By Khulekani Dumisa
The Audi Q8 has been long coming considering the success of the BMW X6 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE. Another business rationale for it is that most segments are dying as SUV obsessed buyers seem to demand SUVs in all forms and shapes. So, here we are, the first Audi SUV Coupe. Before you think this is an obituary for sedans, it’s not. That would be unfair to the Q8. The car is so much more than that. It’s actually a beautiful addition to its segment and Audi line-up. We actually spent nearly 2,000 kms in it and we were impressed.
This is where we feel that Audi got things right. The car is a coupe but has its own identity. It is distinct from the other offerings in the Audi group and importantly from the competition. The Q8 has a sloping roof but not like those of the X6 or GLE. This means that headroom and shoulder room is not sacrificed at the back. The three-seat system in the rear can be slid forward and backward. Boot space is decent as it extends to 1,755 litres with the back seats folded down.
The exterior of the Q8 isn’t just about giving the car practicality but is really sleek, no matter which angle you look at it from. Upfront the new Audi grille, wide bumper design and LED lights make the car very desirable. The same can be said about the side profile. The curved lines above the back wheel arches make the car appear elegant and reminiscent of its plush and distant Bentley Bentayga cousin. The doors are wide and allow for easy access into the car.
At the back, the light design with a long LED light strip that runs from side to side, rear bumpers with integrated rear diffuser seal the deal.
The standard HD matrix LED headlights illuminate the road in a manner that will leave you questioning how Audi has taken something so basic and enhance it to increase safety by a margin. When on bright, the lights do not just dip at the oncoming traffic or behind another but isolate the car and still shine onto other areas you may wish to have illuminated. This means you do not have to rely on how the driver in front of you perceives the road, you can spot obstacles on the side of the road before he sees them and take evasive action. Finally, the three-dimensional signature of the daytime running lights and the taillights have a digital character. This adds character to the car and makes people notice it. So do the directional indicators.
Audi does interiors very well and the Q8 is no exception. It’s exquisite. The only disappointing bit is the choice of materials in certain areas which are not A-grade for a vehicle with its price tag. There are instances where you feel it’s closer to VW badged siblings than quintessential Audi. Those places are few and far in between and there is plenty to like in the car. Standing out in the luxurious interior is the MMI touch response operating concept that can be accessed via two displays – the upper 10.1-inch display and a lower 8.6-inch display. The system is Apple Car Play or Android Auto compatible. The Audi phone box connects smartphones to the vehicle’s antenna and charges the phone inductively.
Operating the system is simple and quick: a perceptible and acoustic click confirms when a finger activates a function. Although not as great as Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX, the natural language voice control are decent. You can word your commands freely. The voice control can, for example, understand the sentence “I am hungry” and in response suggests restaurants close by.
The instruments are shown in the fully digital Audi virtual cockpit which is standard on the vehicle. Its high-resolution 12.3-inch display can be switched between two views via the multifunction steering wheel. The head-up display also projects important information onto the windshield, including detailed lane guidance for navigation.
Technology and safety
The Audi Q8 is not short of smart safety features. You can expect adaptive cruise control, active lane assist and Audi pre-sense front including turn assist. These safety features provide an added layer of safety when piloting the Q8 than cars without these safety features.
Another useful feature that comes standard is the parking aid plus 360 degree display (surround view cameras) which makes it stress-free to move the large Q8 in and out of parking spaces. We missed the night vision assist on our test Q8. This system improves difficult visibility after dark which is essential when driving on provincial roads with a lot of stray animals. It uses an infrared camera to detect pedestrians and larger wild animals at great distances and marks them with a yellow frame in the Audi virtual cockpit.
Engine and drive
Our test Q8 was the 55 TFSI came equipped with a 3,0 litre six-cylinder spark-ignition engine making 250 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque which allows the all-wheel Audi Q8 to sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds before reaching an electronically limited maximum top speed of 250 km/h. Notwithstanding its large body frame, the Q8 is fairly quick off the mark although the weight of the body is also felt. This disappears at high speed as the car accelerate with ease when overtaking.
The ride quality in the Q8 is superb. The car is quiet and comfortable. This is thanks to the adaptive air suspension. The system also adjusts the ride height depending on the driving situation and the driver’s preference by as much as 90 millimetres. This was felt on Dynamic mode as the car lowers itselfto offer a sportier drive. The steering is also direct and responsive. This is especially useful in traffic when trying to exploit small gaps when you just want to point your car in a direction and have it go there immediately.
Another stand out trait of the Q8 are its handling dynamics. We drove the car through the Majuba Pass. The car handled like something much smaller around the corners. It was light and agile. This will surely entertain any would be owner.
The Audi Q8 55 TFSI Quattro Tiptronic is priced at R1,388,000 and comes standard with the 5 year / 100,000km Audi Freeway (maintenance) Plan.
Leave a comment