THE Audi Q8 will become the flagship of the German luxury carmaker’s growing SUV range when it launches globally later this year.
When it lobs, the fastback SUV will bump fists with the BMW X6, the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Coupe and the Range Rover Sport for the hearts, minds and heavily stuffed wallets of style-conscious customers.
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Closely following the design cues teased in the Audi Q8 Sport Concept unveiled at Geneva early last year, the Q8 also introduces the new look that will sweep across the carmaker’s SUV range. Whether that’s a good thing or not, you be the judge.
At 4990mm long, 2000mm wide and sitting 1710mm tall, the Q8 is 62mm shorter, 32mm wider and 31mm closer to the ground than the Q7. Audi says the Q8’s wheelbase is “almost” 3000mm, suggesting it is pretty close to the Q7’s 2994mm stretch.
Like the Q7, the Q8 contains up to three rows of seats, with third-row visibility benefitting from narrow D-pillars. Fold down the two rows of rear seats, lift open the electrically operated tailgate, and you can cram 1755 litres of luggage into the void it creates.
There’s a few stand-out differences between the concept and the production car, the least of which is the large, now octagonal “Singleframe” grille rather than pentagonal one, that’s framed in a sluice gate rather than the honeycomb form of the show car.
The front also loses some of the muscular aerodynamic form of the concept, which adds a bit of maturity.
Down the back, it’s almost as though Audi ran out of budget, and decided to just adopt the looks of the SUV that shares some of the Q8’s DNA – the Lamborghini Urus – right down to the stripped-in tail-lamp that runs the full width of the rear profile.
Inside, the Q8 resurrects something from the past; a more modern-look version of the “yacht shifter” gear selector that made its debut in the 2011-era A8 limousine.
The driver’s seat in the S-Line spec Q8 featured in the official images shows a full digital dash linked to a head-up display, but no tombstone-style multimedia interface growing out of the top of the console.
Instead, there’s a 10.1-inch multimedia screen underneath the venetian blind-styled dash feature, and a smaller 8.6-inch display beneath it that forms an array of touch-sensitive controls for numerous air-conditioning functions, and also for tracing out letters that the car’s electronics can turn into commands. This replaces the large dial usually located on the centre console – the more traditional method Audi uses to connect the driver with the multimedia interface.
As befitting of a flagship, the Q8 will come standard with LED headlights. Owners can also download an app and create what Audi calls “various lighting functions” that they can experience from outside the SUV.
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Dynamic ability comes via optional all-wheel steering, a mechanical diff that splits drive between the front and rear wheels, and some off-road ability including up to 254mm of ground clearance.
A 48-volt battery system that can allow the Q8 to coast without the engine engaged will also allow the 3.0-litre V6 diesel’s stop-start system to kick in from about 22km/h
This Audi also chucks away the car key for some functions, with the optional Audi connect key allowing the driver to lock or unlock the vehicle, and start the engine using an Android smartphone. Of note, Audi is future-proofing the Q8 for the days when we will share, rather than own cars; it will store up to 400 driver profiles, activated via a smartphone app.
Best of all, the Q8 owner of the future will never have to nose the big SUV into a garage or tight parking spot ever again. Audi will tap the Q8’s five radar sensors, six cameras, 12 ultrasound sensors and a laser scanner to map out a car park, and automatically shuffle it in and out of the spot while the driver waits outside.