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It's taken Audi a while to enter the coupé-crossover segment with the new Q8 but its timing couldn't have been better...

The second-generation BMW X6 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé have been trading blows in the large coupé-crossover arena since 2015, with the likes of the Range Rover Sport (and, latterly, the Velar) likewise landing a few heavy punches in this style-led space. So, what about the third member of the Teutonic triumvirate?

Well, Audi has finally joined the fray with the Q8, relying on its fresh-faced flagship SUV to shake up Ingolstadt’s largely conservative image. Late to the party it may be, but the newcomer’s arrival could hardly have been better timed, what with the F16-generation X6 and the C292-generation GLE Coupé nearing the end of their respective lifecycles.

That leaves the pinnacle of Audi’s SUV line-up with plenty of breathing space as it attempts to carve out a niche within a niche. The fact it feels particularly distinct from the vehicle on which it is based – certainly more so than is the case with its two German foes – further broadens its appeal. Indeed, despite sharing the Q7’s usefully lengthy wheelbase, the Q8 is 66 mm shorter and 27 mm wider than its sibling, with its sloping roofline also some 35 mm closer to terra firma.

In addition, the Q8’s exterior design is far removed from that of the Q7, both where you’d expect it (at the rear) and where you might not. Up front, for instance, the newer model gains a fresh and far more aggressive octagonal interpretation of the firm’s signature grille, bordered by a chunky body-colour frame (also available in black or grey as part of a brace of S line packages, the former fitted here).

It’s joined by gaping air inlets and sharply sculpted matrix LED headlamps (complete with sleek dynamic indicators) that perform a neat lighting dance each time the vehicle is locked or unlocked. Round back, the Q7’s blocky taillamps have been binned in favour of an in-vogue full-width arrangement similar to that of the A8 saloon. Disappointingly, though, like our recently departed SQ5, the Q8 has been saddled with faux-exhaust outlets.

The makeover continues inside, where (in addition to Audi’s peerless Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster) the Q8 jettisons most physical controls and adopts a pair of stacked touchscreens. The upper 10,1-inch display covers infotainment and navigation functions, while the 8,6-inch arrangement sited below it takes care of climate control and other convenience functions.

While certainly pleasing to look at, the touchscreen-based system is not the most user-friendly on the move, even though Audi has added a haptic-feedback feature in an attempt to confirm (tactilely and acoustically) each time an input has been successfully received. In reality, the screen requires too firm a prod, with some testers suggesting Audi should have instead simply retained the conventional rotary controller. In addition, we found the voice-control function not quite as sophisticated as those offered by the two other German luxury automakers.

Although the cabin’s fit and finish are exemplary, more than one tester commented certain areas were a tad plain considering the Q8’s lofty price tag. The upper dashboard and parts of the interior door trim, for instance, could certainly have benefited from some soft leather, while the expanse of gloss-black material on the facia attracted criticism for its tendency to accumulate unsightly fingerprints.

Space inside the five-seater, however, is particularly generous, with headroom in the rear still plentiful despite that sloping roofline and the standard-fit panoramic sunroof. The luggage compartment, too, is capacious, capable of swallowing almost as much as that of the Q7, according to our strict measurements. The standard four-zone climate-control system, meanwhile, allows passengers seated aft to take charge of their own cooling and heating requirements via a nifty touchscreen positioned above a pair of dedicated USB ports. Curiously, though, the rear windows drop only around halfway down.

A further point of distinction between Audi’s 7- and 8-badged Q cars is found beneath the bonnet. While the SA-spec Q7 is offered exclusively in 3,0-litre TDI form, the Q8 arrives in petrol guise, with an oil-burning variant set to be added later in 2019. An engine also employed by various S-badged Audi Sport models (albeit here with slightly less grunt), the single-turbo V6 petrol powerplant is mated to all four corners via an eight-speed automatic transmission that seldom puts a foot wrong.

With peak outputs of 250 kW and 500 N.m (the latter on tap from 1 370 all the way through to 4 500 r/min), the smooth-revving TFSI unit offers more than sufficient punch, even if the vehicle’s as-tested 2 282 kg mass blunts its response somewhat. While it’s certainly rapid (in an undramatic manner typical of fast Audis), the newcomer does its best work when simply wafting along. That’s perfectly fine considering Ingolstadt is furiously developing an SQ8 and possibly even an Urus-rivalling RS Q8.

It’s a similar case when it comes to dynamics. While the Q8 exhibits tight body control – and the R19 127 all-wheel steering setup fitted to this unit further improves agility – it simply doesn’t goad its pilot to push on and is best left in comfort or auto mode (that said, the Q8 scored an excellent rating in our punishing braking test). Frustratingly, however, you can’t assign the Drive Select feature to the steering wheel’s programmable favourites button, so toggling between driving modes requires a stretch across to the touch-sensitive buttons on the passenger side.

In a bid to rein in the V6’s consumption, Audi has added mild-hybrid technology in the form of a 48 V electrical system comprising a lithium-ion battery and a belt alternator starter. The Q8 can also coast under certain conditions, with the accelerator vibrating to encourage the driver to lift off and let the engine briefly shut down. Despite its frameless door glass, the Q8 boasts high levels of refinement, with very little engine bark or road/wind noise finding its way into the cabin.

The unit tested here is fitted with Audi’s adaptive air suspension sport arrangement (as part of the R43 680 S line Sports package) that, despite being a touch too reactive over sudden bumps, affords the Q8 a ride quality not usually associated with vehicles on (optional) 22-inch wheels. Comfortable it most certainly is.
CAPE TOWN – Think what you will of the contradiction in terms that is the coupé-crossover, but buyers adore their combination of style and decent dose of practicality. BMW and Mercedes-Benz do a roaring trade in lowered versions of their stock SUVs (nearly half a million X6s have been sold worlwide, for example) and Porsche will soon join the fray with the Cayenne Coupé. Like the latter, then, it’s curious it has taken Audi this long to develop a model to tackle the X6 and GLE Coupé but, as we found on the local launch of the new Q8, it might just have unleashed the best vehicle in its class.

So, what is the Q8?

Based on the VW Group’s MLB-Evo platform underpinning the Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and a number of other SUV models in the stable, the Q8 is wider but shorter and lower than the closely related Q7. With a wheelbase spanning almost three metres, Audi says the vehicle is nearly as practical as the Q7 yet more dynamic to drive and certainly more striking to look at.

In South Africa, we’ll initially get the 55 TFSI, which sports a 3,0-litre V6 turbopetrol under the bonnet (essentially the powertrain from a number of S models) coupled with an eight-speed torque-converter automatic. The V6 offers 250 kW and 500 N.m from 1 370-4 500 r/min. The 0-100 km/h sprint takes a claimed 5,9 seconds and the top speed is limited to 250 km/h. In July, Audi SA will add a 45 TDI variant priced at R1 439 000, with the inevitable SQ8 and RS Q8 following later (find out more about the Q8 range here).

It looks fantastic, doesn't it?

That depends on your perspective, of course, but the design is certainly striking in this pictured car's Dragon Orange. In more subdued hues, the lines are pleasingly restrained, especially if the S line Black Package has been selected, which gives the grille surround, exterior mirror caps and roof rails a lick of black paint and adds 22-inch alloy wheels. I'm not sure "pleasingly restrained" is what the target market's after, though, but those with more conservative tastes may be drawn to the new crossover.

The interior's design, however, should win fans across the board. Fit and finish are exemplary, and the finishes are wonderfully tactile. 

Introducing Audi's newest version of MMI infotainment, the Q8 sports dual touchscreens on the centre console and facia controlling all major functions. The 10,1-inch upper screen operates in a familiar way to access the audio and sat-nav options, while the 8,6-inch lower module deals with the climate control and convenience options. Both are beautifully designed and the virtual controls are large enough not to distract too much while driving, but I'm not convinced the haptic feedback tech works as well as it should; while it's welcome that the screens respond as you use them, some prods require a firm touch to change a function. Ultimately, voice and gesture controls remain the best solution for future applications but, until the technology is seamless, it's a pity manufacturers are shunning physical controls that ultimately are safer to use.

That, though, is my only notable criticism of the cabin. Space all-round is truly excellent – rear legroom is especially plentiful – and despite frameless door glass, refinement is top-notch. The boot, too, is big, and standard specification more generous than we've seen from Audi SA (instead of a long list of optional extras, the local arm has chosen to equip the Q8 well and then offer a number of easily decipherable packages). 

Does the drive match the design?

Yes, and then some. That V6 engine is creamy, responsive and nicely vocal in the upper revs ranges. It's part of a mild-hybrid drivetrain, which sees a 48 V main electrical system using a belt alternator starter which can recover up to 12 kW under braking and feed that into a lithium-ion battery. That, in turn, allows the Q8 to coast without the V6 operating. The result is a claimed fuel consumption reduction of 0,7 L/100 km. Our test unit consumed an average of 10,2 L/100 km, which is excellent considering we weren't exactly focused on conserving unleaded.

As I mentioned, the Q8 shares its underpinnings with the Q7, but gains a bespoke tune for the standard adaptive suspension, as well as the two optional (comfort and sport) air-suspension options. Our vehicle had air in its springs and rode a route peppered with scars particularly comfortably. There's a smidge too much suspension thud, but that's noticeable only because the rest of the vehicle's so refined.

I'm not a big fan of progressive steering setups, where the steering ratio becomes more direct the further the wheel is turned, as they can often seem quite artificial, but the setup in the Q8 feels more natural than most. Should its buyer want to enhance mid-corner stability even further, all-wheel steering is an option.

A classleader, then?

Well, the Q8 is currently in a class of ... one. Yes, BMW still sells the current-generation X6 but it's best to wait for the new one. The upcoming second-generation Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé is still a while off and we'll give a verdict on the Cayenne Coupé when we drive it in a few months.

I don't think Audi should worry too much about those rivals stealing the Q8's thunder, though. It's a thoroughly developed product that combines an upmarket design, a beautiful interior (that's nearly as practical as the Q7's) and expertly judged dynamics to impressive effect. Sure, it costs quite a lot more than the larger Q7, but then its standard specification is more generous. It may have taken Ingolstadt an extra model cycle to launch a lower, sportier version of the Q7, but the Q8 has undoubtedly been worth the wait.
2019 Audi Q8 3.0TFSi Quattro

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather upholstery: std (opt suede-cloth + leather)
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Lumbar support adjustment: front electric
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Rear side airbags: Optional
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6 (opt 8)
  • Lane departure warning: opt lane keeping assist
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Optional
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear + front passenger
  • Adaptive headlights varying light distribution: LED
  • Emergency brake hazardlights: emergency-brake flashing brake lights
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Engine auto Stop Start idle stop ecostop: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Sports suspension: opt adaptive sports air
  • Electronically adjustable suspension: opt adaptive air / opt adaptive sports air
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • Head up display: Optional
  • Night vision: Optional
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Standard
  • Cruise control: std (opt adaptive)
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Optional
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Central locking: keyless
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Auto dimexterior mirrors: Standard
  • Sun roof: panoramic
  • Panoramic roof: Standard
  • Electric seat adjustment: opt front
  • Memory for electric seat adjustment: driver
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: LED
  • Highbeam assist: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: rear + surround view
  • Rear spoiler: Standard
  • Towbar trailer hitch: Optional
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 934 km
  • Driven wheels: all
  • Driven wheels quantity: 4
  • Gearratios quantity: 8
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Transmission name: tiptronic
  • Gear shift paddles: Standard
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Front tyres: 275/50 R20 (opt 285/45 R21 / opt 285/40 R22)
  • Reartyres: 275/50 R20 (opt 285/45 R21 / opt 285/40 R22)
  • Air suspension: opt adaptive air / opt adaptive sports air
  • Length: 4986 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1995-2190 mm
  • Height: 1705 mm
  • Wheel base: 2995 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 12.4 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 605-1755 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 1755 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 2095 kg
  • Gross weight (GVM): 2820 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 750
  • Towing capacity - braked: 3500
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 85l
  • Fuel consumption urban: 11.6 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption extra urban: 7.7 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption average: 9.1 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 210g/km
  • Power maximum: 250 kW
  • Power maximum total: 250 kW
  • Power peak revs: 5000-6400 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 119.3 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 500 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1370-4500 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 500 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 239 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 5.9s
  • Maximum top speed: 250 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 2995 cc
  • Engine size: 3.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 3.0T
  • Engine + detail: 3.0 turbo
  • Cylinder layout: V
  • Cylinders: 6
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: V6
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 24
  • Variable camvalve timing: Standard
  • Variable valvelift: Standard
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 1
  • Warranty distance (km): unlimited km
  • Maintenance plan: Standard
  • Maintenance plan time (years): 5
  • Maintenance plan distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service interval indicator: Standard
  • Service interval (distance): service interval indicator (max 30000) km
  • Brand: Audi
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 04097300
  • MMVariant: Q8 55TFSI QUATTRO TIP
  • MMintrodat: 2019-03-20
  • Introdate: 2019-05-02
  • DuoportarecordID: AudiQ8_1e1

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