Driving the Audi Q8
Behind the wheel of the new Audi Q8.
13 December, 2018
The cabin is so wide – your front-seat passenger seems to be sitting in another postcode
It looks so striking and aggressive at the kerb, and yet surprises with just how quiet and smooth and refined it is on the move, with an eerie absence of road roar (even on our coarse bitumen surfaces) and barely a hint of wind noise. These are the boxes that engineers – and buyers of luxury vehicles – love to tick.
Getting comfortable in the Q8 is easy thanks to the nicely shaped and supportive seats, with power adjustment every which way. The cabin is so wide – your front-seat passenger seems to be sitting in another postcode – while the three perched in the back have that desirable elevated view of the road and scenery. Kids in particular, appreciate the ‘mezzanine' seating.
And then the fun begins…
The 55 TFSI petrol engine is a subtle delight. The lashings of torque, all 500Nm of it, starting down low in the revs with the eight speeder unerringly and smartly and smoothly finding the right gear for the task, delivering power to all four wheels via the clever quattro drivetrain with centre differential. In regular driving, the power is divided to the front and rear wheels 40:60 respectively, but during livelier motoring up to 70 percent might be sent to the front and 85 percent to the rear as needed.
Audi’s mild hybrid technology with 48-volt belt alternator starter, 48-volt main electrical system and lithium ion battery plays an important role in saving fuel and harvesting recuperative energy, not that anyone aboard is really aware. It just operates quietly in the background, coasting with the engine deactivated with a consumption reduction of up to 0.7-litres per 100 kilometres.
The Q8’s sportier styling is accompanied by a firmer suspension. Adaptive suspension is standard while adaptive air suspension is available as an option, lowering or raising the SUV to suit the driving task and capable of up to 254mm ground clearance. Dynamic all-wheel steering, to aid manoeuvrability, is another option we tried.
The familiar Audi drive select choices have broadened to seven with the Q8. The settings alter the ride and handling feel, with a general bias towards dynamic driving. Should you need to head the Q8 down a rutted dirt track, there’s an off-road mode which raises the suspension 50mm from normal. In this scenario the driver welcomes quattro, the short overhangs, standard hill descent control and tilt-angle display.
We tried the optioned-up Q8 on some bumpy gravel tracks and despite the compromise 225/35 tyres on 22-inch alloys, the poise was unchallenged, the ride comfort barely affected.
Even in drive select’s comfort or auto modes, the Q8 maintains composure and control over the lumps and bumps of Australian rural bitumen roads. The dynamic choice is noticeably firmer and sharper, with a 40mm lowering of the suspension.
Though weighing a substantial 2145 kilograms, the Q8 is nevertheless a swift and effortless cruiser that makes a happy snack of accurate cornering and safe overtaking.
The tale of the clock for the 55 TFSI is zero-100km/h in a brisk 5.9 seconds, with the official combined fuel number coming in at 9.2 litres/100km.
The familiar Audi drive select choices have broadened to seven with the Q8
The MMI touch response operating concept means most functions can be accessed via two large central displays
The optional dynamic steering package, including variable ratio and all-wheel steering, gives certain driving and parking benefits. At low speeds, it can turn the rear wheels as much as five degrees counter to the direction of the turn, reducing the steering effort as well as the turning circle of the Q8 by approximately 1.1-metres. At higher speeds, the response sharpens and the whole rig is just that much more agile and stable.
The cabin is of course a wonderland of technology, a playground for the curious. Clarity and user friendliness are the operational catchphrases. The MMI touch response operating concept means most functions can be accessed via two large central displays. The upper 10.1-inch display in the fascia is used for controlling the infotainment and the navigation system. The 8.6-inch screen below is used by the driver for heating and air conditioning, convenience functions and text input, using a finger tip. It’s quick and simple, with a tactile and acoustic click confirming when you’ve activated a function. You get the hang of it very smartly.
The driver can also use natural language voice control to turn the Q8 into an intelligent listener. Voice commands include the colloquial. So, as well as “Take me to an Italian restaurant”, when you say “I need a bathroom”, yes, the Q8 guidance will direct you to a toilet stop.
Audi’s latest fully digital Audi virtual cockpit with its high-resolution 12.3-inch display directly in front of the driver is also worth a fiddle, and can be switched between two views via the multifunction steering wheel.
The head up display in the driver’s line-of-sight with the road ahead, instantly provides at-a-glance info, including detailed lane guidance for navigation.
Driver assistance systems are getting inexorably more fool-proof and useful, no better example being the Q8’s standard adaptive cruise assist which is a boon on long trips. Monitoring your safety, the technology includes long range radar and four mid-range radars, front camera, 360-degree cameras, night vision camera and 12 ultra sonic sensors.
Incorporating the functions of adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist and active lane assist, the system detects lane markings, roadside structures, vehicles in adjacent lanes and vehicles driving ahead. By instantly analysing sensor information and navigation data, the adaptive cruise slows or accelerates the Q8, automatically adjusting to the current speed limit. Noticeable in the latest system is the clever, predictive nature of the Audi. The acceleration and braking are not abrupt; the Q8 reduces the speed before corners, during turning and on roundabouts. The system always considers a driving style in keeping with the selected driving program, from efficient to sporty, while supporting the advantages of the mild hybrid technology (MHEV).
We also tried the useful elevated 360-degree cameras which make parking in tight spots so much easier. No excuse now for putting a mark on those alloys.
The 1920 watt, 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System brings fascinating 3D sound to all five seats, the music replicated, we’re assured, exactly as it was recorded in the concert hall. Or in Apple studios. Or Motown.
While the cabin of the Q8 can be a luxurious amusement parlour, real appreciation of the new SUV comes when you slide behind the wheel. The Q8 also has an exuberant personality that will appeal to people who enjoy driving and who also see their stylish Audi as an extension of their adventurous personalities.
real appreciation of the new SUV comes when you slide behind the wheel.
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