Car Reviews SUV of the Year

Review: Is the Coupe-Like Audi Q8 Worth its Premium?

The Q8 is one of the most highly debated contenders in the 2020 SUV of the Year field

The Q8 is one of the most highly debated contenders in the 2020 SUV of the Year field

Pros:

  1. Sporty exterior design
  2. Modern interior
  3. Great cargo room

Cons:

  1. Falls short as flagship SUV
  2. Hatchback or SUV?
  3. Hard to see its value

With handsome design, the form of a jacked-up hatchback, and a beautifully styled interior, the Audi Q8 is ready to fight the growing and trendy group of SUV coupes. Despite these attributes, Audi’s flagship SUV received mixed reviews from SUVOTY judges; some liked its sporty handling, but others criticized the Q8’s value equation and its ability to deliver on its premise.

Read about other SUV of the Year contenders—including models from Ford, Cadillac, and HondaHERE.

The Q8 is a looker from any angle. Although it’s based on the Q7, the Q8 has a sportier appearance and space for only five. Its hexagonal grille and the sharp lines on its hood go well with its strong fenders and character lines. But its fastback profile is less pronounced than those of its competitors; check the sharply descending rooflines on the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.

Although the judges expressed mixed feelings about its design, the Q8 was one of the most talked-about vehicles in this year’s lineup. “It has an excellent combination of form and function,” features editor Scott Evans said. “It’s a looker among SUV coupes but still maintains a massive rear seat and OK cargo area.” But for editor-in-chief Ed Loh (among others), the design wasn’t as sharp as it could’ve been: “The design is nothing new or groundbreaking. The proportions remind me of the quickly aborted Toyota Venza, though the Q8 is more nose-heavy.”

Despite the mixed reviews for its exterior design, the Q8’s interior got high marks. Besides having plenty of passenger and cargo room, it was the technology that impressed the judges. With two screens in the center console and a massive digital instrument panel, the Q8 plays a good game with a future look and feel.

The center stack’s top screen operates the infotainment system. The lower screen, which has haptic feedback, controls the HVAC system. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit displays Google Maps and navigation on the instrument panel, making it easier for the driver to follow the route. “You get beautiful graphics in front of the driver and on the upper and lower center screens, which are well done,” Detroit editor Alisa Priddle said. The piano-black materials and wood trim add a nice touch to the plush, modern cabin.

The Q8’s driving dynamics received mixed comments. On the winding road, some judges thought it had a composed ride with little body roll for an SUV of its size. With the optional air suspension, the Q8 feels agile and leans in nicely in the corners. But other judges were expecting more from it. “Despite the racy-ish design, the Q8 doesn’t perform like it,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. Although the Q8 had good high-speed stability, road test editor Chris Walton registered a lot of wind noise and a surprising amount of impact harshness—even in Comfort mode.

In the sand and off-road, the Quattro AWD system showed its capability: “It’s a hoot in the dirt and very playful, not slowed down one bit,” Evans said. “It likes to be tossed around.” However, executive editor Mark Rechtin heard a lot of protest from the ABS and traction control systems when more grip was needed.

Compared against our SUVOTY criteria, however, judges thought it was hard to see the Q8’s value and weren’t convinced it successfully performed its intended function. “It’s expensive, looks like it should sit below the Q7, not above it, and doesn’t carry the specialness the A8 L used to,” Loh said. The Q8 may have a tasteful design and an elegant interior, but it fell short on bringing anything unique to the table.

2019 Audi Q8 Prestige
Base Price/As Tested $68,395/$90,440
Power (SAE net) 335 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 369 lb-ft @ 1,370 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph 5.9 sec
Quarter Mile 14.4 sec @ 97.6 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 141 ft
Lateral Acceleration 0.83 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 26.9 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)
EPA City/Hwy/Comb 17/22/19 mpg