The colossal Q8 is Audi's answer for anyone who loves what the latest Q7 brings to the party but doesn’t need 7 seats, dribbles over the styling of the e-tron but covers too many miles each year to switch from diesel to electric, and relishes the prospect of A8 luxury combined with an elevated, sports-tilted SUV package.
Compared to the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, the Audi Q8 is easier on the eye but nevertheless simply stunning, commanding tremendous road presence and kerb appeal thanks to its whopping chrome grille, figuratively and literally brilliant HD Matrix LED headlights, swollen wheel arches and Vorsprung models' unmissable 22-inch wheels.
Then there are the swooping coupe-like roofline and the absolutely breath-taking rear incorporating a roof spoiler and futuristic full-width LED lightbar that injects some un/locking theatrics into the mix. Superfluous, yes, and admittedly other brands are attempting similar lightshows, but nobody does it better than Audi - and we think the Q8 is an incredibly handsome beast, although we realise it may not be everyone's cup of tea.
What's the Audi Q8's interior like?
The interior, though, will impress even the hardest people to please. It's magnificent. In top-of-the-range Vorsprung trim, Audi really has just swapped the A for Q, the Q8 dripping in luxury everywhere one's eyes and fingers wander. The diamond-quilted Valcona leather Super Sport seats are as beautiful to behold as they are sumptuous and supportive to sit in on journeys from a literal few to a few hundred miles. The Audi is a nicer place to be compared to both the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, only stopping fractionally short of the Bentayga, which is built on the same platform.
Heated rear seats with their own gorgeous ventilation touchscreen and electric window blinds, LED ambient lighting that automatically changes colour such as red in Dynamic mode and blue when a cold temperature is set, Audi phonebox wireless smartphone charging, a Bang & Olufsen stereo that oddly didn't sound quite as good as expected, powered soft-closing doors, a head-up display, a flat-bottom steering wheel and Wi-Fi/LTE connectivity make the Q8 Vorsprung a complete pamper-fest.
Away from the beautifully-machined gear selector and swathes of stitched leather draped across every surface, the immediately apparent highlight in the Q8's interior is the trio of fabulous screens comprised Audi's excellent Virtual Cockpit instrumentation behind the steering wheel, a central infotainment touchscreen, plus a panel beneath it for controlling temperature, seats and other ancillary controls.
The only slight shortfalls are that the seats don't have adjustable headrests, something admittedly typical of sports pews but important to some drivers and passengers, and the rear windows didn’t seem to fully wind down. As visually exciting, impeccably presented and technologically advanced as it is, Audi hasn’t provided the latest USB-C ports in the Q8, and the three-screen system can at times be frustrating to operate on the move. Voice control sometimes gets confused with seemingly easy things, MMI Touch Response impresses conceptually but again isn't seamless except for left-handers at the helm, and haptic control is less ideal and perhaps a trifle dangerous compared to physical buttons or rotary dials for adjusting climate and other stuff on the move.
Nit-picking aside, though, the Q8's interior is truly stunning overall and is not only specified with many of the most advanced infotainment and comfort technologies out there but is also extremely well constructed, which has long been Audi's domain. It’s also a safe car with most imaginable safety ‘assist’ systems integrated as standard or as part of the optional packs.
Is the Audi Q8 a 5 or 7-seater SUV?
The Audi Q8 has five seats and the longest wheelbase in the SUV-coupe class at a whisker under 3m, translating into acres of space in the front and, importantly, the rear. Despite the low-slung roofline, taller adults shouldn’t feel compelled to grumble over headroom in the rear, and there’s enough legroom to stage a 5-a-side match back there. The middle seat is only really suitable for a child or early teen, though, or anyone who doesn’t mind breathing in while straddling their legs over the transmission tunnel. It’s a shame nets are fitted to the seat-backs rather than proper pockets, but the rear seats recline, slide and obviously fold down if furniture store or DIY trips are on the cards, and although a similar rear climate touchscreen features in cars lower down the VAG pecking order, it looks delightful in the Q8.
Boot space of 605 litres is pretty good for a large 5-seat family car in general terms and beats the BMW X6’s 580 litres of luggage capacity, but isn’t quite as commodious as the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe’s 650 litre cargo space, and can’t match its 7-seater Q7 sibling’s 770 litres. The Audi’s rear window is steeply raked and its boot is shallow and deep, which may limit the Q8’s viability for transporting dogs or taller items that have to remain upright, and there’s a load lip to negotiate. Air suspension means the boot can be lowered by 65mm at the press of a button, though, which is great not only for loading heavier items in but also for sitting on while donning walking boots or having a brew.
What's the Audi Q8 like to drive?
Push the start button and the diesel Q8 is blissfully quiet, just as you’d expect from a luxury 8-series model. Shift the chunky gear-selector from park into drive and there can sometimes be a little hesitation, but this is one of the very few foibles in what is a dreamily smooth, powerful, hushed and economical engine and drivetrain.
Audi’s new way of badging its models isn’t perhaps as obvious as before, the 50 TDI a 3.0-litre V6 diesel unit producing 282bhp and in the context of the Q8 boasting a 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds.
In Efficiency, Comfort and Normal driving modes, the Q8 wafts along every bit like a jacked-up limousine, with barely any engine, tyre or road noise evident despite riding on wheels as large as dustbin lids, but wind noise is noticeable due to the large wing mirrors. Acceleration is smooth and linear and the car’s refinement continues at A-road and motorway speeds, only let down by a touch of what feels like turbo lag, plus some occasional jerkiness and pondering from the dual-clutch, 8-speed ‘automatic’ S-tronic gearbox.
Dynamic mode unsurprisingly sharpens up the throttle response and also drops the suspension by 40mm to enable the Q8 to be pitched around bends more confidently, but there’s no noticeably audible exhaust growl to accompany its relatively punchy acceleration and 600Nm/442lb ft torque, the initial excitement of which soon wears off. The Q8 50 TDI is no SQ7-like rocket-ship, but if whisking about like the lord or lady of the manor is your thing, you’ll love it, and in an automotive version of First Dates, the engine and car’s overall personality would certainly send out those ‘keeper’ vibes.
What does mild hybrid mean with the Audi Q8?
Fuel economy is uncannily excellent, mainly down to Audi’s ‘mild’ hybrid technology that incorporates a 48V electrical system with a lithium-ion battery and a belt alternator starter. It enables the Q8 50 TDI to coast with the engine switched off for impressively long periods, to recover regenerative power during braking, and rely on the start-stop system more heavily, reducing consumption and boosting economy. If you drive sensibly enough, achieving over 40mpg is easily feasible, giving you a tank range of around 650 miles from this whopping cross-continental cruiser.
The steering is typical Audi, not overflowing with feedback or feel, and the swoopy shape of this beast makes it a tad more intimidating to drive than the squarer and slightly taller Q7, but all-wheel steering, standard on Vorsprung models, makes manoeuvring a little easier, with a more compact turning circle.
Few people will venture far off the beaten track in their Q8s, but versions with air suspension come with Off-road mode as well as standard Allroad, and the short overhangs plus the usual gubbins like hill descent control provide some confidence-boosters for those who dare to tackle, or more probably get lost on, challenging terrain.
Leasing an Audi Q8
Audi Q8 lease deals from CarLeasingPeople currently start at £772.79 per month including VAT, just a few quid more than the BMW X6, and much more affordable than the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, which is almost £100/month more than the Audi.
The Audi Q8 has the most cohesive shape in the luxury SUV-coupe class and features an even more impressive interior, rich with technology and providing oodles of space. In 50 TDI guise, power is plentiful albeit without any drama, the handling although not exciting is an engineering triumph and belies the car’s sheer proportions, plus Audi’s 48V mild hybrid drivetrain really is impressive at reducing trips to the pump. The Q8 Vorsprung is definitely our current pick in the segment.