WORLD PREMIERE: Audi Q8 — The new face of Q

It’s been teased for some time now but it’s finally here. The Audi Q8 is now the four-ringed brand’s flagship SUV, as it sits atop Audi’s SUV lineup and is both the most premium and sportiest SUV. It isn’t designed to be a large, seven-passenger SUV, though, like many brands’ flagship SUVs. The Q8, according to Audi, “combines the elegance of a four-door luxury coupe with practical versatility of a large SUV”.

To be completely honest, the Audi Q8’s design is not new to us. Audi has been teasing the Q8 with concepts and sketches for months now. So it’s not a design that’s caught us off guard. Having said that, it’s a sporty looking SUV that will certainly be a popular car among buyers in the premium SUV segment. Its large octagonal Singleframe grille is big, brawny and imposing. It sticks out forward, as if the Q8 is puffing out its chest. It also gets sharp angular headlights, which feature full LED lights as-standard with HD Matrix LED headlights as an option.

The Audi Q8’s sloping roofline rids its need for a traditional D-pillar and gives it big, fat C-pillars, which are reminiscent of the original Audi Quattro. To add to that sporty, aggressive look, the Q8 also gets swollen wheel arches, crisp lines and massive 22-inch wheels.

Inside the Q8 is a cabin that’s very similar to those of the Audi A8 and A7. So it gets the same horizontal air vents and large dashboard trim underneath them. More notably, though, are the two touchscreens which make up the brand’s new MMI system, also found on the new A8 and A7. The success of modern Audi cabins lies solely on this new MMI system, as the entire interiors revolve around those two touchscreens. If you don’t like those touchscreens, the Q8 obviously has Audi’s latest Virtual Cockpit digital instrument panel as-standard, which is always excellent and works flawlessly.

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Having said that, the interior of the Audi Q8 is elegant and classy, featuring rich materials and the absolute latest technology. We’ve talked to some sources who have actually spent some time in the Q8 and they’ve said that it feels quite a few steps above the Audi Q7 and we love the interior of that car. So we’re excited to get behind the wall of the Q8.

Along with its interior infotainment technology, such as MMI and Virtual Cockpit, the Audi Q8 will also get some other impressive tech. In-car WiFi and LTE data connections are available, as well as Car-to-X capability, which is the Q8’s ability to connect to infrastructure such as traffic lights. There’s also the option Audi Connect Key, which allows Q8 owners to lock/unlock their car and even start the engine using an Android Smartphone. There’s even a natural language voice control system that can understand far more than just specific commands. For instance, if you tell the Q8 “I’m hungry”, it will search for the closest restaurants in the nav system.

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What’s most important, though, is what lies under the skin. The Audi Q8 will be built on the brand’s MLB platform, which is the same one that underpins everything from the Audi Q7 to the Porsche Panamera. The Audi Q8 gets Quattro all-wheel drive, obviously, but it isn’t some newfangled Quattro Ultra, which is predominantly front-wheel drive until it slips. Oh no. It’s proper Quattro, with a purely mechanical locking center differential that splits torque between the front and rear axles 40:60, respectively. When necessary, torque will be sent to whichever axle needs it, thanks to the center Torsen diff’s ability to shunt power back and forth quickly and organically, depending on traction.

As-standard, the Audi Q8 gets dynamic damper control but it will also have an optional adjustable air suspension setup. With the latter, the driver can change the ride height, as it’s tied to the car’s Drive Select modes. The air suspension can adjust up to 90mm to accommodate whatever sort of terrain the Q8 might encounter.

Audi has also seemed to adjust its progressive steering setup, which now becomes more direct the more the wheel is turned. So it’s not speed-dependent but wheel lock-dependent, which is far more predictable. Four-wheel steering will also be optional, which can turn the rear wheels five degrees opposite the front wheels at low speed, to increase agility and decrease its turn radius, and with the front wheels at high speed, to increase stability.

At launch, there will the typical suite of both diesel and petrol V6 engines worldwide. Expect the launch engine in North America to be the 3.o liter turbocharged V6 sourced from the Audi S4 but also expect a 4.0 liter twin-turbo V8 option, borrowed from the Audi S8 and Porsche Panamera. However, all engines will be MHEVs (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicles), as they will all use a lithium-ion battery with a battery-alternator starter. The latter of which is basically an electric motor that can turn the crankshaft of the engine, allowing it to act as a starter motor and even allow the engine to shut down at cruising speed on the highway and power the crank on its own, to save fuel.

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The Audi Q8 is going to be a very interesting car. It’s not as good looking as we were hoping, with almost all of it looking good but its grill looking a bit odd. However, it’s going to likely be a popular car, offering superior luxury and performance to the Q7, and it’s going to be an exciting one, as an SQ8 and even possible RS Q8 are both on their way.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.