Audi has revealed its new Q8 SUV. In UK showrooms for the summer, it is quattro personified on a grand scale, an imposing business flagship for executives who see traditional sedans as yesterday’s Vorsprung durch Technik…
The Q8 uses Q7 bits, but for a very different end result: instead of children think chairperson. So there’s no three-row seating here, just five chairs with acres of space. The interior is an object lesson in high-tech minimalism with an emphasis on high-end luxury, best summed up by the top Vorsprung edition which swathes everything in leather.
Outside, the coupe-like style is entirely as predicted by last year’s concept model. The fat C-pillar and wheelarch blisters are said to recall the original Quattro – and they do, a bit anyway. Fronted by the widest interpretation yet of the eight-cornered single-frame grille and aggressively slanted Matrix LED headlights, the Q8 has no trouble asserting its own strong personality. A novel feature for this class is the doors which are frameless.
And it is big, though it doesn’t particularly look it in pictures. It is a little shorter than the Q7 (at just shy of 5m) but wider for a more visually lower and more sporting stance than the family favourite. It has the biggest boots Audi has ever fitted, at 22-inches for the Vorsprung editon (21s are standard on other models). Overall it’s quite a lot bigger than sporty, style-led rivals like the Range Rover Sport or BMW X6.
Inside it’s a haven for people who don’t like buttons. The Audi “virtual cockpit” is taken a stage further here with an extreme uncluttered look, twin hi-resolution touch screens (plus natural-language voice recognition and MMI controller) providing most of the interface you need. The Vorsprung edition gets a new head-up display as well. The cabin is plain and simple… but also impeccably crafted with obsessive attention to detail.
As well as sprawling passenger room inside there’s a big boot behind the electrically-operated lift-up tailgate, boosted when needed by fold-down rear backrests. Golf bag-friendly? You bet.
It’s all-wheel-drive – of course – with a mechanical centre diff that splits drive 40 per cent front and 60 per cent rear, unless slippery conditions dictate otherwise. All Q8s come with adaptive air suspension that can alter the ride height by up to 90mm (almost 4ins) for a maximum of 254mm of clearance over rough ground.
The Vorsprung edition gets all-wheel steering as standard (optional on others). It can turn the rear wheels up to five degrees in the opposite direction to the front wheels to help when parking, and up to five degrees in the same direction at speed to enhance stability.
There are no big headlines on the powertrain front – yet. So from launch the Q8 comes in 3.0 TDI diesel form only, badged Q8 50 TDI in Audi’s new badging system. Its 286PS (282bhp) and 600NM (442 lb ft) of torque ensures 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds and a top speed of 144mph.
Not too sporty then, but it is a mild hybrid system, using Audi’s 48-volt electrics, so it can coast along saving fuel between 34-99mph with the engine off, as well as recoup lost energy and store it in lithium-ion batteries under the boot floor. No fuel figures yet but they do promise to be good for a such a large, 2.1-tonne machine.
A 3.0-litre diesel and a 3.0-litre petrol will follow early in 2019. There’s no confirmation yet but something more potent under the bonnet must be certainty – an SQ8 version with 430bhp and 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds, as already offered by the Q7, would surely be a natural fit for the business express role.
Prices? No confirmation but from around £65k is likely. An equivalently-engined, Q7 Vorsprung edition costs £80k, so expect the top-spec Q8 to beat that. Add options and more powerful flagship variants and the Q8 will have scope to be a £100,000 or more car, making the most of the “spend, spend, spend” inertia driving the SUV market ever onward.
Question remains, will the Audi A8-driving company chairperson remain loyal to the saloon… or will they choose this instead?