8 years or 100,000 miles
Audi delivers a much more credible offering to customers in the sector for full-battery large SUVs with this Q8 e-tron. It looks more sophisticated than its predecessor - and is, with greater range, a new charging system and an eco-trimmed cabin. Most customers will want the sleeker Sportback version, but here we look at this car in more practical SUV form.
Audi doesn't like its products falling behind the technological curve but it's very first EV, the large e-tron SUV, quickly did following its introduction in 2018. Heavy weight, clunky looks and batteries that weren't large enough or dense enough all counted against the e-tron and its slightly sleeker showroom stablemate, the e-tron Sportback. More than a facelift was needed. More than a facelift is what we've got in the shape of this car, the Q8 e-tron. The fundamentals here are the same as those of the old e-tron SUV. And you can still have a swoopier Sportback version, though it's the standard SUV body shape we focus on here. The advanced tri-motor powertrain that featured on top of the range e-tron S models in the previous line-up has been carried over as well - to a meaner-looking SQ8 flagship model. More significant is that the twin electric motor quattro variants further down the range offer a much greater driving distance between charges of their much bigger batteries. Plus there are slight styling and trim changes too. Let's take a closer look.
The reason why not enough people bought the e-tron in its original form wasn't hard to fathom; driving range. The base '50' version could only take you 212 miles, less than some EV superminis. Forget all that now: the offending 71kWh battery of that old car has been junked in favour of the much gutsier 95kWh one of the base Q8 50 e-tron model that takes the car (a still not exemplary) 281 miles. If you want to do better, the pricier Q8 55 e-tron variant your dealer will prefer to persuade you into has a huge 114kWh battery capable of 330 miles between charges, which is much more like it. Both models still have a motor on each axle, hence the quattro four-wheel drive system designation. The rear one though, has been improved, now with 14 coils instead of the previous 12, which pushes power up to 340PS in the Q8 50 e-tron, 27PS more than before. The Q8 55 e-tron has the same 664Nm torque figure, but serves up 408PS. If you want more, you'll be steered towards the top tri-motor SQ8 model, basically the old e-tron S, which means you get an extra motor at the back. With that, there's 503PS and an enormous 973Nm of torque, powering the car to a top speed of 130mph. Across the range, sprightly performance depends on selection of a 'Dynamic' drive mode that rather decimates the quoted range figures; to get closer to those, you'll need to keep more regularly in the drive select system's 'Auto', 'Comfort' or 'Efficiency' settings. Air suspension is standard with all Q8 e-tron variants and the ride height can be adjusted, with the 'Efficiency' mode lowering it by 27mm and 'Off-road' mode (yes, there is one) raising the car by 52mm. The steering's still Q5-derived, while much of the suspension uses Q7 bits. As with other electric cars, the low centre of gravity should help in reducing body roll.
You might not think the styling changes made here over the old e-tron to be that dramatic but they've been enough to usefully benefit the aerodynamics, which on this SUV model have improved from 0.28 to 0.26Cd. That has less to do with the cosmetic updates and more to do with the new underbody spoilers you can't see, mounted until the MLB Evo platform to direct air away from the wheels. The smarter grille also has electronically-controlled cooling ducts and is set within a reprofiled bumper. The LED headlamps gain new functions (an orientation light for country roads and a lane light complete with a direction indicator). The tail lamps have been revised too, above another restyled bumper. You'll find less that's new inside - but less needed doing there. Audi insists it's different though, primarily in its eco-friendliness. Carpets (like the sound deadening material) are made from recycled fibres, the seatbelt buckles are moulded from reused automotive plastic waste and where microfibre upholstery features, it's sourced from recycled plastic bottles. All of it supporting Audi's claim that this is a completely carbon neutral vehicle. Otherwise, it's as you were with the old e-tron, which means a 10.1-inch centre screen and an 8.6-inch lower climate control panel, plus the usual 12.3-inch 'Digital cockpit' instrument display. What else? Well like the Q5 and the Q7, the back seat is comfortable for two but not really for three. In this SUV model, there's a decently-sized 660-litre boot, that's 45-litres bigger than the Q8 Sportback e-tron. And as with that car, you get an extra little carriage compartment at the front where the engine would normally be, though it's mostly taken up by the charging leads. You could put a laptop or a small bag there though.
Prices start at around £68,000 for the base Q8 50 e-tron quattro model with its 95kWh battery, but you'll probably want to stretch to the Q8 55 etron, with its larger 114kWh battery, which prices from around £78,000. Both the '50' and the '55' are offered with a choice of four trim levels - 'Sport', 'S line', 'Black Edition' and 'Vorsprung'. The top SQ8 e-tron is only offered in either 'Black Edition' or 'Vorsprung' trim and prices from £97,500. Those prices all apply to the SUV body shape we're looking at here. With all these models, you'll be offered the option of the swoopier Sportback body style for an extra £2,500. Equipment highlights fitted as standard across the range include adaptive air suspension, quattro all-wheel drive and progressive steering. All models also include heated and electrically adjustable front seats, a windscreen with acoustic glazing, the Audi 'Virtual cockpit' instrument binnacle screen, keyless-go keyless entry and two-zone automatic air conditioning (including remote preconditioning). This enhanced system now allows customers to heat or cool the car, and activate seat heating and ventilation, and window heating all via the myAudi app. A raft of safety equipment also features as standard, including a rear view camera, lane departure warning, camera traffic sign recognition, Audi's 'pre-sense front and basic' safety systems and a parking set-up with 360 sensors. Matrix LED headlamps are standard across the line-up with Digital Matrix LEDs reserved for top-spec 'Vorsprung' versions.
Like its two German premium brand rivals, Audi still hasn't switched to an 800-volt electrical infrastructure for its EVs, the lower-tech 400-volt system continuing here. We gave you the mileage range figures in our 'Driving' section, these stats enhanced not only by larger battery sizes but also by a 20% increase in battery density and a revised stacking process within the battery structure, with altered electrode placement. The new more efficient electric rear motor and the car's now more slippery aerodynamics also help of course. But the usual EV downsides remain. Electric cars are going to be able to go considerably further once someone designs a battery that doesn't weigh them down like a brick. Even the smaller of this Q8 e-tron's two available batteries, that with 95kWh (89kWh usable), tips the scales at 700kgs - which means it accounts for nearly a third of the weight of the whole car. Anyway, you'll want to know about this model's new charging system. The base Q8 50 e-tron variant offers charging performance of up to 150kW; with the 114kWh battery of the Q8 55 e-tron or the SQ8 (106kWh of which is usable), charging performance rises to 170kW. Either way, at a public fast charger, your Q8 e-ton should charge from 10-80% in around half an hour. For a home wallbox or a public AC charger, the Q8 e-tron charges at up to 11kW and if that's not enough, Audi offers an optional AC charging upgrade of up to 22kW. Under ideal conditions, the Q8 50 e-tron can completely charge in around nine hours and 15 minutes on a 11kW power source - and in around four hours and 45 minutes on a 22kW power source. The Q8 55 e-tron's larger battery will charge in around 11 hours and 30 minutes at 11kW - and six hours at 22kW. Insurance groupings range from 44E to 50E.
A completely new design would normally be needed for the kind of seismic step forward Audi has taken here. Instead, we've been given a remarkably far-reaching facelift. Which has been enough to make this Q8 e-tron the kind of credible alternative to a BMW iX or a Mercedes EQE SUV that its predecessor could never have been. It's still a pity that you have to stretch up to the pricier '55' variant to get really decent operating range; and most customers will probably continue to prefer the more avant-garde Sportback version of this car. Still, if you need the practicality of this SUV body style and you can stretch to the larger 114kWh battery, the Q8 e-tron is now a real contender in this class. And a much better showcase for the unique tri-motor technology in the SQ8 model, engineering that rivals still haven't got near to replicating. That's very vorsprung durch technik. Fortunately, now the rest of the range is too.