Plus & Minus
dynamic cohesion; cabin comfort and finish, on-road presence
Needs a ballsier engine note; standard brakes tested by weight; not exactly sensible
WHAT IS THE AUDI RS Q8?
The Audi RS Q8 is the flagship SUV of the line-up. A large five-seater with sloping roofline, and current class record-holder around the Nurburgring.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
This was our first chance to drive the RS Q8 on Aussie roads, and consider its abilities relative to rivals, as well as the $43,000 cheaper Audi SQ7 stablemate.
THE AUDI RS Q8 REVIEW
WHEN CAN you mount an argument that a super-sports SUV priced at $208,500 is decent value? Actually, probably never, but that’s not about to stop me trying.
Here’s the rationale: Audi’s RS Q8 is the German brand’s flagship, built on a phenomenally well-sorted version of the VW Group’s MLB Evo platform.
It packs a corking twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 punching out 441kW and 800Nm, and delivers a beautifully crafted and richly specced interior.
It is, plenty would agree, all the large hi-po SUV any sane person could desire, if your heart leans in this slightly bonkers direction.
Price and features
Meanwhile, the Lamborghini Urus SUV runs fundamentally the same engine (albeit in a slightly higher state of tune), is underpinned by the same platform, and features an interior that charges extra for some of the equipment the RS Q8 includes as standard.
To wit: the Urus costs $390,000, or close to half a big one by the time you’ve ticked some options and paid the on-roads.
Still not convinced? Even within Audi’s own stable, the RS6 and RS7 run the same V8 as the RS Q8 in exactly the same tune; yet at $216,000 and $224,000 respectively, both are appreciably more expensive than the SUV.
Driving the Audi RS Q8
Okay, so with that sorted, let’s look at what the bargain price of $208K actually buy you. Well, a shed load of speed, for starters. The official 0-100km/h claim is 3.8sec, or 0.2s slower than the circa-200kg lighter RS6.
The hot-vee layout that sees the turbos in the valley of the bent eight is intended to cut lag, as is the extra torque boost of 60Nm delivered by having the 48v starter/generator assist the crank under wide-open throttle.
All very admirable, but from a standing start there’s still a moment of hesitation as all 2240kg agrees to be mobilised.
Once up on its toes, though, the big unit is capable of sucking up the straight bits at an eye-widening rate, even if the soundtrack, while polished and very pleasant, never sounds quite as bat-shit angry as you may expect.
So far, so predictable. What may really surprise, delight, and seal the deal, though, is just how cohesive and confidence-inspiring the dynamic package is.
The steering, unlike so many models in the regular Audi range, has nuance and tactility either side of centre, and a well-judged return rate.
Not quite as feelsome as the rack in a Porsche Cayenne Turbo, but still, with such reassuring messages coming from the front end, you instantly hare off to sniff out the limits of grip, which, on the standard 23-inch rubber, are prodigious.
Roll is kept in tight check by an active, electro-mechanical anti-roll system that works brilliantly, keeping the body largely flat when being flung around, yet retaining a mystifyingly pliant ride when the adaptive air suspension is set to comfort mode.
It’s a super polished chassis which, thanks in part to all-wheel steering, almost has one trotting out the “defies physics!” line, right up to the point you start carrying big speed into the braking zones of some tight terrain, as we did on the launch drive over the iconic Putty road north-west of Sydney.
Only then do you become acutely aware of just how much stopping force is needed to reign in a large SUV travelling at this sort of clip.
Our car was fitted with the optional carbon-ceramic brake package, which provides monster 440mm front discs clamped by huge ten-piston calipers at the front.
“Biggest discs fitted to a production car!” crowed the man from Audi, but I hardly heard that because I was choking on the fact they cost an extra $19,500.
Read next: 2019 Large Luxury SUV comparison
The pedal feel is a bit dead, but the fade-resistant stopping power makes them worth considering if your pockets are deep.
Oh, and they also bring an ECU-uncorking of the top speed to 305km/h, although we did find that harder to verify on the Putty.
Living with the Audi RS Q8
But even if you only tapped into the performance envelope once in a blue moon, you could argue the case for the RS Q8 purely on packaging, equipment and cabin aesthetics alone.
We tend to scoff at the non-purist vibe of SUVs, but fact is the world seems to love the elevated ease of entry and exit, and the height adjustability of the Q8 would allow you to carefully navigate off-road terrain that would likely stop an RS6.
Then there’s the superb comfort and support of the heated and ventilated front seats, the high-res beauty of the twin touchscreens with their haptic feedback, and tasty bits like matrix LED headlights and 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.
Which, incidentally, can be upgraded to a truly stupendous reference system for an extra $9700.
Hey, just remind your significant other how much you’re saving by not buying a Lamborghini Urus and tick the box, okay?
It could be argued that buying a large, ultra-fast SUV is possibly one of the most pointless and profligate purchases anyone could make, but we’re not here to judge.
Fact is, it’s easy to be seduced by the space, pace, comfort and daily liveability of the Audi RS Q8.
And judged in context with other models within the VW empire which use this platform and drivetrain, it actually stacks up as pretty fair value.
Model Audi RS Q8
Engine 3993cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Max power 441kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque 800Nm @ 2200-4000rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 3.8sec (claimed)
On sale Now