2021 Audi RS Q8 review
Our independent 2020 Audi RS Q8 review in Australia, including price, specs, interior, ride and handling, safety and score.
Meet the new king of Audi Sport. Up until now the hero of the four-ring brand’s performance range was arguably the RS6 Avant. The go-fast wagon has taken on a cult status over the years with its blend of bonkers performance in a thoroughly practical wagon body.
But now, officially at least, the RS Q8 is the “spearhead” of the high-performance range because the Q8 is part of the pinnacle R8/A8/S8 line-up.
That means it needs to be suitably quick, which is why Audi has built the fastest SUV it has ever created.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
There’s only one RS Q8 to buy, priced from $208,500 plus on-road costs. Oddly, despite the RS Q8 being the spearhead of the Audi Sport range, the RS6 Avant is more expensive, starting at $216,000.
For that money you do get a lavishly equipped car, there’s too much standard gear to list here but highlights includes 23-inch alloy wheels, Matrix LED headlights, Audi’s virtual cockpit (digital dashboard), a 17-speaker Gang & Olufsen 3D sound system, four-zone climate control and RS sports seats wrapped in leather.
There are option packages, naturally, with the RS Design package in red or grey ($2900), Carbon styling package ($9100) both of which add a variety of styling elements, and the RS Dynamic Plus Package ($19,500). The latter includes the carbon ceramic brakes we’ll mention in detail later as well as raising the top speed to 305km/h.
There’s also the Sensory package ($9700) which adds a 23-speaker B&O sound system, Alcantara headlining and front massaging seats.
WHAT DOES IT COST TO OWN?
The RS Q8 is covered by the same three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty as the rest of the Audi range.
WHAT’S THE EXTERIOR LIKE?
According to the company all Audi Sport models must be aggressive to look at. So the Q8 has been given a muscular makeover to ensure it lives up to those standards.
At the front the look is dominated by the huge single-frame grille (which can be carbon as noted above), flanked by a pair of large air-intakes in the lower corners. These not only add to the aggressive look but also help to keep everything cool.
Down the flanks the silhouette of the Q8 looks sharp and the guards are filled out with the 23-inch rims.
At the rear there are Audi Sport’s trademark oval-shaped tailpipes, as well as a new rear bumper and extra vents built into the corners to help accentuate its width and create the impression its lower than it actually is.
WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?
The cabin of the Q8 was already a standout, with its horizontal design highlighted by the dual large screens in the centre of the fascia that control all the infotainment and ventilation. Add to that the digital dashboard and the Q8 was already a hi-tech and stylish looking place to be.
Audi Sport has added an Alcantara-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel, Alcantara on the gear selector and the RS sports seats which are trimmed in Nappa leather with honeycomb stitching. Importantly, aside from looking good, they actually offer excellent lateral support, which is important in such a fast machine.
The upper dashboard and doors are trimmed in leather to further accentuate the premium look and feel of this $200k super SUV.
HOW SAFE IS THE RS Q8?
It’s equipped with all the latest safety gear – both passive and active – you expect in a modern luxury vehicle. That means Audi pre sense with pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, multi-collision brake, side assist with blind spot warning, attention assist and cross-traffic assist. There’s also eight airbags, a 360-degree parking camera and even an active bonnet to help protect pedestrians.
It also comes with Traffic Jam assist, which is Audi’s version of autonomous functionality that can control both the car’s speed and steering.
WHAT’S THE INFOTAINMENT LIKE?
The system is run through the large central screen, which has haptic and acoustic feedback so it operates much like a smartphone or tablet. It means you can touch, swipe or pinch and zoom your way through the easy-to-read app-style menus.
It operates a 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system that provides excellent power and clarity to listen to your music. That is, when you’re not listening to the V8 soundtrack emanating from the bonnet.
WHAT ENGINES ARE AVAILABLE?
There’s only one engine, but it’s quite the motor. A 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine that makes an impressive 441kW of power and 800Nm of torque, enough to ensure that for all of its size and weight the RS Q8 is suitably fast for an Audi Sport model.
It’s paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive with quattro sport differential, to ensure maximum traction and aid handling.
Peak pulling power arrives between 2200-4000rpm, so it feels incredibly punchy off the mark and when launching out of a corner. In fact, there’s never a moment where the RS Q8 feels slow or lazy in terms of its performance, with so much available on tap you only need to press your right foot down harder for speed to build rapidly.
Audi claims that this big SUV can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 3.8 seconds, and while we didn’t get a chance to time it that certainly feels like a reasonable claim.
The V8 petrol soundtrack is nice too, suiting the character of the RS Q8 and helped by the standard sport exhaust.
WHAT ABOUT FUEL ECONOMY?
The powertrain also features a 48-volt mild-hybrid system to help reduce fuel economy. It’s able to do so in large part because it allows the electric motor to take over at speeds below 22km/h or when you’re cruising between 55-160km/h at low load, but shutting down the engine.
Audi claims the systems, which can recover up to 12kW of power from the belt alternator starter, and store that in a lithium-ion battery. The company says the system is able to save up to 0.8-litres per 100km in real-world driving situations.
Despite all this, moving an SUV weighing more than 2000kg with a twin-turbo V8 means it’s hardly frugal, consuming 12.1L/100km, on the combined urban/highway cycle. That’s thirsty, but if you want to save fuel you should probably be looking to buy an Audi e-tron.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Knowing it was facing a difficult challenge in making such a big, tall and heavy SUV live up to the handling characteristics associated with an Audi Sport model, the brand has thrown plenty of technology at the problem.
Audi has loaded the RS Q8 with RS adaptive air suspension, electromechanical active roll stabilisation and all-wheel steering, to name the highlights. And the result? A surprisingly agile SUV. It’s far from a true sports car or even the RS6 Avant in terms of pure handling, but it does an admirable job for what it is.
There are seven drive modes – Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency, Allroad, Offroad and Individual – giving you plenty of choice to alter the SUV’s dynamic settings based on the situation. In Individual mode you can program two custom settings – RS1 and RS2 – which can be accessed via the ‘RS’ button on the steering wheel.
The air suspension offers a – 90mm difference between its highest (Offroad) and lowest (Dynamic) settings; although with 23-inch alloys and no doubt expensive bumpers it’s unlikely any owner will take it off-road in any meaningful way.
The electromechanical active roll stabilisation is arguably the biggest help with the handling by being able to help compensate for the higher centre-of-gravity. It runs off the 48-volt system and can uncouple the stabilisation bar as required; uncoupled for better comfort when cruising or engaged when you throw it into some corners.
As for the stopping power, Audi has ensured it has more-than-enough by fitting huge brakes. The standard steel rotors measure 420mm up front, clamped by 10-piston callipers, and 370mm at the rear with six-piston callipers.
However, if that’s not good enough you can opt for the carbon ceramics that are even bigger – 440mm front rotors with 10-piston callipers. Audi claims this is the largest braking system available on a production car today. Plus, they also save 34kg on unsprung weight, although, as mentioned earlier, they do add nearly $20k to the price.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVES?
Well there are two obvious rivals, because they share much of their mechanical DNA thanks to Volkswagen Group – the Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe.
While obviously each brand has added its own styling and technology elements, all three have the same basic 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8, eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive system.
But if you feel like leaving the VW family you have plenty of other choices. There’s the BMW X6M (the car that started the ‘coupe-SUV’ trend), the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63S and the Range Rover Sport SVR.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Audi has produced a remarkable performance SUV. The RS Q8 is seriously fast in a straight line, holds its own when cornering and is suitably luxurious.
The real question is though, despite the popularity of SUVs in this day-and-age, can it truly replace the iconic RS6 Avant as the people’s hero of the Audi Sport line-up. Time will tell…
2021 AUDI RS Q8 PRICE AND SPEC
Price From $208,500 plus ORCs Warranty 3 years/unlimited km Engine 4.0L twin-turbo petrol Power 441kW at 6000rpm Torque 800Nm at 2200-4000rpm Transmission 8-speed auto Drive all-wheel-drive Body 5012mm (l); 2190mm (w); 1694mm (h) Kerb weight 2135kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 85 litres Spare Repair kit