First Drive

First Drive: Audi Q8 50 TDI Quattro

The story:
Audi has finally brought out a rival to the likes of the BMW X6 and Range Rover Sport with a sleeker version of its largest SUV
Category:Large SUV
Key rival:BMW X6
Audi Q8 50 TDI quattro S line
On sale:Now

Audi’s bid to cover every possible letter and number combination continues apace with the arrival of the new Q8. As the Q in the name suggests, this is an SUV, while the 8 denotes that it is a pretty large one at that.

It isn’t quite the largest SUV that Audi makes, though, because its sister Q7 holds on to that title. The Q8 is set apart by its sleeker styling – this is an SUV that has been given a bit of a coupe twist.

Audi Q8 - 2018 - Image 10Audi’s not the first to this class, and it has learned from others’ mistakes. One glance at the Q8 shows that this is far more than just a Q7 with a sweeping boot line with compromised rear headroom and luggage space; it’s been restyled significantly, with the frameless doors a stand-out feature. The quest for aesthetic perfection does mean that the boot takes a slight hit on overall capacity, but while it is notably smaller than the Q7’s at 605 litres, it is still bigger than the BMW X6’s and offers an excellent, even space.

The room in the back seats is fantastic, too, with just as much space as the Q7’s, which means this feels very much like an elevated limousine. The swoop cuts into the boot rather than the back headroom, so three tall passengers will fit with ease. There is even enough space for the one in the middle seat, which is often something that such style-led models lack.

Audi Q8 - 2018 - Image 11This limo-like essence extends to many other elements of the Q8. The single diesel engine is gloriously quiet. So much so that when you are cruising along and the new micro-hybrid system cuts out the combustion engine, it is almost impossible to tell when you are being carried along by battery and when it is diesel. This system does help boost efficiency, but CO2 emissions at 178g/km and fuel economy of 41.5mpg are high, and only marginally better than the equivalent figures of the six-cylinder diesel BMW.

One new element that enhances the driving experience is the optional four-wheel-steer system. While it might make turns marginally more rapid on the move, it is at low speeds that it comes into its own, reducing the turning circle by a full metre.

The only downside to the driving experience is the auto gearshift, which changes with a bit too much urgency sometimes, even in the more relaxed driving modes. It can end up giving you a bit of a wallop in the small of the back if you are looking to overtake, which does illustrate how much power there is on offer.

Audi Q8 - 2018 - Image 5The interior quality is sublime, with some glorious touches around the well-appointed cabin. The seats and dash materials are excellent, while the dash is practically absent of buttons – Audi has chosen to make it so that the infotainment system is controlled almost exclusively through a pair of touch screens. Drivers who hanker after a climate control button they can reach for on the move will be disappointed by how fiddly this is.

Quibbles like this aren’t big enough to distract from what is a truly luxurious SUV, if a somewhat pricey one.

tom webster

The verdict

Big, luxurious and good to drive, there are fewer compromises to this coupe-like SUV than in rivals’ versions.