Audi Q8 Reviewed
As a recently appointed executive, you’ve decided its time to upgrade from the run of the mill Audi A6 executive sedan. You want a large SUV, but something that looks and feels sporty. Or, as a parent, you’ve decided your family needs an SUV for the school run, but also to take the occasional trip down to the coast with. Your local shopping centre filled with bland, normal looking SUVs, you’ve decided you want something different. Something like the Audi Q8.
The Audi Q8 is Audi’s latest addition to their Q-branded SUV line-up. The Q8 is an SUV Coupe version of the Q7, on which it is based. It enters the segment created by the BMW X6 in 2009, and which is now occupied by the Mercedes GLE Coupe and the recently launched Porsche Cayenne Coupe. The Q8 is built on the Audi Group’s MLB-Evo platform, shared with the Q7, the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, VW Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne. It packs some pedigree. But how does it stack up? With a Q8 costing R200k more spec for spec compared to the Q7, is it worth the premium?
Looking at the Q8, you are greeting by a frankly massive octagonal grille, which dominates the front of the car. Alongside the top corner of the grille on either side, we find an interesting configuration for the headlamps. Most prominently are the Matrix LEDs with daytime running lamps, which can illuminate 600 metres of the road ahead, without blinding other drivers. Below that, we find the high beams, or “brights”, with a headlight washer integrated into that. Below the headlights we find mostly fake air intakes, however, they do have some small holes which allow air to flow to optimise aerodynamics and brake cooling. Moving down the side of the Q8, we notice that it is shorter than the Q7, and it has a more sloped roofline, although it isn’t as dramatic as those found on the likes of the X6, it still the Q8 a sporty look, with a similar profile the Lamborghini Urus. As standard, the Q8 comes with massive 20-inch alloy wheels (clearly off-roading with the Q8 should be done with caution.) which can be upgraded to 22-inch wheels at cost. The Q8 features a crease that extends from the front fender all the way to the rear quarter panel, giving the side a butch look. Chrome detailing is featured below the doors, and around the outline of the side windows, as long as on the roof rack.
Moving to the rear of the Q8, we find my largest and the most annoying pet-peeve in the entire automotive industry – fake exhaust tips. And I don’t mean 4 chrome tips in the diffuser that are actually just 2 exhaust outlets behind that (I’m looking at you, AMG). No, it’s much worse than that, On the diffuser, we find two chrome trimmed exhaust outlets that are closed off. They exist purely for design aesthetic. Why Audi? Surely it would’ve been easier to just have a sporty looking diffuser or have actual exhaust tips like those you find on the Q7, which actually look good. Anyway, rant aside, the rest of the rear looks beautiful. We find a light bar below the steeply raked rear window, that connects the taillights, which are full LED, and also feature Audi’s popular dynamic turning indicators. The rear tailgate is automatic as standard, too.
Moving to the driver’s door, before we even get into the interior, we find two features: the first is soft closing doors which automatically close the doors when you don’t fully close them. The second is a very rare feature on SUVs; pillarless doors. Stepping into the driver’s seat and closing the soft close door, we find Audi’s latest interior design which debuted in their luxury sedan, the A8. Every surface is covered in leather, metal or carbon fibre as an option. There are 3 screens in the front of the interior: One acts as the gauge cluster, with Audi’s virtual cockpit, and the other two controlling the infotainment as well as the climate control.
The steering wheel – which is heated – in front of you controls the virtual cockpit, allowing you to customise what is displayed, be it the speedometer and rev-counter, satellite navigation, what’s playing through the audio system, and vehicle information such as fuel economy, range, and the trip computer. Audi’s virtual cockpit really allows you to see what you want to and hide what you don’t. The steering wheel allows features controls for the media as well as a “joker” shortcut button which allow you to programme almost anything to be activated/displayed when you click it. On the steering column, we find an optional automatic steering column, as well as controls for the adaptive cruise control, as well as those for the lane keep-assist.
Moving onto the dashboard, we find that it is covered in its entirety in leather, which can be upgraded to Nappa leather. Across the facia, we find an extended climate control vent which goes all the way across the dash, a design element started in the Q7. Below the main air vents, and in the centre console, we find the remaining two infotainment screens. The first one is the main infotainment screen which controls almost all of the car’s controls. It replaces the previous generation of Audi’s “MMI” infotainment system which was controlled by an iDrive style wheel. This has been replaced with a full capacitive touch screen. Although this system works very well, it is difficult to use while on the move. Contained in the infotainment screen are functions which control the satellite navigation, as well as the full suite of safety systems on offer such as lane-keep assist. When you put the car into reverse, you find the screen turns into a reverse camera, which can be optioned to a Surround view camera, which allows you to see a complete 360 degrees view of the car, as well as a really cool 3D view, which allows you to see a 3d image of the car in its environment.
The lower screen has replaced the traditional buttons and switches for the climate control found in most cars and allows you to control the 4-zone climate control, as well as the drive select function, through which you can choose the driving mode of the Q8. You can also use this lower screen to adjust the ride height of the car’s standard air suspension. Heated and (optional) cooled seats are also controlled through this screen. When using the sat nav on the main screen, this second screen turns into a writing pad, allowing you to input your destination through it. Although having screens instead of buttons is “cooler”, using the screens while driving instead of buttons is very difficult, and it’s easy to move your eyes off the road.
Moving away from the screens, on the lower part of the centre console, we find the gear lever which controls the ZF-sourced 8 speed automatic gearbox, and also allows you to rest your wrist on it while using the screens. Next to that, we find two large cupholders, and behind that is a large storage bin, which also hides the USB and aux ports, allowing you to connect your phone to the Q8. The front seats of the Q8 are comfortable and feature electric adjustment. You can upgrade to the sports seats, which offer more support for spirited driving.
In the rear, we find a normal 3 seat rear bench with each seat able to slide forward and fold individually. The rear features its own controls and vents for the climate control, ass well as 2 USB inputs and a 12V socket for charging devices. The Q8 features acres of legroom and headroom for all but the tallest of rear passengers is good. Fitting 3 in the back will be easy, as the middle seat offers enough le-and-headroom too. Isofix fittings are easy to find, and the large door opening means fitting a child seat will be easy.
One complaint about the rear: weirdly, the rear windows only open halfway, which may not be the favourite for most rear seat passengers. Moving to the boot of the Q8, which opens automatically, we see that the Coupe-like styling has not hindered the boot capacity at all. Although the Q8 doesn’t offer the option for 7 seats like the Q7, it still offers a large loading area of 605 litres, extending to a massive 1755 litre load bay with the rear seats folded flat. Under the boot floor, a find a space saver spare tyre, as well as a tyre repair kit.
The Q8 comes with a choice of 2 engines: the 55 TFSI which comes with a 3.0-litre V6 that has been turbocharged, and produces 250kW and 500NM, sent to all 4 wheels Audi’s famous “Quattro” system. It does 0-100 km/h in 5.9 seconds, with a limited top speed of 250km/h. The second and the probably most popular choice will be the 45 TDI, which is also a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6, although this one is diesel, and produces 183kW and 600Nm. Pricing starts at R1,3888,000, although with many, many features on the options list, it would be safe to budget an extra R100-200k to get the Q8 in the specification that you desire.
The Q8 is a sporty take on Audi’s venerable and popular Q7. It takes all the best bits and puts it in a sleeker body. Although you sacrifice a measure of practicality, it pays dividends in the curb appeal you gain. In the streets of Sandton, Hyde Park and Melrose, the Q8 will be at home. And with the popularity of SUVs, and even those which are Coupes, the Q8 is likely to sell in droves. An excellent car from an excellent brand.