by Karl Furlong
The 2020 Audi RS Q8 breaks new ground for the German marque, not only with its coupe-SUV styling but also after setting a new Nurburgring lap record for performance SUVs, taking the crown from the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S. Responsible for the RS Q8's breathtaking turn of speed is a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 delivering a brutal 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque - it shares this engine with the RS7 Sportback. It's all enough to see the RS Q8 complete the 0-62 mph run in 3.8 seconds, along with that Nurburgring time of seven minutes and 42.2 seconds.
Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive and an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission are fitted, while active torque vectoring, RS-specific damper tuning, and all-wheel steering make for an agile and supremely capable performer.
An RS-specific radiator grille is just one of many exterior tweaks to set this apart as Audi's SUV king. Combined with huge wheels and some eye-popping color options, the RS Q8 is not for shrinking violets. The interior is also striking, with Audi's touchscreens dominating the layout and the usual top-quality materials.
See trim levels and configurations:
|4.0 TFSI quattro||
4.0L Twin-Turbo V8 Gas
The Audi Q8 has a confident yet simple look about it, but the RS Q8 ups the aggression, especially in front. The face is dominated by an RS-specific grille with a thick black surround - it's as if the V8 monster under the hood simply can't be contained and is trying to break free. An RS roof-edge spoiler is fitted at the back, which is probably the RS Q8's most attractive angle: a strip of LED lighting runs across the width of the tailgate and the taillamps are sleek and intricately detailed. Giant 22-inch alloy wheels and equally imposing twin exhaust outlets complete the look.
It seems like just a matter of time before traditional buttons will be banished from car interiors entirely - at least, that's where we appear to be heading if you take a look at the RS Q8's futuristic cabin. It's all flat surfaces covered in either glossy black or expansive touchscreens. Being an RS model, it gets Nappa leather and Alcantara trim, while ambient lighting is tastefully integrated.
It's certainly high-tech and flawlessly constructed, but takes some acclimatization. As expected, Audi's virtual cockpit and the MMI touch response system are fitted, with information like g-forces, torque, and lap times displayed during high-speed driving.
At the back, there's a sliding three-seat rear bench which, when folded, frees up over 60 cubic feet of space. As you'd imagine, climate control and power seats are just some of the many standard amenities.
This is an unbelievably quick SUV. The 4.0-liter V8 pumps out 591 hp and 590 lb-ft to help the Audi achieve a 3.8-second run to get from zero to 62 mph. Top track speed is just under 190 mph when specified with optional RS ceramic brakes.
Grippy all-wheel-drive no doubt helps with effortlessly repeatable acceleration runs. Using the RS-Mode button on the steering wheel, drivers can access two configurable driving modes (RS1 and RS2) for a truly customized driving experience. Audi claims that short overhangs and variable ground clearance allow the RS Q8 to "confidently" handle off-road forays, but this hyped-up SUV's strength is in extreme on-road power and poise.
There's no shortage of advanced gadgetry in the Q8's cabin. The MMI touch response system is now more integrated into the dashboard than ever, featuring dual screens - the lower screen houses controls for the climate control system, while the larger upper screen takes care of navigation and other vehicle settings. The graphics are beautiful and haptic feedback improves intuitiveness. Audi's virtual cockpit, meanwhile, remains one of the best of its kind.
A 48-volt mild-hybrid system makes use of a lithium-ion battery, improving efficiency under deceleration and when maximum power isn't required.
Audi has yet to confirm pricing for the RS Q8, but we anticipate it will come in at around $120,000. That would place it close to the 567-horsepower BMW X6 M Competition and the 577-hp Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. All are a new breed of viciously powerful SUVs with the coupe-like style that appeals to the fashion-conscious crowd.
The new RS Q8 will hit European showrooms in the first quarter of 2020 and, not long after that, it should land Stateside. Expect an epic battle with its German foes when it does get here.
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