Does Audi’s coupe-like crossover drive as good as it looks?
If you heard Audi planned to introduce a new crossover called the Q8 and automatically assumed it would be the high-riding counterpart to the A8, you wouldn’t be the only one. You’d be wrong, but we can’t say we’d blame you. After all, BMW bills the X7 as the 7 Series of SUVs, and the redesigned GLS is Mercedes-Benz’s alternative to the S-Class.
But no, it’s more accurate to think of the Q8 as a more fashionable Q7. It’s the A7 to the Q7’s A6. And that’s important to remember because if you climb into the Q8 expecting it to feel like a luxury flagship, you’ll probably come away disappointed. It’s nice, but it’s not that nice.
Parked next to a Q7, the Q8 certainly stands out. Especially painted Dragon Orange metallic like our tester was. It’s not the prettiest car on the road, but it’s got presence. And even though it’s supposed to be a coupe-like crossover, even in profile, it could have fooled me. The Q8 looks sporty, but the roofline doesn’t slope nearly as aggressively as it does on the BMW X6. As someone who really doesn’t like the way the X6 looks, that’s a good thing.
Inside, there’s a whole lot of A6 (and A7 and A8) going on, which, if you’re familiar with the Q7, is also a good thing. It’s not that the Q7’s interior is bad or exceptionally outdated. Audi’s latest layout just feels like a huge step forward. Devoted button-pushers and knob-turners may not like the dual touchscreens, but they help the Q8 stand out in the current sea of sport-focused luxury crossovers.
My only real complaint about the cabin was that the top of the door panel felt a little cheap. It may not be as much of an issue on lower-spec Q8s, but with the $5,950 USD Luxury Package added, almost every surface is covered in leather. Audi’s choice not to put leather on that particular piece—one that will probably get touched way more often than the dashboard—or use a more premium material means it clashes with the otherwise exceptional cabin.
But what about the driving experience? Is the Q8 all style, or does it actually deliver an extra dose of sportiness?
On paper, the Q8 has a lot of potential. Its 3.0-liter V-6 makes 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The eight-speed automatic, meanwhile, sends that power to the wheels via a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. And although it defaults to a 40/60 torque split, Audi claims it can send as much as 85 percent of the torque to the rear wheels. So far, so good.
In reality, it’s more of a mixed bag. Our acceleration tests showed the Q8 running from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and posting a 14.1-second quarter mile at 98.0 mph (157.7 km/h). Road test editor Chris Walton praised its “stout launch” and its consistency in run after run. Interestingly, he also noted that despite a quick shift from first to second, the shift into third was much slower. Braking to a stop from 60 mph took 113 feet, and despite a lot of ABS and noise, stops were straight and relatively short. The brakes showed minimal fade.
For comparison, the last BMW X6 xDrive35i we tested accelerated to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, ran the quarter mile in 14.5 seconds at 95.9 mph (154.3 km/h), and stopped in only 105 feet. The Mercedes-AMG GLE43 did the same in 5.2 seconds, 13.8 seconds at 98.6 mph (158.7 km/h), and 113 feet.
In our handling tests, the Q8 averaged 0.87 g on the skidpad and ran the figure eight in 26.1 seconds at 0.69 g. That’s almost identical to the X6, which averaged 0.88 g and did the figure eight in 26.1 seconds at 0.71 g. The GLE was a bit behind, averaging 0.83 g and finishing the figure eight in 26.4 seconds at 0.69 g.
Those numbers don’t tell the whole story, though. In his notes, testing director Kim Reynolds mentioned some odd behavior at the limits. “The strange thing here (with everything as off as we can make it) is how the car self-pivots—sort of does quick little oversteery rotations—midcorner just when, normally, a car has settled into some degree of understeer,” he wrote. “So I’m doing a series of little corrections the whole time. This vehicle, like the X3, tends to swivel as I turn in, and I suspect this isn’t the fastest way to go. I had to work at turning in gently enough to avoid it, and I think that resulted in a better lap time.”
Reynolds also noted that the Q8 is “not exactly dripping with personality, but it gets the job done.” And although he wrote that in reference to the handling, it actually sums up the Q8 surprisingly well. It’s got style. It just doesn’t have a lot of personality.
There’s also the issue of price. The Q8 starts at $68,395, which puts it between the X6 and the GLE43 Coupe. Option it into the mid-$70K USD range as we assume most people will, and the Q8 still makes a pretty strong case for itself. But once you get into the $80K or $90K USD range like our $90,440 USD tester was, you have to truly love the Q8’s styling to justify that kind of price tag.
Not only are there more powerful competitors such as the BMW X6 xDrive50i for that kind of money, there are also more emotional ones such as the Land Rover Range Rover Sport Supercharged Dynamic. If you’re willing to drop down a size, that’s also Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio money.
Then again, we’ve also heard rumors that Audi has an SQ8 and an RS Q8 in the works. If emotion and performance are priorities for you, it may be worth holding out for one of those.
|2019 Audi Q8 Quattro S-Line|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$90,440|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door coupe|
|ENGINE||3.0L/335-hp/369-lb-ft turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5,127 lb (54/46%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||196.6 x 78.5 x 67.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.1 sec @ 98.0 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||113 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.87 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.1 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/22/19 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||198/153 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.02 lb/mile|