its spacious interior and cargo capacity, but the Q8 is a technological tour-de-force that deserves its place as the best Audi SUV around.
The BMW X7 and Audi Q8 have more in common than you'd expect: both are powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Both produce 335 hp, but the Audi comes out on top with 369 lb-ft of torque versus the BMW's 330 lb-ft, although the BMW is more fuel-efficient, achieving 20/25/22 mpg city/highway/combined. The BMW is a bigger car, and outclasses the Q8 in most measurements, even seating seven occupants. Both cars are stacked with technology, but the Audi gets cutting edge features such as matrix LED headlights and head-up display technology. The brand new Q8 does almost everything the BMW X7 does, but the X7 feels more tied down dynamically, is more efficient, and is more spacious. Even though it's $6,000 more expensive, the X7 presents better value for money, making it our pick.