It is really quite difficult to ignore the Q8. Firstly, it takes road presence to another level with a huge octagonal grill. If you like it or not it is a head turner. Other design features that steal your eyes are the slight hips over the wheels in place of arches and the rear lights joined by brake light across the width of the car all in a nod to the historic Audi Quattro rear light cluster.
After the Q7 logically you expect the next in line to be bigger, smarter, seat more people, arrive with the wonderful new twin-turbo V8 or the W12 but it doesn’t. Maybe that’s just us wishing but as sure as night follows day the S and RSQ8 will come later
The all-new Q8 is based on the Q7. However, it’s shorter, by a good few inches although it’s also wider and lower. It also has no provision (the Q7 does) for it to become a 7 seater. Engine wise it comes with the new 3.0 V6 (twin turbo) variant that has replaced the old 4.2 V8. The Q8 comes in at 2.3 tonnes and the engine does a fine job but plan your motorway overtaking carefully. In a world where bigger numbers in a range normally mean bigger and better, I had trouble making sense of it all.
Some things, however, where very clear right from the start. The new Audi dashboard is one horizontal facia widening at the middle console of gloss piano black glass. It splits into two touch screens which are haptic responding. One slight click as the screen pushes back on your finger
after every touch. It is an exceptional piece of in car design, passenger or driver side, your eyes are drawn to it, you are really quite happy to just sit and take it in – on or off. If Audi moves into the interior design space I will be interested to see how they do kitchens.
The frameless doors surprisingly allows for a higher roof, the extra space removed from the frame means three people of 6 foot plus will still have headroom. Strangely, even though the Q8 is 5 inches shorter than the Q7 there is plenty of legroom too which doesn’t come at the expense of the front passengers moving their seat forward at all.
Lots of space for tall people
The driving position is almost too good, this kind of visibility gives you immense confidence in a large vehicle from the first drive to the point I felt I was on actual show. Rear view is a bit tight but easily navigated with the large display connected to the camera on the rear bumper along with the 360-degree aerial view.All-wheel steering lets the rear corner up to 5 degrees, very very useful for parking and lane changing becomes an art form
The Q8 also boasts a large 48 volt electrical system which from braking can feed upto 12Kw back into the battery and this battery can feed an extra 7Kw of torque back to the engine via the alternator without an electric motor in sight when needed, we never got to the bottom of ‘when needed’ might actually be. We would hope during heavy load on the engine but the Audi technician would only tell us ‘The system will know when’ ahh this is very a smart car then.
Driving up Jebal Akhdar, Oman, presents you with a dazzling array of ascending and descending roads with 90-degree hairpin turns with more than a few inverted corners. So focused on the road ahead and the pace we were moving at we didn’t notice the lack of body roll, in fact there was none at all and there should have been…lots of it a complete triumph for the suspension team.
The engine happiest at low down revs pulled the 2.3 tonne Q8 up Jebal Akhdar like child’s play, demonstrating the 500 mn of torque dispatched by the twin turbochargers. Only on occasion did the brakes give you a hint of the true weight of the vehicle, most notably at the biting point just before an absolute stop. Between the drive select air suspension, the twin turbo engine, you would have no idea of the dimensions of the Q8 as its extremely easy to guide a vehicle of this type around very challenging roads.
So now I can make sense it of it all. The Q8 is a marriage between the style of a coupe and all the luxury Quattro all-wheel-drive SUV capabilities Audi can offer. With a very clever mild hybrid system on board, it makes for a compelling purchase.