The Audi Q8 is a big luxury SUV that is aimed at people who just don’t need a seven-seater, and are more focused on style than outright practicality.
It’s essentially a competitor to the likes of the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, though the design of the Q8 isn’t as exaggeratedly swoopy as those two. In fact, you might prefer to consider how it lines up against a Range Rover Sport.
It isn’t a coupe-style SUV, but it also kind of is. That’s what’s most interesting about the design of the Q8, which has muscular haunches, a huge grille with a polarising silver trim ‘mask’ around it (which thankfully can be had in gloss black, too), and a body that may look familiar to you if you like big luxury SUVs.
It's body may look familiar to the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga - that’s because they've got some stuff in common.
If you squint there’s a bit of family resemblance, but the Q8 is convincingly different enough to justify some attention in its own right.
That’s because it’s got some stuff in common with the likes of the Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga, which share some underbody components. If you squint there’s a bit of family resemblance, but the Q8 is convincingly different enough to justify some attention in its own right.
There are standard-fit LED headlights and daytime running lights, plus massive 21-inch wheels that fill those copious arches. And if those aren’t big enough, there are optional 22-inch alloys, too.
The lines that run the length of the body aren’t over the top, and the beautifully named “blisters” that run over the tops of the wheel arches are pronounced, but not shouty. The tail-light garnish really accentuates the broadness of the Q8, and in an interesting styling highlight, the big Audi has pillar-less doors - hello Subarus from the 1990s!
The beautifully named “blisters” that run over the tops of the wheel arches are pronounced, but not shouty.
The tail-light garnish really accentuates the broadness of the Q8.
It’s exceptional to look at from the outside, with a strong road presence that helps it stand out from the round-edged Q5 and Q7 models that sit below it. The dimensions definitely help out in that regard - the Q8 is 66mm shorter than Q7 at 4986mm long, and has the same wheelbase (2995mm). It is 2190mm wide (up 27mm on Q7), but sits 1705mm tall (38mm shorter).
The interior? Well, there’s quite a bit of pleasantness there, too. Check out the interior images for yourself.
If you’re considering the Q8 as an alternative to the Tardis-like Q7, you’ll be upset. It may pay to think of it as a slightly larger Q5 in terms of cabin space, because despite its imposing dimensions, the Q8 is cosier inside than you might think.
That isn’t to say it’s small or cramped. Not at all. And the raked roofline of the Q8 isn’t as big an imposition on passenger comfort and space as it is in its direct German competitors.
For someone my height - 182cm - there’s enough headroom in the rear seat to be comfortable with a similarly sized driver in front, and the legroom and foot room is well considered, too. The back seat slides fore and aft in a 60:40 ratio, up to 100mm, so if you have smaller back-seaters, you can allow for a bigger boot space.
Storage is well considered for all occupants, with bottle-sized door pockets all around, cupholders between the seats (in a flip-down armrest in the back), plus some extra loose item and covered storage up front -along with a wireless phone charger in the centre console.
And in terms of boot space and luggage capacity, the Q8 is better than many SUVs in the class; with the seats pushed all the way back there is 606 litres of space available, and should you need more space, the second-row slide function liberates 75L more (total: 681L). That expands to 1755L with the rear seats folded down (which can be done in a 40:20:40 ratio, making for easy stowage of skis or other long items).
Up front, there are comfortable seats with nice amenities.
There’s enough headroom in the rear seat to be comfortable with a similarly sized driver in front, and the legroom and foot room is well considered, too.
The Q8's boot can fluctuate between a minimum of 606L of space to a 1755L maximum.
Up front, there are comfortable seats with nice amenities, and the design of the dashboard is neat and tidy. Very minimalist.
As for the tech interface and media screens, there is some learning required to get the hang of how to use them. The top screen controls the media and navigation function, while the lower one manages climate and car controls. Both are touchscreens, but both have haptic feedback which makes it feel like you’re hitting a physical button rather than the screen.
The resolution of both screens is lovely, with superb 3D mapping and even a surround-view camera system that uses AI to give you a 3D view of the car and its surroundings.
But the menus aren’t as intuitive as they could be - things like the fact you have a lane keeping assistance button that sits separate to the rest of the safety controls, and that’s separate again to the button on the end of the indicator stalk that adapts the active cruise control/lane keeping system. There’s a voice control system if you think the screens will be too distracting to use while on the move.
One issue with fit and finish - the dash top didn’t align perfectly with the plastic below in all cars present on test, whether equipped with the standard plastic dash finish or the optional leather-trimmed version. It’s something that’s hard to un-see.
The Q8 55 TFSI undercuts the closest BMW X6 (50i - $153,619) and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe (AMG 43 - $145,830) by $24,719 and $16,930 respectively. That’s good news in anyone’s book.
There is some learning required to get the hang of using the tech interface and media screens.
The top screen (pictured) controls the media and navigation function...
...while the lower one (pictured) manages climate and car controls.
Both touchscreens feature haptic feedback which makes it feel like you’re hitting a physical button rather than the screen.
The resolution is lovely, with superb 3D mapping.
The Q8 features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.
As for the diesel version, there’s a more affordable X6 (xDrive30d - $119,900) and GLE Coupe (350d - $126,330), and it’s a fair statement that you can get a Range Rover Sport petrol or diesel for less, and the base Porsche Cayenne petrol is more affordable, too. But it’s the standard equipment levels that impress with the big Audi SUV.
Audi is offering a number of optional extras if the standard stuff isn’t enough, including the Premium Plus package ($11,000) that bundles a bunch of goodies that customers typically want when shopping for a high-end model in the range. It includes 22-inch wheels, adaptive air suspension, privacy glass (tinted windows), HD Matrix LED headlights with dynamic indicators front and rear, quad-zone climate control with a rear touchscreen display, and LED interior ambient lighting.
Audi’s 12.3-inch 'Virtual Cockpit' instrument cluster comes in as standard.
There are two Bang & Olufsen stereo upgrades (the more exxy of which has 23 speakers and costs $12,100).
All Q8's feature wireless charging for mobile devices.
Other add-ons you might want to consider include a panoramic sunroof ($3550), massage front seats ($1050), a choice of two Bang & Olufsen stereo upgrades (the more exxy of which has 23 speakers and costs $12,100), and the 'Dynamic Steering' package ($4500) with all-wheel steering and variable ratio steering rack, and which is worth the money in terms of the drive experience. More on that below.
And the safety gear list? How does a total of 39 driver assist features sound? Check out the safety section below for the detailed breakdown.
Colour choices include two no-cost options ('Night Black' and 'Carrara White'), while the optional 'Daytona Grey' pearl effect and metallic 'Glacier White', 'Floret Silver', 'Orca Black', 'Galaxy Blue', 'Navarra Blue', 'Dragon Orange' and 'Argus Brown' will set you back an extra $2300.
The Q8 is powered with either a 3.0-litre, 250kW/500Nm twin-turbo V6 petrol or a 3.0-litre, 210kW/620Nm turbo-diesel.
For context, the equivalent Benz GLE 43 has 287kW/520Nm and does the sprint in 5.7sec (claimed), while the BMW gets a stonking 4.4L turbo V8 in 50i spec with 330kW and 650Nm, with a resulting sprint claim of 4.8sec. Yeah, so those two are a bit speedier - is that enough to justify the additional expense?
If petrol vs diesel is important to you, here’s how the 50 TDI stacks up: it has a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine with 210kW of power and 620Nm of torque, and again has an eight-speed auto and quattro AWD. Audi claims a 0-100km/h time of 6.3sec for this model.
It employs 48-volt mild hybrid technology which is said to decrease consumption by 0.7L/100km, so it could have been even thirstier, theoretically. The system is able to shut the engine down and coast at speeds between 55-160km/h for up to 40 seconds, and it can also shut the engine of when decelerating at speeds of 22km/h or less.
Our drive route - which included twisty mountain roads, city driving, flowing country roads and about 30km of dirt/gravel - saw an indicated return of 10.5L/100km. That’s not bad at all.
The Q8 55 TFSI requires 95RON premium unleaded petrol, and it has a fuel tank capacity of 85 litres.
If petrol vs diesel is something you’re weighing up, the fuel use figure for the Q8 50 TDI is a bit better, claimed at 6.7L/100km.
It’s rare for a brand like Audi to offer up the chance to drive a pricey model like the Q8 in a spec that is basically free of options, but that was what I started with. And it was good, but not great.
With the standard steering system and the standard steel springs paired to adaptive dampers, the Q8 felt rather large through a series of twisting bends, with a bit of body lean and a tendency to feel like it wanted to push on a bit rather than bite harder in the corners. The traction was good, though, with a firm footprint and all-wheel drive ensuring things were kept under control.
Things were markedly more impressive in the model with the dynamic steering pack with four-wheel steering.
Things were markedly more impressive in the model with the dynamic steering pack with four-wheel steering. Its behaviour in the bends was noticeably different. It tucked into the corners more, with a quicker steering action that made the big SUV shrink around you, making it feel like it had been on Lite n' Easy.
And it’s not just at higher speeds on challenging roads that you can feel the effect of the four-wheel steering, it also works to reduce the turning circle by 1.1m at lower speeds by allowing up to five degrees of steering (the opposite angle to the front wheels) to be applied at the back axle. That lower-speed turning circle improvement is worthy of mention, because otherwise the radius (at 13.3m with the standard steering) is worse than some dual-cab utes.
That model also had the adaptive air suspension setup, which offered a very similar ride quality to the normal car despite sitting atop 22-inch rims. Both were comfortable in Comfort mode, and predictably more chuckable in Dynamic, though the air suspension version looked a lot meaner when the latter mode was selected as it drops the body by about 40mm over those huge rims.
The Q8's big wheels didn’t crunch or crash too hard into pockmarked gravel roads, and the handling was predictable.
There’s an off-road mode, which Audi labels Allroad, and it eases up the traction control and ABS as well as adjusting the reactiveness of the steering, throttle and transmission. In the version with airbag suspension the body rises up to allow a huge 254mm of ground clearance - 50mm more than standard running height.
Not that an off-road review is overly important in a car like this, but my stint was confined to the model without airbag suspension and it still had good running clearance, the big wheels didn’t crunch or crash too hard into pockmarked gravel roads, and the handling was predictable.
The quietude of the cabin hits the Luxury Level for sound insulation, with only a bit of tyre roar and some wind noise from the large wing mirrors at highway speed. It’s mostly very hushed and very pleasant.
But that might be a bit of a disappointment to some; the sound of the V6 engine is muted, and never really sounds as enticing as you might want it to. This is a big, brash, Look At Me SUV, but it never feels it from the driver’s seat, because there’s no rasping or raucousness when it revs. Maybe we’ll have to wait for an even sportier version to bring the noise…
And the engine itself is willing, but slightly inhibited by the weight of this big truck. It is refined and certainly powerful enough, but doesn’t quite hit the ‘wow that’s fast’ benchmark that you’d get in the V8-powered Bimmer.
The engine itself is willing, but slightly inhibited by the weight of this big truck.
My biggest driving annoyance was the lane keeping assist system - not just how it’s a separate button to the rest of the assist systems, but that it triggers back on whenever you stop the engine. I found myself hitting the button every single time I got into a different car or back into the driver’s seat, because the system makes the steering feel unbearably artificial and interruptive.
Happily, if you are purchasing one of these vehicles, Audi can set it up so that the button is a ‘steering assist on’ switch rather than ‘steering assist off’.
Of course there’s also the expected array of airbags (dual front, front-side, rear-side, full-length curtain) and the rear seat has dual ISOFIX and three top tether baby seat attachment points.
There’s no ANCAP crash test rating for the Audi Q8, and it hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP either. That’s why it gets an 8/10 for this section. If it scores the full five stars, this criterion score could bump even higher.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
3 years / unlimited km warranty
Audi Australia offers a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. That’s about average for the luxury car segment, but falls short when you consider what mainstream brands are moving towards (five years or more). The argument - and it’s a valid one - is that most luxury car buyers don’t hang onto their cars for more than three years anyway.
At the time of writing, Audi hadn’t announced official pricing for its capped price service plan, which is called Service Plan Pricing, but it must be pre-purchased at the time of delivery (the good news is that you can roll that cost into your finance package).
For three years/45,000km of servicing, you can expect to pay about $2000 - meaning the average cost is $666 per 12-month/15,000km visit.
You get included roadside assist as part of the ownership plan. It spans the cover of the warranty.
The Audi Q8 is a compelling and impressive new entrant into the luxury SUV fray, and it deserves to do well considering the pricing and specification on offer. I have no doubt that an even more enticing version of the Q8 - be it an SQ8 or RS Q8 - is on its way, and it’s bound to be even more impressive again.
Would you choose the Audi Q8 over one of its German rivals? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.