by Sebastian Cenizo
Super SUVs are all the rage, with buyers proving that this is more than just a passing fad. Who can blame them? They offer incredible space, comfort, and performance in one complete package. While Mercedes may have been one of the first to create this kind of vehicle with the GLE63 S, Audi's first performance SUV in America is not without heritage. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 under the hood is shared with the likes of the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga. Here, it produces an impressive 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, all controlled via an eight-speed automatic transmission feeding all four wheels. Of course, the RS Q8's dramatic coupe-like style is another big part of its appeal. But is it as good as the Urus or the BMW X6 M?
The Audi RS Q8 was only introduced to us last year and is still fresh enough to get away with another year on the market without any major changes, but the bright green paint available last year is missing from the palette.
4.0-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
HD Matrix-design LED headlights are standard and look incredible. They feature on either side of a huge Singleframe grille with intricate, RS-specific honeycomb details and large air intake grilles towards the bottom of the front bumper. A panoramic sunroof is also standard while the profile shows off 22-inch wheels, with 23s available too. At the back, a full-width LED arrangement features animated taillights and dynamic turn signals. Below each taillight is a faux vent, while a huge faux diffuser houses a pair of signature oval tailpipes. Finally, a roof-mounted rear spoiler finishes off the look.
The RS Q8 is not a small vehicle by any means. It measures 197.3 inches in length with a wheelbase of 117.9 inches. Height measures 66.7 inches while width, excluding the mirrors, is a mammoth 78.7 inches. Although the RS Q8 offers off-road driving modes, no figures regarding ground clearance have been published, and there is no information on approach, break-over, or departure angles either. That tells you a lot about where Audi envisions its hot SUV will spend most of its time. Still, Audi does claim that the ground clearance can be varied by up to 3.5 inches.
As standard, the RS Q8 is only available in Night Black. If you're willing to spend extra, you can have a choice of eight other finishes, each of which will add $595 to your final bill. These are mostly metallic options, with Dragon Orange, Florett Silver, Galaxy Blue, Glacier White, Matador Red, Navarra Blue, and Orca Black. Also available is a pearl finish called Daytona Gray. Gloss black or carbon fiber accents are available too, and you can have the standard brake calipers painted in black at no cost, or red for 500 bucks. Opt for the ceramic brakes and you can have the calipers painted red, blue, or grey. However, the brakes themselves cost $8,500, and choosing red or blue will add another $500 to that too.
The RS Q8 is a monster of performance, with its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque. This is supplemented by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that includes regenerative braking and can store 12 watts in the trunk's battery pack. All the power is managed by an eight-speed automatic transmission that sends 40 percent of its power to the front wheels and all of the rest to the rear axle. However, depending on the situation, the front can receive up to 70 percent of the grunt while the rear can take as much as 85 percent. According to Audi, any more power on the rear axle would compromise the integrity of the drivetrain. Still, it's enough for the RS Q8 to launch itself from 0-60 mph in a claimed 3.7 seconds, although the real figure is likely lower. Top speed is pegged at 155 mph unless you get the ceramic brake upgrade, in which case the limit only arrives at 190 mph - the same as the Urus. Despite less power than the Urus, the RS Q8 is the fastest production SUV the Nurburgring has ever seen, clocking a time of 7:42.253. This is astonishing, but the racing driver behind that time says that even though the RS Q8 is nearly as quick as a Ferrari 458, he could have gone even quicker. And this is in an SUV that can tow up to 7,700 pounds. Impressive doesn't even begin to cover it.
Just one engine and drivetrain configuration is available for the RS Q8, and one is all you need. The Audi RS Q8 is a monster, whether you're accelerating from a dig or overtaking someone on the freeway. It just pulls and pulls and pulls, making it feel like you're in something much more sporty than an SUV. The throttle response is phenomenal, and although it's not as lag-free as a Ferrari turbo V8, it sure as hell doesn't feel much worse. Bury your right foot and it'll be a matter of seconds before you're on the wrong side of the law. That's what a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque can do.
The transmission is just as impressive. It's an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, and it's both smooth and sharp, changing up with barely a break in acceleration and dropping a ratio just as easily when necessary. Take control with the manual paddles behind the steering wheel and you'll find that you're in full command, with the 'box responding to your every request without complaint. Thanks to custom drive modes (RS1 and RS2), you can set how aggressive you want the throttle and transmission mapping to be, which is the kind of thing you'd usually expect from a full-on performance car. Guess what? That's exactly what the RS Q8 is.
As standard, the RS Q8 features adaptive air suspension, and much like the throttle and transmission settings, you can adjust how the suspension reacts too. In cornering, everything tightens up to create a flat and level cornering experience that is otherworldly for such a behemoth. The rear differential works well to apportion power where it'll be utilized best, but the standard all-wheel-steering system has a hand to play too, improving your turning circle at low speeds and heightening stability at higher speeds. The RS Q8 is simply a testament to how far technology has come, proving that diminutive size and a low center of gravity are not the be-all and end-all of handling. Despite this, the RS Q8 is rather compliant, soaking up bumps and imperfections with ease. In racier modes, it'll naturally stiffen up, but not to the point that the drive is uncomfortable. When it's time to stop, the standard brakes do a great job of slowing the bulky SUV and are easy to modulate, while the optional carbon-ceramic setup is similarly amazing.
No official claims have yet been made regarding the 2021 Audi RS Q8's fuel economy, but we wouldn't expect this to be much of a rival to the Toyota Prius. That said, the 2020 version manages 13/19/15 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 22.5-gallon gas tank, it would thus return an average of around 337 miles with mixed driving. Certain real-world testing scenarios have shown better-than-expected economy figures.
Audi is not known for building cars with ugly interiors, and the RS Q8 is yet another example of a car with a modern, attractive, ergonomic cabin. However, those who like physical buttons and knobs will be displeased by the scarcity of these. The quad-zone climate control system is handled by an 8.6-inch touchscreen display, while a 10.1-inch touchscreen handles infotainment and yet another 12.3-inch display is used for driver info. As standard, the front seats are power-operated and feature both heating and ventilation, but massaging is also available for a premium. Overall, the cabin is built to the highest standard, looks incredible, and features the latest tech - just what you'd expect from an SUV that starts at well over $100,000.
The RS Q8 seats five at a push, but the middle occupant of the rear bench had better be of a smaller build than average if they want to be comfortable. There's enough space for adults in the outboard seats, but headroom and legroom are not exemplary. That's typical for a coupe-shaped SUV, so don't expect much better from rivals. In front, there's plenty of room for adjustment, and the view out is great in most directions, besides over the rear quarters. Still, at least getting in and out is simple for all occupants, and the seats are both comfortable and supportive, especially when you're attacking corners at speed.
The RS Q8 features quilted Valcona leather as standard, with Black featuring contrast stitching in Express Red or Rock Gray. You can also opt for black stitching, or you can have Cognac Brown leather with Granite Gray stitching. The trim panels are finished in carbon fiber, but if you want Gray Oak wood, that can be fitted as well. Fortunately, none of these options cost anything extra, but we'd recommend red contrast stitching to match the red ambient lighting.
There's no point in justifying your practical supercar to your significant other if you can't back it up with good cargo space. Fortunately, the RS Q8 offers 30.5 cubic feet of volume with the rear seats up - enough space to pack luggage for the whole family on a weekend getaway. If you need more space, the 40/20/40-split-folding rear seats can be lowered to maximize volume to an impressive 60.7 cubic feet. By comparison, BMW's X6 M only manages 27.4 and 59.6 cubic feet respectively.
In the cabin, each door features large pockets and the front row offers center armrest storage, a reasonable glovebox, and a pair of cupholders. There's also a spot for your phone in the center console. Meanwhile, rear occupants also get center armrest storage and cupholders.
As we've come to expect from Audi, the RS Q8 is not short on tech. In standard guise, the SUV features HD Matrix-design LED headlights, adaptive air suspension, all-wheel-steering, hill descent control, a 12.3-inch driver info display, a heated steering wheel, and heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats. It also gets a surround-view camera, a panoramic sunroof, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, ambient lighting, cruise control, front/rear parking sensors, and an 8.6-inch touchscreen display for managing the quad-zone automatic climate control system. Options include heated rear seats, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, a head-up display, power soft-close doors, massaging front seats, power rear sun blinds, lane keep assist, a night vision camera, and traffic sign recognition.
The standard infotainment system in the RS Q8 is rather impressive, boasting a large 10.1-inch touchscreen display that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. If you want even more punch from your audio setup, an immersive 23-speaker 3D surround sound system, also from B&O, is available. MMI Navigation plus is standard as well, and the system has natural voice control processing. Whichever configuration you opt for, the system works well, is easy to navigate, and is visually pleasing - yet another feather in this car's overflowing cap.
Thus far, neither the 2020 nor the 2021 variants of the RS Q8 have been subject to any recalls. Its sibling, the Lamborghini Urus, has also been free of recalls, but it's worth noting that many major components are fundamentally different on that car, including the suspension and drivetrain.
Should anything go wrong with your RS Q8, a limited and powertrain warranty covers the car for the first four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first, along with four years of 24-hour roadside assistance. Complimentary scheduled maintenance is also included for the first year or 10,000 miles.
Thus far, the NHTSA has not yet fully reviewed the RS Q8, but the 2020 model did receive four stars out of five in its rollover test. The regular Q8, however, managed a full five stars in the overall rating. Over at the IIHS, the RS Q8 has not been rated at all, although this is not uncommon for cars at this price level. However, the 2020 Q8 scored well and earned a Top Safety Pick award.
As standard, the 2021 RS Q8 comes with a number of impressive features, including blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera, lane departure warning, HD Matrix-design LED headlights, hill descent control, and frontal, side-impact, overhead rollover, and curtain airbags. You also get frontal collision preparation. If you're willing to spend a little more, you can also equip the RS Q8 with adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist and traffic sign recognition, lane keep assist, a head-up display, and a night vision camera.
The RS Q8 is not the same car as the Lamborghini Urus. Despite their numerous similarities, Audi's ultimate SUV is different in many ways. However, the biggest difference is that it doesn't have the emblem of an Italian supercar company on the hood. Should this concern you? Well, it's a lot cheaper than the Lambo, isn't too far down on power, and has the title of being the fastest SUV around the Nurburgring ever. But as a standalone vehicle that isn't compared to any other, it's just as impressive. It looks fantastic, goes like stink, and has a gorgeous cabin that elevates the luxury and style of the regular Q8 to an even higher plateau. It's got plenty of cargo space, has a clever suspension setup, handles wonderfully, and comes with a ton of features. It is also just really cool. While Lambos have a reputation for being slightly obnoxious, the Audi brand doesn't bear the same stigma, and this is the kind of SUV that won't draw too much attention where you don't want it to while still appearing right at home on the red carpet. Plus, it can do off-road stuff. If it weren't for the RS6, which is cooler simply because it's a wagon, this would be the ultimate one-car garage filler.
Pricing in the U.S. was initially announced at $113,000 but the online configurator shows that the RS Q8 now has a base price of $114,500 before a $995 destination charge. Fully loaded with every available option, you can expect to pay around $150,000, which is still $50k less than a Lamborghini Urus.
The 2021 RS Q8 is only available in a single configuration, which features a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that is supplemented with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. Total output is rated at 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, all of which is directed through an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that feeds all four wheels. This allows it to launch from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 155 mph. Spec carbon-ceramic brakes, and that limiter moves to 190 mph. But it's not all about the speed. The RS Q8 also boasts clever HD Matrix-design LED headlights, adaptive air suspension, rear-axle steering, a surround-view camera, ambient lighting, and three expansive and stunning screens for driver info, the infotainment system, and the standard quad-zone climate control setup. Furthermore, a 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system is also standard, as is quilted Valcona leather. Other features include navigation, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, and a panoramic sunroof.
If you want to unlock the RS Q8's full potential, you'll need to shell out at least $8,500 for the upgraded carbon-ceramic brake system. If performance isn't your chief concern, the Black Optic package deletes chrome in favor of gloss black details. It also adds 23-inch Y-spoke wheels, but all of this costs $3,250. Other packages include the $2,000 Executive package, which adds dual-pane acoustic glass, a head-up display, heated rear seats, and power soft-closing doors. The Driver Assistance package is another bundle worthy of consideration, adding adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and traffic sign recognition for $1,750.
Since there's only one model, there isn't much you can do wrong here. However, we would certainly add the carbon-ceramic brakes to remove the standard speed limiter and we'd be very tempted by the Driver Assistance package for its useful features. We'd also think about adding the Luxury package. This costs $3,150, but adds an Alcantara headliner, massaging front seats, extended leather upholstery, and electric sun blinds for the rear windows; it's worth noting that the Luxury package needs to be specified in tandem with the Executive pack. Altogether, this would be a truly fast, safe, and luxurious configuration that would likely never grow tired.
Lamborghini's Urus is an epic machine. It's nothing short of a raised supercar with more space and luxury. It looks almost alien and, thanks to a 641-horsepower 4.0-liter V8, it's a seriously rapid machine. However, although it produces a lot more than the RS Q8's 591 hp, it laps the Nurburgring five seconds slower. Apparently, this is because the Lambo is better suited to flat racetracks while the RS Q8 performs better on tracks with climbing elevation changes, and although the Nordschleife is no Laguna Seca, it's not exactly level either. The Audi wins in the cargo stakes too, offering around eight cubes more volume in the back, and although the prestige of the Lambo badge is difficult to look past, the Urus costs a whopping $207,326. Considering that the Audi is almost $100k cheaper, we'd certainly opt for the RS Q8.
BMW's X6 M is marginally cheaper than the RS Q8, with a starting price of $108,600 compared to the Audi's $114,500. In addition, its considerably bigger 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 that does duty in most of BMW's M cars these days produces 600 horses and 553 lb-ft of twist. That said, you can have a Competition variant that ups power to 617 hp, allowing the Bimmer to match the Audi's 3.7-second 0-60 mph time. Things swing back in the RS Q8's favor when you look at top speed figures though, as the X6 M tops out at 177 mph with the M Driver's Package. Still, not many people will ever fully exploit either car's performance capabilities, so let's look at practicality. The X6 M only offers 27.4 cubic feet of volume, 3.1 cubes less than the Audi. With seats folded flat, the Bimmer almost closes the gap, but the Audi offers better rear headroom, a more tech-focused cabin, and Nurburgring bragging rights. We'd have the Audi.