SHENZHEN, China – Audi further bolsters its SUV ranks with the long-awaited unveiling of the new Q8 at a media presentation held recently here.
Previewed by the earlier Q8 Concept and Q8 Sport Concept, the new five-seat model aims to compete with the likes of the BMW X6, Range Rover Sport and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe with a combination of mild-hybrid gasoline and diesel drivelines, luxurious interior appointments and advanced autonomous driving assistant functions.
Sporting a bold new octagonal grille with both horizontal and vertical slats as well as prominent wheel arches, frameless doors and a distinctive coupe-like silhouette, the Q8 is claimed to set the stylistic tone for a whole new generation of SUV models from Audi, including the upcoming pure-electric e-tron quattro and next year’s smaller Q4.
Sascha Heyde, head of exterior design for the Q8, says the team commissioned to design the new SUV model was asked to make it immediately recognizable on the road and ensure it is suitable to act as a halo for the rest of the German automaker’s lineup.
Along with its bold appearance, the new Q8 brings a number of new technical flourishes to Audi’s SUV stable, including adaptive LED headlamps and a full-width LED light bar across its rear. It’s also the first Audi model to offer buyers the choice of 22-in. wheels.
Based on the same platform as the second-generation Q7, Bentley Bentayga, third-generation Porsche Cayenne, third-generation Volkswagen Touareg and Lamborghini Urus, Audi claims the Q8 makes extensive use of aluminum within its body structure, although it has yet to provide a curb weight figure.
The fifth Audi model to wear the Q badge also rides on the same 5-link front and 5-link rear suspension as its various Volkswagen Group siblings. Available with optional air springs, it offers up to seven different driving modes through a Drive Select function. It alters the damping, steering and engine characteristics ranging from a low-speed off-road setting offering up to 10 ins. (254 mm) of ground clearance through to a sporty on-road mode.
The Q8 receives the same 118.1-in. (3,000-mm) wheelbase as the Q7, but it is 2.4 ins. (61 mm) shorter, 1.2 ins. (30 mm) wider and a similar 1.2 ins. lower than its more upright sibling at 196.5 ins. (4,991 mm) in overall length, 78.7 ins. (1,999 mm) wide and 67.3 ins. (1,709 mm) tall.
By comparison, the existing second-generation BMW X6 measures a respective 193.8 ins. (4,923 mm), 78.3 ins. (1,989 mm) and 67.0 ins. (1,702 mm).
The Q7 offers the choice of either a five- or seven-seat interior layout, but the Q8 will be sold in all markets exclusively with a five-seat interior. Cargo capacity for the new flagship Audi SUV is put at a nominal 21.4 cu.-ft. (606 L) – some 5.8 cu.-ft. (164 L) less than the second-generation Q7 when the rear seats are in place, according to Audi, rising to 62.0 cu.-ft. (1,756 L) when they are folded flat.
Inside, the Q8 shows heavy influences from the latest A6, A7 and A8, most notably through its adoption of Audi’s new Virtual Cockpit digital gauges and a touchscreen-based digital control system for the major functions – the latter housed in two monitors within the dashboard.
The upper 10.1-in. (26-cm) monitor controls the infotainment and navigation functions, while the lower 8.1-in. (21-cm) monitor controls the ventilation and air conditioning.
The newly styled dashboard is expected to feature in a facelifted version of the Q7 due out in 2019.
Further interior elements, including the flat-bottomed steering wheel and high mounted center console, are shared with the existing Q7. Befitting the Q8’s upmarket positioning, buyers can choose from a long list of options, including four different grades of leather upholstery, three types of front-seat design, double glazing for the side windows and a series of audio systems headed by a Bang & Olufsen unit boasting no fewer than 23 speakers.
Also available for the new Audi are four driver-assistance packages. In all, the Q8 offers 39 different ADAS functions, including its latest traffic pilot system which allows hands-off driving up to 37 mph (60 km/h) in traffic jams and a so-called remote garage pilot system that allows you to step out of the new SUV and park it via commands on the key fob.
Supporting the ADAS functions are five radar sensors, six cameras, twelve ultrasonic sensors and a laser scanner.
The new Q8 lineup initially will be underpinned by just two models, although more are planned, including a range-topping SQ8 performance flagship once production of the new upmarket SUV is ramped up at Audi’s Ingolstadt manufacturing headquarters in Germany.
Included from the outset of European sales is the Q8 55 TFSI powered by a 335-hp turbocharged 3.0L gasoline V-6 engine and the Q8 50 TDI running a 282-hp 3.0L turbodiesel V-6.
They are fitted with an 8-speed automatic or 7-speed dual clutch transmission, together with permanent all-wheel drive that uses a mechanical center differential to apportion power in a 40:60 split front to rear as standard, while buyers also can opt for the rear-wheel steering system used on the Q7 to boost low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability.
Both engines employ a 48V electrical architecture, as used on the SQ7. Despite making much of this fuel-saving technology, Audi has not yet revealed fuel-economy ratings. However, it confirms the Q8 55 TFSI is capable of accelerating from 0-to-62 mph (100 km/h) in 6.5 seconds and reaches a top speed of 144 mph (232 km/h).
A detuned 228-hp version of the 3.0L turbodiesel V-6 also will be available in an entry-level 45 TDI model, though not from the start of European sales.
At the top of the new lineup will be the SQ8. Set for launch in 2019, its engine will vary according to market, Audi sources say. In Europe, the flagship Q8 model is set to receive the same driveline as the SQ7, with a 4.0L turbodiesel V-8 and electric motor providing a combined 435 hp.
In North America and China, the SQ8 is planned to run a turbocharged 3.0L gasoline V-6 in combination with an electric motor in a setup claimed to provide 449 hp.