BMW proved beyond any doubt that thereâ€™s a reasonable market for a big â€˜sports activity coupeâ€™. Up until ten years ago, who knew? Half a million sales later, BMW is looking pretty canny and Audi is looking to take a big slice of that particular action. But is the Q8 any more, in reality, than the mighty Q7? Letâ€™s find out.
Being part of the massive VW Group, Audi has used the MLB-Evo platform for the new SUV, the same as used under various other such vehicles like the Q7 and Porsche Cayenne. But anyone pondering whether the Q8 might offer the sort of performance credentials of the Cayenne, or a Range Rover Sport, might need to ponder again.
Audi Q8 50 TDI quattro S lineÂ
Price:Â Â£65,000 (tbc)
Engine:Â V6, 2967cc, diesel
Power:Â 282bhp at 3500-4000rpm
Torque:Â 442lb ft at 2250-3250rpm
Gearbox:Â 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight:Â 2145kg (DIN)
Top speed:Â 144mph
Fuel economy:Â tbcÂ CO2Â tbc
At least at first as the only engine at launch, due this summer, is the 3.0-litre V6 diesel, an excellent choice but hardly a performance bombshell. That 282bhp â€™50 TDIâ€™ wonâ€™t be joined until next year by a 3.0-litre V6 petrol with 335bhp. Weâ€™re guessing an even higher-performance RS Q8 will follow that in due course.
Look at the Q8 from the outside and you can see itâ€™s been styled with aggression in mind as well as a clear desire to put distance between it and the Q7. Itâ€™s lower everywhere from roofline to bonnet, and it looks wider, led by that wide and very visible grille. Is it a looker? Thatâ€™s for you to decide but weâ€™re not convinced itâ€™s one of Audiâ€™s most stylish products.
Inside though itâ€™s the trademark Audi cabin. Build quality is fabulous, and thereâ€™s tons of room in every dimension for five people. The dashboard is a work of gloss black art, where art and technology meet. The Virtual Cockpit digital instrumentation in front of the driver is as practical and sharp as ever, and itâ€™s joined in the Q8 by the MMI Touch, the touchscreen infotainment system youâ€™ll find on the latest A8.
With two landscape touchscreens stacked you might think it would be a distraction but itâ€™s so well integrated and thought through, with really sensible yet clever shortcuts, that actually itâ€™s a delight and moves things forward in what we knew would be a pretty stand-out cabin.
Go cruising around and youâ€™ll be gratifyingly comfortable, particularly if the Comfort mode is chosen. Thereâ€™s height-adjustable sports-tuned adaptive air suspension, and it allows you to feel more remote from the endless niggles and rumbles of our road system. But then you probably donâ€™t want to go cruising about the whole time.
Then youâ€™ll appreciate the torque-vectoring quattro four-wheel drive system, and you can even add four-wheel steering should you choose. We chose. The result is a properly tied-down big SUV, even if it doesnâ€™t swivel about like a Cayenne can. Thereâ€™s loads of grip, and the steering weights up nicely and you stay nicely flat through the corners.
Really, you get a sense that the 50 TDI doesnâ€™t really tax the chassis very much. Itâ€™s got its eyes on faster, more brutal powerplants to come. As it is, thereâ€™s the 48-volt architecture and what Audi calls a mild hybrid powertrain. It pulls well of course, and smoothly too through the auto transmission down to each wheel. But the sense that itâ€™s a long way from its limits does make this particular first Q8 feel like itâ€™s not really engaged all that much.
Weâ€™d be tempted to see what else this package can achieve with other engines to come, but if you like a big luxury car and you never want it to feel like itâ€™s straining, then the Q8 would fit the bill nicely. Whether itâ€™s that far ahead of the Q7 at this point is a question youâ€™d have to ask yourself.