Audi’s Q8 is the head turning premium chief whip of the Audi stable’s Q-range. Its late-ish introduction to the coupé-SUV fold means that it now competes in a slightly larger ring of German competition namely the X6 pioneer of the segment, the GLE Coupé and the Porsche Cayenne Coupé.
They’re targeted at an audience that is style-conscious, perhaps looking to go the slightly less conventional route and perhaps the smarter route too. You see the Q8, of all the players mentioned here is one of the most practical packages in the genre, able to exhibit the swanky design language but with an uncompromised interior. It’s a large car almost 2,2-metre wide and just a smidge under 5-metres in length. It stands tall at 1,7-metres and all this size really does translate into voluminous cabin room and boot space. But it also translates into road presence – its Singleframe grille is large and imposing and can be optioned in a grey, black or body colour depending on what you want.
Currently the Q8 is offered with one petrol 55 TFSI and then this one, the 183 kW 45 TDI. Wait a few months and you could sink yourself into the SQ8 or the dragon-slaying RSQ8 but these will come with a heftier price tag and fuel bill.
If you’re looking at that price and thinking, wow that’s quite a lot then, consider that Audi SA is strategically offering packaging options these days so the ‘standard’ / base Audi Q8 is not as bare as it may have been in the past. Audi throws in quite a bit of kit into the base cars. Of course, there are still options, some of them quite nifty but nifty has a price.
Well, it is an Audi. A premium Audi at that, so you feel immediately satisfied the moment you take your seat. The Q8 introduced us to a new level of Audi progressive display and UX. This interior is now extended into other Audi products as well the A7 and A6 included.
Again, you have options. Sports seats may not be absolutely necessary but they do look better than the standard ones, slightly. The big showstoppers in the cabin are dual screen infotainment units that house every functional command for the car's onboard systems. The top 10.1-inch screen houses most connectivity, profile settings, sat nav and media settings while the bottom screen, an 8,6-inch unit houses the climate control mainly and then also serves as your tablet to hand write letters/numbers onto. It’s a ‘cool’ feature and seemed to pick up most of what I was writing even with my left hand. It’s a beautiful integration and use of screens, a great show of what is possible when you put your mind to it and full praise to Audi for it. The downside however, is that it’s not the best when used on the road especially on bumpy dirt roads for example. The screen requires a solid touch and it responds with haptic feedback. That accuracy of getting your finger right on the correct button isn’t easy when you’re shaking about slightly on a bumpy Jo'burg back road.
We also found that dust will quickly find its way onto the piano-black trim pieces. Overall though, welcome to quality and stylish interiors.
Legroom and headroom is very impressive and then there’s the 605-litre boot. It’s class leading if we’re only comparing it to the other Germans – not as cavernous as say a Range Rover Sport, but then again – the Sport isn’t this sleek looking.
Power here comes from a 3.0-litre, V6 turbodiesel mill. It’s good for 183kW and 600Nm of torque. It’s the ideal engine to have in the range and probably will be chosen most compared to its petrol-powered and more powerful mate. It’s certainly powerful enough to move the large Audi Q8 with good pace. It doesn’t feel quick as such, but rather a good starting point for a car of this nature. Powerful enough but not over eager and efficient enough, in fact smart enough to be modest between the pumps. The Q8 comes with 48V Mild-Hybrid tech which means it uses a battery to power a little motor that assists with conserving energy by putting the engine into a sort of sleep mode when coasting. It also allows for the stop/start function to kick in from 22km/h now. It’s clever tech, not entirely world changing but it all adds up doesn’t it? Under 9,5l/100km for a big wig car like this is pretty good all-round.
The engine is mated to an 8-speed Tiptronic that can be pretty sleepy too at times. It seems to dawdle slightly too long when you need immediate power for when you need to gap it. Thankfully, the Q8 comes with Audi's Dynamic Drive select for faster and more urgent driving. Failing that you could change gear manually by using the paddles.
Overall though the car is beautifully comfortable to drive no matter the wheel size or road environment. You can thank the smart air suspension for that. Smarter too is the addition of four-wheel steering that makes the car smaller than it really is and when you are really on the move, there’s a torque vectoring system as well as a system that sends torque to the front or back depending on where you need it. It’s a capable car indeed and handles corners with a sort of unworried demeanour. Even on loose gravel surfaces you can’t feel too much from the driver’s seat except that the myriad systems are working to keep the traction and the mass in check.
Its most at home on the open road doing the daily grind. It’s comfortable and clever. Assistance systems galore are available with the Q8, from the active cruise control to the pre sense system. It’s all part of a suite of radar sensors that monitor things surrounding the car and then it can if needed, be called into take corrective or evasive measures to assist. Apart from tolerating the beeps from the system sensors as you approach some of our busy intersections, its top end stuff. Optional top end stuff. Audi throws in 360-surround view cameras as standard and you need these. Q8 is easy to drive but navigating its lengthy dimensions is assisted by the 3D surround cameras.
With two options in the range, you’re going to want the TDI if you’re looking to save fuel. There’s a significant difference between the petrol 55 TFSI and this TDI. The power difference is also fairly significant, with a 67kW trade-off.
The base price you see is a well packaged one as far as standard features go. You may consider sporting it up with a S-line package or you may consider such intricate tech such as Night Vision assistance or a crisp Heads-up display. The most eye-catching option is the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System with 3D sound, a R81 390 option. If you’re into that sort of thing, then by all means but really, the Audi Q8 even in standard spec is up to the task of impressing you.
This particular Audi Q8 45TDI has another ace up its sleeve in that it’s the only large SUV-Coupé at this price and with this sort of engine output. BMW only offers a petrol X6 xDrive40i as the base spec engine, offering a higher power output but with a higher base retail price. The only diesel option in the range is the X6 M50d,way more powerful and way more expensive. Mercedes Benz also only sells the GLE400d Coupé, also – higher power and more money.
Audi Q8 45 TDI has this segment space to itself in some respects. It still stuns with its exterior and interior design, yet its impressively frugal and cheaper to run, a consideration for running costs.
It’s engine does exhibit some turbo lag and its transmission doesn’t assist with that either, but in the everyday run of life, that 183kW runs really well once you’ve worked out where and how to keep it in the sweet spot. You’ll never be accused of being boring and you’ll probably never shake your head in disappointment at its lack of practicality.
Nice work Audi. This is one for a grand entrance indeed.