Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila
CAN an SUV be both large and fun? This seems to be the question that German carmaker Audi sought out to answer when its designers worked on the Q8. The first-ever in its lineage, the full-size luxury crossover SUV debuted in the market last year — with a regional unveiling in October by way of the Audi Brand Experience (ABE) Singapore.
The ABE, held in over 8,100sqm of the Sands Expo and Convention Center of the Marina Bay Sands, was a definitive, one-stop destination for everything about the Ingolstadt-headquartered brand. Audi fully showcased its growing portfolio, including glimpses of the near future. Even then, the brand touted the Q8 as “(uniting) the elegance of a four-door luxury coupé with the practical versatility of a large SUV than can be used for both business and leisure.”
But, truthfully, this claim is neither unique nor easy to make. The utilitarian ethos that comes with being large usually squeezes the fun factor out. So maybe, the correct question is: Where does the Q8 fit in the growing Audi stable?
The first thing one needs to understands is that the SUV now unseats the Q7 as the flagship of the Q family. Car and Driver Magazine makes mention of the Q8 sharing the platform of its older sibling, while shedding the third row in favor of dedicated cargo room. With seats folded, the vehicle offers up to 1,755 liters of space under its powered rear hatch. This capacity is reportedly lower than the Q7’s but the new sibling makes up for it with better legroom for passengers seated astern. Compared to the Q7, the Q8 is three inches shorter in length and squatter by about an inch. If we use that “flagship” status as a barometer, then we can infer what Audi is possibly striving for — and moving towards.
The aforementioned article agrees, offering the view that the Q8 “best defines the Audi brand,” especially for people who are looking beyond sedans. “With more style and little sacrifice in utility compared to most SUVs and the performance of a luxury sedan, the Q8 offers a compelling alternative to both,” concluded Jeff Sabatini. Indeed, squint while looking at the curvaceous Q8 and you might mistake it for a very large hatchback. It’s probably one of the truest, fullest interpretations of a crossover you can get.
An expansive Singleframe octagonal grill is fringed by aggressive-looking headlamps. Two hood furrows run from the windscreen area down to two corners of the octagon to give an additional dynamism. A sail-shaped C-pillar is a not-too-subtle homage to the original Audi Quattro, while its liftgate is marked by a lighted rear strip that connects the two rear-lamp assemblies. Standard LED headlights are fitted on the Q8, with an option to upgrade to HD Matrix LED.
The Q8’s roofline gently slopes in the rear with slightly inclined D-pillars and rests against the “quattro blisters” above the wheel arches.
Under the hood dwells a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, good for 335hp and a torquey 500Nm. Similar to the other newer models, the SUV receives a 48-volt belt-alternator-starter hybrid system, equipped with a battery. This so-called mild hybrid feature can recover up to 12kW of power during braking and course back into the battery. “The MHEV technology enables long coasting phases with the engine deactivated and a start-stop range that begins at 22kph,” says Audi.
The Quattro reference isn’t whimsical, as the Q8 boasts this beloved Audi feature. “Mechanical center differential transfers the forces to the front axle and rear axle at a ratio of 40:60 as standard. When required, it transfers the majority to the axle with the better traction. That plus as much 254 millimeters of ground clearance, short overhangs, and hill descent control means the Audi Q8 can keep going even after the pavement ends,” explains the company. “The suspension with damper control is standard. Audi offers the adaptive air suspension with controlled damping as an option, with either comfort or sport setup. It adjusts the ride height depending on the driving situation and the driver’s preference by as much as 90 millimeters.”
Steering in the Q8 is “standard progressive,” which makes the ratio direct the further the steering wheel is turned. All-wheel steering is optional — a feature that increases agility at lower speeds and stability at faster rates.
Audi is a brand very much known for, and proud of, its technological innovations. The Q8 doesn’t disappoint. An MMI-predicated infotainment system has Navigation Plus, and includes the Audi connect data transfer module with the LTE Advanced standard and a Wi-Fi hotspot. The navigation system learns and recognizes the driver’s preferences based on past trips and therefore can make intelligent suggestions. The online services from Audi connect add predictive features to the route-planning process.
A 12.3-inch, high-resolution instrument cluster known as the Audi Virtual Cockpit makes a welcome appearance, of course. Two general modes can be set via the multifunction steering wheel. An optional Plus version includes a third, particularly sporty view. A head-up display function projects pertinent information such as detailed lane guidance onto the windshield for easier operation.
A Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System serves up 3D sound with “height information” to all five occupants, and the company claims the “music unfolds exactly how it was recorded in the concert hall.”
The Audi Q8 is top-notch with respect to sound and connection quality thanks to the Audi phone box and voice-over LTE. The same applies to the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System. It delivers fascinating 3D sound with height information to all five seats. The music unfolds exactly how it was recorded in the concert hall.
As of the end of last year, Audi had sold 10,543 units of the Q8. As the SUV continues to roll out in various markets around the world, it’s safe to say that number should rise significantly.
Surely, for Audi, that would be fun.