TESTED 21.8.18, BUCKINGHAMSHIRE ON SALE NOW PRICE £65,040
Ingolstadt’s flagship SUV arrives on UK roads in 282bhp V6 diesel form
The Audi Q8 is an impressive and highly competent luxury car that hasn’t quite got the styling verve or intoxicating performance to set it apart from the established sports SUV set. Well, not yet, anyway.
That, more or less, was our verdict a few months back when we first drove Audi’s new flagship Q-car in Chile. Now we’ve driven it on the UK’s roads, not a lot has changed to move our opinion on.
The SUV here is an S-Line model, similar to the one we drove before, while the 282bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel – designated ‘50 TDI’ – remains the only engine currently available.
The only difference this time around is that we’re in Buckinghamshire, not the Andes, to find out how the Q8 copes on British roads – an undertaking at which, in theory, it should perform rather well.
It’s based on the same MLB Evo architecture that, albeit with slightly different suspension and wheelbase configurations, underpins the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and, of course, the Audi Q7; all of which are impressive things in their own varied ways.
The form the MLB platform takes here differs slightly from that in the Q7. It has a wheelbase that’s shorter by 1mm, at 2994mm, wider tracks and adaptive sports-tuned air suspension that’s standard rather than an optional extra.
Even on the optional (and £1750) 22in alloys fitted to our test car, this translated into a ride quality that, for the most part, left little to be desired. In Comfort mode it remains soft enough to ensure that passage over undulating road surfaces is cushioned and forgiving without the compromise of lacklustre vertical body control. It doesn’t feel quite as tight as a Porsche Cayenne in this regard, but there’s still an impressive fluency to the manner in which it travels over variable surfaces.
The Q8 remains adequately flat through bends. There is, of course, some body roll around the lateral axis – this is still a 2145kg SUV – but the controlled, progressive manner in which the weight shifts from right to left won’t discourage you from pressing on. And if you do decide to lean on the Q8 through the twisty stuff, there’s a healthy reserve of grip waiting for you.
Dynamic mode firms things up, providing closer levels of both vertical and sideways body control. The trade-off here, though, is a heightened awareness of the mild jostling that occurs at lower speeds over blemished surfaces (although you notice that in Comfort mode, too), while compressions through dips aren’t as masked.
The steering is pleasingly weighted but comes with a sense of vagueness that’s typical of Audi’s larger models. It’s direct and lends the Q8 a keen sense of responsiveness, but at the same time it removes you from the driving experience slightly more than you might like in a model that has so obviously been conceived to be sportier and more engaging than the SUV to which it’s so closely related.
The V6 diesel’s 442lb ft gives plenty of smooth, refined acceleration out of corners, although the eight-speed automatic transmission can take its time finding the right gear. Using the paddleshifters remedies this.
There’s still a lot to like here, then. In addition to the way it drives, the Q8 also has a hugely spacious and luxuriously appointed cabin, while it’s 605-litre boot is hardly devoid of space either. If that’s what you’re after, then great – you likely won’t be disappointed. But the sense that there’ll be even more to like about the Q8 in a few months’ time hasn’t faded. As good as it might be now, it feels like a real-deal Q-car flagship is yet to arrive.
It could just be my imagination, but I reckon Audi’s 3.0-litre diesel V6 isn’t quite as refined in the Q8 as it is in the A7. There’s something ever so slightly more, well, ‘dieselly’ about it’s timbre. SD
Engine V6, 2967cc, diesel
Power 282bhp at 3500-4000rpm
Torque 442lb ft at 2250-3250rpm
Gearbox 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight 2145kg
Top speed 152mph
CO2, tax band 178g/km, 37%
Rivals BMW X6 xDrive30d M Sport, Mercedes-Benz GLE 350d 4Matic Coupé