The new Audi Q8 e-tron models arrive in Australia.
Revised design and aerodynamics, improved charging and greater battery capacity underpin the new Q8 e-tron models, which now headline the brand’s all-electric SUV offering in Australia.
19 October, 2023
The Q8 designation signifies that these models sit at the top of Audi’s e-tron SUV range
First things first, let’s deal with the new naming system for the brand’s ‘Q’ family of e-tron models. The new Audi Q8 e-tron which is now available in Australian dealerships, represents the pinnacle of Audi’s all-electric SUV range in Australia and takes over from the original Audi e-tron which launched here in 2020.
The Q8 designation signifies that these models sit at the top of Audi’s e-tron SUV range, kicking off with the Q8 55 e-tron and Q8 Sportback 55 e-tron which we’ll discuss here shortly, but to be joined Down Under in the new year by other members of the Q8 e-tron family including the SQ8 e-tron and Audi SQ8 Sportback e-tron.
This name change will make things a lot easier once other all-electric Q models begin arriving in Australia in the future, like the luxury, compact Q4 e-tron models which will also begin to make their way to our shores from next year.
In addition to the Audi Q electric models, there are of course the two all-electric GT models already available here, which occupy a different automotive category, but remain, by virtue of the fact that they’re battery electric – an integral part of the Audi e-tron model range.
Right, let’s delve into the new Q8 55 e-tron and Q8 Sportback 55 e-tron models which have recently touched down on Australian shores, bringing with them new equipment, design elements including a new badge treatment as well as improved aerodynamics. They also boast the very latest battery technology, with greater charging capacity and increased battery capacity, as well as more engaging driving dynamics.
Although not a radical departure from the first e-tron models, the Q8 e-tron has its own distinctive look and at first glance, the initial changes are most obvious on the front end. Here, a new Singleframe grille treatment flows from beneath the LED headlights and is flanked by large air intakes, the combination of which gives a feeling of greater width overall. For those who like to really drill down to the details, these models are also the first in Australia to feature the new four ring logo which is a sharper, more two-dimensional design that will feature on all future models.
Although slipperier from an aerodynamic perspective than before (a COD of 0.24 from 0.26 for Sportback and 0.27 from 0.28 for the SUV), the Q8 e-tron in both SUV and Sportback configuration err more to conventional SUV design rather than venturing off into ‘Jetsons’ territory as has been the case with some EV manufacturers.
Although not a radical departure from the first e-tron models, the Q8 e-tron has its own distinctive look
The big, luxury SUV hits 100km/h in just 5.6 seconds from rest on the way to a governed top speed of 200km/h
Sure there are aerodynamic elements if you care to look for them, like the dimpled underside for optimised airflow and even new wheel spoilers on the underfloor (SUV front only, Sportback front and rear) that likewise streamline the airflow around the wheels, but these are seamlessly integrated into the overall, timeless design.
Likewise the wheel options, which start at 20-inch and can be optioned to 21-inch and even up to 22-inch variants, though aerodynamically optimised, they form part of the contemporary design whole as well.
Of course the addition of the brand’s optional virtual side mirrors can’t help but add a futuristic dash to the exterior design as well as further aerodynamic improvement, but even in standard guise, the Q8 e-tron features streamlined weather strip wing mirrors that are both power-adjustable and heated.
All of these aerodynamic improvements coupled with the silent electric drive (one motor each on the front and rear axle) of course make for vehicle that is about as quiet as it’s possible to make – with minimal road noise even riding on big 21-inch wheels on some pretty chopped up Australian B-roads thanks to significant sound deadening around t he luxurious cabin.
With output at maximum boost of 300kW and a serious 664Nm of torque, acceleration in the big, luxury SUV is impressive as you’ve come to expect from Audi’s electric models, with 100km/h just 5.6 seconds from a standing start.
Top speed is governed to 200km/h which is more than enough to separate you from your licence if you’re not careful, while the standard air suspension imparts a cushioned ride that can be firmed right up at the push of a button in the Audi drive select to suit the prevailing conditions and how you feel like tackling the road ahead.
You can choose from seven modes in the Audi drive select – offroad, allroad, auto, efficiency, dynamic, individual and comfort – allowing you to adjust the ride height or leave it to the vehicle to select the optimal ride height and suspension setting for you in the auto mode.
Even with the vehicle dropped by its maximum 26mm on the freeway, you won’t so much notice it, cosseted as you are from the harsh outside world in another trademark Audi luxury interior. But the reduced ride height at speed will improve your maximum range.
On the other hand, you will notice the revised steering in the Q8 e-tron which is firmer and more direct, while the almost perfect front to rear weight distribution and of course the presence of quattro driving all four wheels, give the vehicle a solid, surefooted feel regardless of the conditions or speed.
Despite the battery's increased capacity – from 95kW to 114kW – the battery is physically no larger in the new vehicle
The battery can be charged from 10 percent to 80 percent in 31 minutes
At a shade under five metres in length (4915mm to be precise), and nearly two metres wide (1937mm) the Q8 55 e-tron is no shrinking violet, yet it doesn’t feel big or ungainly from behind the wheel. The bulk of its weight – the battery – has been designed into the floorpan, thus keeping the centre of gravity as low as possible, which works well with the aforementioned direct steering and electric quattro in terms of handling.
Even with its larger capacity battery – now 114kW gross as opposed to the 95kW of the e-tron – the physical space it occupies is no larger than the battery it replaces, rather its greater capacity is achieved through the use of advanced cell technology and chemistry.
That expanded capacity equates to increased DC (Direct Current) charging of an additional 20kW to take it to 170kW which, in the real world means that the battery can be charged from 10 percent to 80 percent in 31 minutes.
The obvious upside of the vehicle’s physical size translates to a veritable spaceship interior that carries up to five adults in trademark Audi luxury as well as 528 litres of luggage space in the Sportback and 569 litres in the SUV. There is also an additional 62 litres of space up front where the traditional engine would have been, which is the perfect place for storing charging cables and the like.
Like the e-tron before it, the new Q8 e-tron incorporates brake recuperation into the drive which regenerates charge and feeds it into the battery. Up to 0.3 g of braking is taken care of using the regeneration system which is essentially the bulk of braking you’d do day to day. You still apply the brake as you would normally but only when you exceed that 0.3 g threshold do the actual brakes spring into action and the feel through the brake pedal remains completely natural regardless of which system is actually slowing the vehicle. You can also play what is often an addictive game of using the pedals on the multi-function wheel to moderate speed much as you would engine braking in an ICE car. But the bonus of this is in adding to the projected range displayed on the virtual cockpit.
To be completely honest, this is one of the few indicators from behind the wheel that you are driving an all-electric Audi as opposed a super quiet, internal combustion model with blistering acceleration. And that is a good thing.
There is no radical change to the way you operate the vehicle, no unfamiliar equipment or configuration that has you hankering for the more familiar. In other words, owning and driving an EV doesn’t mean adapting to living with some futuristic moon buggy.
There is no radical change to the way you operate the vehicle, no unfamiliar equipment or configuration
Everything is satisfyingly intuitive in its operation and very Audi in its finish and attention to detail
Of course the benefits of driving an electric vehicle speak for themselves. The running costs are greatly reduced and you produce no emissions as you drive (so long as you recharge using renewable energy). Acceleration is instantaneous and driving is whisper quiet, but importantly these benefits don’t come at the cost of comfort, luxury or performance. The Q8 e-tron comes fully armed with no less than 40 safety and driver assistance systems and standard equipment across the board is likewise impressive. As always, all of it is easily controlled through Audi’s familiar MMI operating system with its dual touchscreens with haptic feedback, and everything from navigation plus to Audi connect plus, Android Auto, Apple Carplay and Audi phone box light to name just a handful of the systems, are right there at your fingertips.
Everything is satisfyingly intuitive in its operation and very Audi in its finish and attention to detail. Out on the freeway the Q8 e-tron delivers a silky ride and provides effortless overtaking with just a squeeze of the loud pedal – which of course isn’t a loud pedal in an EV. In the confines of town or city driving, that same squirt of instantaneous speed is perfect in the cut and thrust of traffic, while the silence and comfort of the cabin provides a quiet haven from the frenzied city. Certainly the Q8 moniker fits the newest e-tron perfectly, delivering the electric version of the brand’s TFSI model. Indeed for all of the new technology in terms of driveline, aerodynamic design and state-of-the-art onboard equipment, the Q8 e-tron is every inch an Audi.
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