The Audi Q8 is one of those large coupe-style SUVs, part of a genre pioneered by BMW a decade ago with their X6 and subsequently copied by Mercedes. Audi's considered solution for fashion-orientated folk browsing in this segment is Q7-based and very Vorsprung durch technic. Especially in this updated form.
In this century's second decade, the Volkswagen Group's MLB Evo platform spawned lots of luxury SUVs. First, we had the Audi Q7, then the Bentley Bentayga, the Porsche Cayenne, the Volkswagen Touareg and the Lamborghini Urus. Finally, in 2018, we came back full circle to another Audi, a derivative of the Q7, this swoopier Q8, first launched in 2018. The Q8 was Audi's entry into the large sector SUV-coupe market, started in the Noughties by the BMW X6, which was then followed by the Mercedes GLE Coupe. The latest versions of both of those two rivals have received facelifts in recent years, so the Q8 has had one too, a car that these days sells alongside a completely separate EV model, the unrelated Q8 e-tron. Here though, we're looking at the combustion Q8, which continues to roll of the VW Group's Slovakian Bratislava production line (alongside the Q7, the Cayenne and the Touareg) and shares the same wheelbase and cabin width as its large Audi stablemate. The driveway demeanour though, is very different here, the emphasis on fashion, rather than family. It's pointless asking whether we really need this kind of car. People want them. Audi's made one. Is it any good? Let's find out.
Given that Audi's no longer developing combustion engines, it's no surprise to find that there are no changes beneath the bonnet of this revised Q8. The mainstream units are all V6s, engines that were already fitted with the brand's 48V mild hybrid system with its belt-driven starter motor. Across the range, your transmission will be an 8-speed Tiptronic auto. And of course there's standard quattro 4WD, which divides torque front-to-rear in a 40:60-split. When required, it transfers the majority of power to the axle with the better traction. In defiance of the current zeitgeist, the 3.0-litre TDI diesel continues as the primary powerplant, offered with 286PS in the 50 TDI model. This diesel puts out a hefty 600Nm of pulling power and accelerates this large SUV from 0 to 62mph in 6.1 seconds on its way to a top speed of 150mph. For petrol people, there's also a 3.0-ltre six cylinder unit (no longer offered here in PHEV 'TFSIe' form). A conventional 340PS version of this engine remains though (in the 55 TFSI), which makes 62mph in 5.6s en route to 155mph. If that's insufficient, Audi also offers two conventionally-engined 4.0-litre petrol sporting models, the 507PS SQ8. And the 600PS V8 petrol RS Q8. Adaptive air suspension with controlled damping is a standard feature, with a sport set-up. This further improvers the supple ride you can expect from the aluminium five-link front and rear suspension. It can be adjusted to four modes with the Audi drive select dynamic handling system, varying the ride height of the body by up to 90mm. Q8 buyers also get standard 'progressive steering' which becomes increasingly direct as the steering angle increases.
The visual changes made here are subtle but effective - a restyled front grille with revised air intakes and standard-fit LED hedlamps (with optional Matrix beams) which now have a revised daytime running light signature. The rear LED tail light design has been updated and trim pieces like the door surrounds, the underside guard and the rear diffuser are finished in contrasting colours to designate the various trim levels. Otherwise, it's as you were. Audi's understandably keen to point out the differences between this Q8 and the more conservative, family-oriented Q7 model it's mechanically based upon. Its coupe-style roof line makes it appear much lower than that sister model and it's 66mm shorter and 27mm wider. Plus there's a more distinctive front end, a shorter rear overhang and a mighty set wheels, which now vary between 20 and 23-inches in size. Thanks to the frameless doors, the coupe-type roof line stretches low across the vehicle body visually, ending in a long roof spoiler. The roof line arches slightly towards the flat sloping, strong D-pillars, which are supported by wide, muscular contours. Inside, this improved model isn't much different, so as before there's the now familiar dashboard black-panel look common to all current like Audis, with twin stacked centre screens, a Virtual Cockpit instrument display and main controls that almost dissolve into the fascia's large, black surface when switched off. The brand has now widened the range of apps available on the MMI infotainment system to include third party providers like Spotify and Amazon Music. Of course, this coupe-style model doesn't provide the Q7's third row of seating, but Audi insists that there's ample room for five people, pointing out that the interior space exceeds that of the direct competitors in almost all relevant dimensions. The luggage compartment holds 605-litres, which increases to 1,755-litres with the rear backrests folded down. Two golf bags can easily fit in diagonally.
In the mainstream Q8 range, there are three trim levels - 'S line', 'Black Edition' and 'Vorsprung'. Pricing starts at around £75,000 for either the 50 TDI 3.0-litre diesel variant or the 55 TFSI petrol model. That's very competitive with this model's two main rivals, the BMW X6 and the Mercedes GLE Coupe. Pricing starts at around £97,000 for the SQ8 and around £110,000 for the RS Q8. Standard equipment across the Q8 range is, as you'd imagine, is very comprehensive. Like all top Audis, this one gets the brand's 'MMI navigation plus' infotainment system, which uses the latest LTE Advanced standard for data transfer. The navigation system offers intelligent destination suggestions based on previous journeys. Luxury is of the highest order but many owners will want to embellish the standard kit list with niceties like the optional 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. As is usual nowadays, there's autonomous driving tech too, most of it included in the optional 'Tour assist' package which gives you adaptive cruise assist (a feature that provides longitudinal and lateral control in all speed ranges) and 'efficiency assist' (which uses sat nav data to automatically adjust your Q8's speed to the current speed limit and automatically reduces your speed before corners, during turning and on roundabouts to lower fuel consumption. Plus there's 'Emergency assist' which takes control of the car if you're taken ill and safely stops it automatically.
The Q8's primary 50 TDI 3.0-litre diesel engine uses mild hybrid technology, integrating a lithium-ion battery and a belt alternator starter into a 48-volt primary electrical system for greater efficiency. The rechargeable battery is located underneath the luggage compartment floor and stores 10 Ah of electrical capacity. That allows this Audi to coast between 34 and 99mph with the engine switched off; when you brush the throttle, the belt alternator starter restarts the engine quickly and during deceleration can recover up to 12kW of energy. The start-stop range starts as low as 13mph. Let's get to the WLTP figures. For the 50 TDI variant, the combined fuel figure is 33.2mpg and the CO2 reading is 222g/km. The alternative 55 TFSI petrol variant manages up to 26.4mpg (combined) and up to 243g/km of CO2. The previous 55 TFSIe Plug-in hybrid variant is no longer offered here. The SQ8 manages up to 22.4mpg and 287g/km of CO2. What else? Well bear in mind that all versions of this car will be subject to the government's tax levy for models costing over £40,000. That stands at £450 a year for the first five years of ownership. And of course, as with all modern diesel cars, the TDI versions of this one use an AdBlue fuel additive, stored in a separate rear tank that'll need to be topped up as part of regular servicing. Talking of maintenance, servicing your Q8 should be no more taxing than is the case with one of the company's smaller cars. As usual with Audi models, there's a choice of either a 'Fixed' or a 'Flexible' servicing regime, the choice between the two depending on the extent of your likely annual mileage.
You can see why Audi felt it had to build this car, though it's a little hard to understand why it took the brand until 2018 to bring it to market. Despite this delay, the original Q8 never brought anything radically new to the fashionable formula undergirded this sort of car and of course, this updated version doesn't either. Even so, the Q8 does still manage to bring buyers seduced by this class-conscious category something a bit different. Turn up to a business meeting in an X6 or a Mercedes GLE Coupe and some might dismiss you as a showy extrovert. Arrive in a Q8 and the impact would be a touch more subtle. For some, that will be important, particularly as this Audi is - in its own way - just as stylish and avant garde as its two main Teutonic arch-rivals. If you want one of these, then probably nothing else will do. Which is exactly as it should be when it comes to this class of car.