Audi steps up the luxury element on its latest SUV the Q8. Simon Harris
The increasing number of SUVs appearing on our roads over the past 10 years suggests the market is neither saturated, nor has every SUV niche been explored.
To underline this Audi is launching a model that sits at the top of its SUV family, and although the Q8 has a similar footprint on the road as the Q7, the new car is more focused on luxury and on-road agility.
It introduces new styling themes for Audi SUVs, with a more aggressive front end, while echoing the new A6 and A7 at the rear with its full-width lighting.
Although it shares the same 2,994mm wheelbase with the Q7, the Q8 is a little shorter and lower, with frameless windows and a sleeker silhouette more in line with the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé.
The entry-level model in the range is S Line (Audi expects around 80% of UK sales to be this variant), with a new Vorsprung grade as a range-topping version, with many items from the S Line’s options list as standard.
Standard equipment on the S Line, which starts at just over £65,000 on the road for our 50 TDI (although a less powerful diesel will become available later and bring down the entry point to the range), is fairly comprehensive. There will also be a 3.0-litre petrol version with 340PS and badged 55 TDI.
The fact that Audi has included a page in its press material explaining its new engine designations that relate neither to power output in PS or kW nor to engine size suggests it’s neither intuitive nor informative.
Matrix LED headlights, 21-inch alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension, Nappa leather and Alcantara upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, all-round parking sensors with a rear-view camera, and a power-operated tailgate are all included.
Upgrade to the Vorsprung grade (for an £18,000 premium), and you get 22-inch wheels, upgraded leather and front seats, heated outer rear seats with 40:20:40 split bench, all-wheel steering, Bang & Olufsen audio system, exterior trim changes, panoramic glass sunroof, and additional convenience and safety systems from the three packs optional on S Line models.
The interior includes Audi’s Virtual Cockpit configurable instrument display as well as a 10.1-inch display screen with navigation and secondary 8.6-inch screen below for ventilation controls. Both are touchscreen and provide audible and haptic feedback to the touch.
The Q8 is comfortable and more agile than one might expect for such a large vehicle, although we preferred it in S Line on 21-inch wheels than the Vorsprung with larger alloys, which had a greater impact on the ride quality and no amount of adaptive air suspension could calm it.
Refinement is as you’d expect in a £65,000 premium car, and performance from the 286PS V6 diesel, which has mild hybrid technology to improve fuel economy, is brisk.