2019 Audi Q8 Review
Dan DeGasperi’s 2019 Audi Q8 review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety, Verdict and Score.
In a nutshell: It is the Audi that finally tackles the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, without conforming to their slanted-back style. But is the Q8 worth the wait?
2019 Audi Q8 Specifications
Price $128,900+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited km Safety NA Engine 3.0-litre turbo petrol V6 Power 250kW at 5500rpm Torque 500Nm at 2900-5300rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4986mm (L) 2190mm (W) 1705mm (H) 2995mm (WB) Kerb Weight 2265kg Towing Capacity 3500kg Spare space-saver Thirst 9.2/100km claimed combined
A FEW years ago at an international motor show, an Audi executive pleaded that this German brand would not produce a mirror-imaged, slanted-roof, ‘hunchback’ coupe-style large SUV in the same vein as the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.
True to his word, the 2018 Audi Q8 arrives with its own style, focused on arguably sexier ‘haunched back’ hips and a lip rear spoiler integrated into a Sportback-SUV style.
The Q8 is the wider, shorter sibling to the seven-seat Q7, but it is not simply the SUV version of the A8 limousine – in fact, it undercuts that sedan sibling by tens of thousands of dollars…So where do we place the Audi Q8?
What’s In The Range And What Do You Get?
The Kuwait (sorry, Q8) will arrive in January priced from $128,900 plus on-road costs for the 55 TFSI, while the identically priced 50 TDI will land later.
It follows the A8 sedan strategy where both 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engines cost the same, petrol (250kW/500Nm, 9.3L/100km Q8 55 TFSI) or diesel (210kW/600Nm, 6.0L/100km Q8 50 TDI). The only thing is, that A8 limo starts at $195,000+ORC, $76K (!) more than Q8.
There’s no shortage of equipment, including 21-inch alloy wheels, adaptive suspension, S line exterior bodykit (optional overseas), LED headlights, electric tailgate, leather trim, electrically adjustable and heated/ventilated front seats, tri-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control and no fewer than three colour screens – 12.3-inch driver display dubbed Virtual Cockpit, plus a 10.1in upper and 8.6in lower centre touchscreen, complete with digital radio, navigation and 360-degree camera.
However, options still abound. There’s a Premium Plus package for $11,000 – incorporating 22s, air suspension, rear privacy glass, Matrix LED headlights with dynamic front/rear indicators and auto-adaptive high-beam, four-zone climate control, 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio and ambient lighting. Dubbed a Full Leather package, another $8900 buys Nappa leather for the centre console, door armrests, upper and lower dashboard, lower door trims and electric rear sunblinds. Finally, a Dynamic package for $4500 adds four-wheel variable-ratio steering to create a 1.1-metre turning circle reduction, a panoramic sunroof asks $3550, electric soft-close doors wants $1500 and a front seat massage requires $1050.
Even with $30,000 in above options, however, a circa-$160K+ORC pricetag is still almost $40K short of an A8’s base price. So, at a time when large sedans are as on the nose as SUVs are on the rise, can this Audi kill off the traditional luxury cars for good?
What’s The Interior And Practicality Like?
The Q8 uses the same 2995mm wheelbase as the Q7, but with a body length of 4986mm it’s 66mm shorter. Likewise, the height of 1705mm is 38mm lower, though width of 2190mm is 27mm broader. Along with a lightly raked roofline and bulged guards, this Audi looks squat and chunky alongside its more upright seven-seat sibling.
While the Q8 splits the difference between a $107K Q7 diesel and the $162K SQ7 V8 diesel in terms of price, it introduces a newer cabin design concept, closely related to the A8 and A7 Sportback.
Open the frameless doors unique in this class, and the dashboard looks particularly rich, especially when optioned with leather, though you really need to further option leather doors and Alcantara rooflining to achieve the full luxury effect.
That’s particularly the case given the standard plastics on the doors aren’t brilliant, especially the rubbery door grabs. C’mon Audi – a Volkswagen Passat 206TSI wagon at less than half the price has stitched-leather armrests and door grabs. Also, some of the fit-and-finish wasn’t perfect in our test cars, with one having a creaky door trim and two with wavy cabin shutlines where the optional leather dash meets the centre-stack plastics.
The seats are sumptuous up front, though, and the rear bench slides backwards and forwards to increase or decrease legroom. There’s plenty of that, and a surprising amount of headroom for a coupe style SUV, owing to rooflining obviously – and smartly – hollowed out above rear rider heads.
The outboard seats could be shapelier, especially given that the centre seat is quite hard and shoulder width is only average for the size. But the middle rider gets plenty of legroom too, thanks to a scalloped-out lower console, complete with USB ports and air vents that match another duo on the B-pillar.
Versatility is impressive, too, with a 40:20:40 split-fold backrest joining the sliding rear seat to deliver up to 1755 litres of luggage space seats folded. Backrest up but bench forward for little legroom, it’s 606L – bench back with surplus legroom, it’s 531L.
Especially when optioned with leather bits, the Q8 feels as premium as it does spacious, and Audi has delivered a nice balance of sexiness and space.
What Are The Controls And Infotainment Like?
A superbly crisp driver screen is just the start. Unlike the Q7, which retains the long-used Audi Multi-Media Interface (MMI) with a rotary console dial and shortcut tabs, the Q8 gets the new dual touchscreen system with everything on it.
Both centre screens give haptic feedback when a button is pressed, and both response speed and graphics quality are brilliant.
There’s natural speech recognition, so you can ask the Q8 to find a bathroom stop, a Chinese restaurant or to go to Sydney Airport in one quick phrase, or any address for that matter. Go to nav or phone, for example, and the top screen remains a map or menu and the lower one enables a driver to start finding contacts or an address via keyboard or swipe.
The Google 3D satellite map overlay is as cool as the high-res 360-degree camera that allows a driver to pinch and zoom in on a part of the car when parking or navigating a tight carpark. Plus, there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology if that isn’t enough.
It would all be a perfect five stars if it weren’t for the multiple, confusing menu layers, which is as complex as a Tesla tablet screen is a cinch. There are menus inside menus, and yet some perplexing omissions such as a lane-keep assist ‘off’ button on the lower screen but not inside the driver assistance settings menu; and yet another lane-keep assist button on the end of the indicator stalk, but that one’s only for the active cruise control. It’s a challenge, as cars become more complex, to allow a driver to interact with them effortlessly – and Audi hasn’t quite nailed that.
What’s The Performance Like?
Given that a Q7 diesel accelerates from standstill to 100km/h in about 7.0 seconds, yet a SQ7 claims 4.9sec, this Q8 petrol again splits the difference at 5.9sec. Indeed, you can’t get any other Audi large SUV with a petrol engine these days, so thankfully this Q8 steps in with a very distant, but immaculately silky and ever so slightly raunchy turbo-petrol V6 gem.
With 250kW of power at 5500rpm and 500Nm of torque between 2090rpm and 5300rpm, it isn’t fast, but it certainly tries. Blame the 2265kg kerb weight.
Despite 38.7 per cent of the body and panels made from lightweight aluminium, the addition of the SQ7’s 48-volt electrical system adds heft to the tune of about 150kg over a regular Q7, according to Audi. The upside is the SQ8 can use otherwise lost braking energy to store in a tiny lithium-ion battery and power the electrics. It also can switch the engine off when coasting at freeway speed or at under 22km/h coming to a stop, though it can’t move on electricity itself. They call it micro hybrid technology and it reduces the combined cycle fuel consumption by 0.7 litres to 9.2 litres per 100 kilometres.
At least it’s lighter than a 2400kg-plus SQ7, and the petrol just works more in tune with a lovely sports-luxury character. The eight-speed automatic is smart and there’s never a moment where response isn’t at least instantly eager – if not express-train fast.
What’s It Like On The Road?
Where the SQ8 on standard 21s and adaptive suspension is good, the optional 22s and air suspension is excellent. Likewise, the standard steering is good, but the four-wheel steering is superbly crisp and instantly reactive.
With a choice of Comfort, Auto and Dynamic suspension modes, all are subtly nuanced. But in the unoptioned Q8 tested there was some lag between turning into a corner and the body settling into it, compounded by the feeling that this really is a heavy large SUV – the gentle push to the side, like juggling a full fishbowl, showed how hard the suspension works.
The optional four-wheel steering, and variable-ratio rack, introduces an immediacy and an agility to this Audi that makes it a compelling tick of the box. Similarly, the air suspension in Dynamic is both smoother and tighter than its standard adaptive equivalent, reducing to nil the slightly pushy sensation through corners. It’s stable, level, composed, even energetic – a really enjoyable and subtly sporting, if not outright sporty, drive.
That suits the Q8’s personality though. It has a staggeringly low level of road noise, even on coarse chip roads, and of which highlights only the slightest wind rustle. Along with the smooth and quiet engine, and really lovely ride quality especially in Comfort or Auto on air suspension, and this Audi feels expertly premium as a result.
What’s It Like Off The Road?
On dirt you can feel the big wheels snag here or there, but otherwise the Audi just wafts along and makes smooth progress.
Offroad mode also lifts the body by 50mm to deliver 254mm in ground clearance, a figure that bests the likes of the Ford Ranger and Volkswagen Amarok 4×4 dual-cab utes, to name but two. We didn’t bush bash this large SUV, but it performed adeptly on dirt.
Does It Have A Spare?
Yes, a space-saver temporary tyre limited to 80km/h.
Can You Tow With It?
Yes, and it can very well with a 3500kg braked capacity.
What about ownership?
Audi offers a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty for the Q8. Service programs haven’t yet been finalised, however.
What about safety features?
Audi delivers the ‘works burger’ here. One long-range radar and forward camera, four surround-view cameras, two mid-range radars and six sensors front and rear deliver the hardware to interact with the software.
There’s forward and reverse autonomous emergency braking (AEB), active lane-keep assistance, and a blind-spot monitor, but also other cool features.
For example, intersection assist can scan 75 metres left or right approaching a junction, and detect if another vehicle is travelling too quickly to stop as you merge out, then apply the brakes. Electric door latches (with manual override) can also detect if a cyclist is approaching and hold the door closed should a driver or passenger attempt to open it.
It’s just a shame Matrix LED headlights are optional, not only for their cool sequential indicators and ability to provide a longer range of high-beam, but in particular as they offer auto-adaptive high beam that can detect individual traffic and block out only the strand of beam affecting a particular vehicle – leaving the rest of the road flooded with light. That sort of tech is now standard on a less-than-half-the-price Mazda CX-5 Akera, for example.