Wheels first drive review
5 0 5
Plus & Minus
Performance; grip; ride comfort; exterior design; interior space and fit-out; vision
Handling impressive but not involving; drivetrain refinement; weight; thirst
WHAT IS THE AUDI RS Q8?
Audi's belated answer to high-performance versions of SUV coupes like the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT...
The RS Q8 goes on sale in Europe in the first quarter of 2020, around six months ahead of its arrival in Australia. Audi's International Dynamic Press Presentation (their capitals) on Spain's Canary Islands was the first chance for media to drive it. Wheels was there...
THE WHEELS REVIEW:
Audi's Urus is a succinct way to summarise the new RS Q8. Extensive Audi Sport improvements make this high-performance version of the Q8 the quickest-ever SUV around the Nurburgring. Does this 7 minute 42.2 second feat make Lamborghini envious? Probably, although Sant'Agata Bolognese can derive some consolation from the fact that their SUV is fractionally quicker 0-100km/h; 3.6 seconds, compared with 3.8 seconds for the RS Q8.
The new Audi and the Lamborghini are the pinnacle performers built on VW Group's MLB Evo architecture. This platform provides foundations for the VW Touareg, Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga, as well as the Q8 and Urus.
The pair share much drivetrain and chassis hardware, including the core of their twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8s. While the Lamborghini version has specific cylinder heads to enable its 478kW maximum, the Audi Sport version isn't far behind with 441kW.
The RS Q8 drives through an eight-speed auto and an all-wheel-drive system featuring a mechanical centre differential set up to send more torque to the rear axle. It rides on air springs and adaptive dampers, and has rear-wheel steering. Active anti-roll bars, ceramic brakes and 23-inch wheels and tyres are optional in Europe, where RS Q8 deliveries begin early this year.
Read next: 2019 Large Luxury SUV comparison
When the Audi reaches Australia around August, it's likely to wear a $250,000 price tag. Steep, sure, but Lamborghini asks $390,000 for the Urus.
Fiercely fast in a straight line, the RS Q8 isn't bad through bends. The fully optioned examples sampled at the international launch on Tenerife coped well with narrow, winding mountain roads in rain and fog. The auto made the occasional thumpy shift, but grip was great and handling hard to fault. The Audi's steering wasn't especially communicative and its bulk often daunting.
It felt more at home on the motorway, where the air-springs delivered a smooth ride and there was time to take in the RS Q8's attractive and spacious interior. It shares the same wheelbase as the Q7, so there's ample room in the rear.
Though the Q8 is Audi's answer to established SUV coupes like the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, it's more attractive and less compromised. The shape is more high-rise hatchback than coupe. With its flatter roofline and deeper rear glass, headroom is better and all-round vision less restricted.
The RS Q8's engine wears a bolt-on, belt-drive 48-volt motor-generator, making it a very mild hybrid. The system reduces consumption incrementally, but the Audi's mental speed and two tonne-plus weight guarantee it will be a fuel hog. Its official consumption is high at 12.1L/100km, though this is a little less than a Urus uses...
BMW X6 M50i, Mercedes-AMG GLE63 Coupe (when the new one inevitably arrives), Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo, Lamborghini Urus
Model: 2020 Audi RS Q8
Engine 3996cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin turbochargers, low-voltage mild hybrid
Max power 441kW At 6000rpm
Max torque 800Nm at 2200-4500rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Weight 2300kg (estimated)
0-100km/h 3.8 sec (claimed)
Price $250,000 est
On sale Q3 2020
Second Opinion: MOTOR feature review
Motor focuses exclusively on high-performance cars, offering a heart-stopping, hair-raising blast into the world of prestige and performance culture.
Plain-clothes Urus at a $170K discount, almost
By: Georg Kacher
With 600 horses roaming the tight V8 corral and a whopping 800Nm of torque rattling its gates, our master stallion parts Tenerife’s herd of rental car ponies as if it had sailed across the Sea of Galilee. Even though the new RS Q8 is all muscle inside, though, it doesn’t strike onlookers as Hulk Hogan’s motorised alter ego.
Our test car is fitted with silver 23-inch wheels, plenty of brightwork, grey brake calipers, a body-colour aero kit and LED matrix headlights embedded in dark housings. Even with a huge Zorro mask and a laser sword to clear the notoriously jammed overtaking lane, the aggro element relayed by the new Audi is far from objectionable.
Equipped with the optional Dynamic Pack Plus, this Q8 on steroids comes with carbon-ceramic brakes, quattro sport differential and a deregulated top speed of 305km/h, up from 250. On this remote island five flight hours from the nearest autobahn, however, the latest creation by the RS powerbrokers is facing more mundane obstacles like tourists, cyclists, buses, thick fog and lots of twisties.
With Drive Select in Dynamic, overtaking distances shrink and are more often than not completed in second or third gear. But there can be a split-second delay between lift-off and tip-in before the engine reconnects to the torque surf. As the V8 zooms in on its 7000rpm cut-off, a red upshift blitz will in manual mode alert the driver to click in the next act.
Floor the throttle in preparation for a standing start before stepping off the brake and the quattro system automatically diverts 85 per cent of the twist action to the rear, which squats down a fraction before launching the monster to 100km/h in a rapid 3.8sec. Press on and the RS Q8 surges to 200km/h just 9.9sec later in fifth gear.
The eight-speed auto is ambitiously spaced except for the top two ratios, which are calibrated to cut revs and save fuel at autobahn velocities.
Drive Select accesses vehicle dynamics in a somewhat different manner than the Anima and Ego controls unique to the related Lamborghini Urus. In addition to selecting one of six fixed programs, the driver can tweak the individual characteristics of engine, transmission, steering, air suspension, all-wheel steering, sound pattern and air con to three different parameters labelled Comfort, Balanced and Dynamic.
Your two favourite blends can be stored and summoned by pushing the RS button on the steering wheel, or you can switch to the sporty shifting program by flicking the stubby drive-by-wire gear selector to the left.
Should you feel the itch to leave the beaten track, the lift function increases ground clearance by a useful 90mm.
Fears that our optional show-off wheel and tyre combination might destroy the ride are unfounded; the 295/35 ZR23 footwear is vulnerable but neither knobbly nor noisy.
One optional extra worth having is active anti-roll bars, which improve the ride in a straight line by decoupling the split stabiliser bars while at the same time reducing roll, yaw and pitch through fast corners.
In combination with the pronounced rear torque bias, quattro sport diff and rear-wheel steering, the RS Q8 remains flat and composed almost irrespective of radius, surface and speed. When kicked in the butt, exiting a bend is often accompanied by a faint trace of oversteer, but proper slides only happen on gravel or when ESC is fully deactivated. More than anything, this car loves quick esses and multi-lane roundabouts.
Dislikes? Well, the brakes could do with more initial bite, less effort under full pressure and a later ABS interaction. The engine comes equipped with an electrically assisted charger to compensate for initial turbo lag, but despite this and other mod cons it doesn’t pick up revs eagerly enough from 2500rpm in second and third gears. The flow is more flawless in Dynamic, which encourages faster gearchanges, quicker throttle response and more involving steering action – but coasting is a no-go with the chips locked in this setting.
The future might belong to EVs, but right now the combustion engine still rules, especially in this 600-horsepower turbocharged V8 form. All the same, mild hybrid and cylinder deactivation are part of the package, just in case Greta T drops in for a cuppa.
Testing the mettle of the latest metal on MOTOR reviews
2020 AUDI RS Q8 SPECS
Engine: 3996cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 441kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 800Nm @2200-4500rpm
0-100km/h: 3.8sec (claimed)
Price: $225,000 (est)
Like: Looks; performance; kind of an RS6 for those who still dare to buy an SUV
Dislike: Fuel consumption; weight; price; massive CO2 footprint if you give it stick
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars