(Pocket-lint) - This is the brand new Audi Q8, the German company's top-end premium SUV, as unveiled at the Audi Brand Summit in Shenzhen, China, on 5 June 2018.
It's no mistake that China was the chosen country to debut the new luxury flagship, as its SUV market is booming, and the Q8 takes no shortcuts when it comes to delivering on quality and tech.
So how does the German marque's Range Rover Sport and BMW X6 competitor stack up? Pocket-lint was at the launch event to sample the premier SUV inside and out...
Design & competition
- SUV-meets-4-door coupe design and styling
- Shorter, wider and lower than Q7 stablemate
- Long wheelbase, at almost 3m long
- Aggressive 3D face with large grilles and intakes
- Slim LED rear strip, to stress the design's waistline
By logic you might think that the Q8 is a biggest-of-the-big SUV, but it's actually smaller than the Audi Q7, which until now had topped the range. The Q8, by contrast, is a more aggressive-looking, sportier, shorter, wider, lower and altogether racy SUV. Just the ticket to take on the Range Rover Sport, Velar, and BMW X6, then.
Which is logically where the Q8 fits into the market. With Range Rover dominating in some territories, BMW and Merc in others, it's about time that Audi gave its take on the premium luxury SUV. And the Q8 is a fitting take.
In its press pictures the car looks nothing but angry; all hard lines, massive grilles, and sharp angles. In the flesh, however, it's got a softer side to its personality; viewed from some angles the Q8 is typically 'Audi' - that's to say there's some sweeping curves to the bonnet, and flexes in the side panels that soften its otherwise muscular frame and huge wheel arches.
To look at the car is a total departure from the blocky Range Rover take, much sharper than the soft-egg BMW X6, yet still visually accessible to appeal to Audi fans and beyond. Audi's target with the car is a broad age range: with buyers in China likely to be mid-30s, those in the UK mid-50s, it's arguably lead designer, Marc Lichte's, first success in delivering a marriage of cutting-edge design that's firmly rooted in a recognisable past. It's an adept, sharp and easily accessible design from all angles.
The rear, in particular, brings together Audi's new design vision, avoiding the overly rounded, droopy look of old for a much stiffer, muscular rear-end. But it's the single, slim LED light strip - which complements the brake lights, similar to the Audi A8 - that really sets the design off.
Tech, interior & comfort
- Audi MMI (multimedia interface) in piano black design, 10.1-inch and 8.6-inch dual screen combination
- Wrap-around dash integrates touchscreem tech seamlessly, much like A8
- Audi Virtual Cockpit driver display
- 5-seat configuration only (not 7-seat like Q7)
Open the driver's door and the Q8 is a cabin of luxury as standard. In a similar vein to the A8 saloon, the Q8 SUV delivers a wrap-around dashboard with integrated touchscreen controls, dressed in piano black, that are almost invisible.
Place a foot on the pedal, however, and everything lights up, juxtaposing the glinting cutting-edge tech with a far more subdued cabin of stitched leather and contrasting aluminium - which, by the way, comes as standard. And if you want to up the quality even more then there's the S Line configuration for S logo seats, alcantara upholstery, or Valcona leather (available for extra).
It's a comfortable place to sit, obviously far higher-up in position than the A8, for a commanding position. The Q8 doesn't feel nearly as open or roomy as the A8, however, which might come as a surprise - but then the SUV is some 30cm shorter than the executive saloon, which obviously makes all the difference. The rear seats have good headroom, though.
But the real feature of focus inside is the tech on offer. Audi's MMI setup has evolved over the years, with touchscreens (and haptic feedback) being the most up-to-date implementation. It looks fantastic, there's no doubt about that, but as we said of the A8, with so much touch-based control, it can be hard to find what you're looking for when digging through the menus. Almost everything is controlled in this way, although the steering wheel buttons do offer some respite with their shortcuts. Still, we've not driven the Q8 just yet, so how natural its tech integration will feel is something we'll save judgement on until we've got it on the road for a first drive.
Our favourite tech feature is the Audi Virtual Cockpit. This driver's side digital display beyond the steering wheel acts as a great at-a-glance window. It's fully adjustable, too, so whether you want to see navigation, or your current playlist, the choice is yours. What's particularly great about that in this configuration is the main touschcreen to the side can then remain available for quick taps to control climate and all those other little but important things.
In short, the Q8 is a technological powerhouse from the off, with smatterings of high-end materials to match. It's perfectly comfortable for four adults, even if it's not as big as its A8 counterpart.
Drive, price & availability
- Engine: V6 diesel 50 TDI, 286ps: 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds, 144mph top speed
- Future engine options: V6 petrol 55 TFSI and V6 45 TDI, due 2019
- Features 48V mild hybrid system, like A8, for greater efficiency
- Quattro (all-wheel drive) and all-wheel steering as standard
- Price and availability: 'summer 2018' in UK, from £TBC
Being sat behind the wheel is one thing, actually driving the car would be quite another. And on the event floor at the Audi Brand Summit, there was certainly nowhere to take the Q8 for a drive! For that we'll have to wait a little longer.
What we do know, however, is that when the SUV launches in summer 2018 - there's no more specific date, nor starting price, available - it'll come with a V6 diesel engine option only. Two petrols will follow in 2019. No word on fuller hybrid/electric solutions, however, with the Audi e-tron currently leading the way in that department.
That's not to say the Q8 doesn't benefit from some electrification. Just like the A6 and A8, the Q8 has a 48V mild hybrid system used for efficiency, which can allow the car to coast and disengage the combusion engine from time to time, while regenerating some energy through braking. This system operates upwards of 34mph, all the way to 100mph.
Audi being Audi - and its 50th 'Vorsprung durch Technik' slogan birthday is incoming - the Q8 is also Quattro all-wheel drive, showing off true SUV credentials. There's all-wheel steering as standard, too, which ought to keep the car extra sharp... just like its looks.
So just how good is the premium new SUV from Audi? On the face of it, its unique looks, top-end tech, and 5-door proposition give it a niche in among its boring-looking BMW X6, and boxy-looking Range Rover Sport competition. If you're looking for something equally different, for other reasons, then the Alfa Romeo Stelvio might take your SUV fancy instead.
Audi beign Audi, however, we suspect there will be a heap of options that may see the price head north for the best-of-best finishes, sound and safety systems. Such options are second-to-none, mind, which ought to help this new SUV secure a firm position in among its existing peers... if you've got the cash.
There's not too long to wait either: with the car due in a matter of months, we strongly suspect that it'll be a head-turning and increasingly frequent sighting on roads the world over. However, there's no official starting price just yet - but you can register your interest with Audi direct should you want to get on a waitlist to be one of the first to own 2018's premier SUV.