Audi Q8: the game changer

Observer writer

Friday, January 18, 2019

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WHILE rivals are into multiple production cycles of their luxury-coupé SUVs, Audi is now just entering the segment with the boldness and assuredness that exudes from every bolt and body panel. Meet the 2019 Audi Q8.

The four-door luxury-coupé segment continues to grow, but the concept taking the standard model in the line and adding a slant to the rear quarters, can only go so far. In Audi's case, the Q8 shares little metal with the Q7. Rather than turn the Q7 into a coupé, they started fresh with the sheet metal to create a look like no other. Yes, it's still a SUV, but visually the Q8 has a taut squat muscular shape as a sporty coupé should. The design details, beyond the matching proportions of the sloping rear roof, run the gamut from the brand's heritage to the liberal use of LED automotive lighting as a styling cue. Prepare to turn heads when driving the Audi Q8.

Audi's tagline Vorsprung durch Technik (progress through technology) is evident as one steps inside. If the futuristic exterior design wasn't enough, slipping into the fully powered Valcona leather seats via its keyless entry system transports occupants into Audi's interpretation of the modern, luxury cockpit. How the vehicle is optioned will ultimately determine the experience, but one will never forget the initial sight of the large swatch of gloss black that sweeps across the dashboard sans the expected button clutter. The quality of the interior is evident day or night. During the day, light from the standard panoramic roof accents the space. At night, the customisable two stage interior lights complement its elegance.

The coupé roofline doesn't impede ingress and egress through the unique for the class frameless doors offering plenty of rear seat room. Open the hatch, with a kick or button press, and the privacy cover rolls away automatically to reveal sufficient cargo space. Drop the 40/60 back seats and the adventurous couple can lie down, relax and watch the stars through the glass roof. Those with the optional air suspension can lower the rear to further help with cargo loading.

As finely crafted as the cabin of the Audi Q8, it never overcomes the domination of the dual screens, 10.3-inches and 8.6-inches at its centre. To call Audi's MMI system infotainment is to call the Hope Diamond a piece of glass. It's backed up by Audi's Digital Cockpit where the instrument panel is a 12.3-inch customisable display as well, controlled by the leather-wrapped steering wheel buttons. The two screens are more than touchscreens, they use haptic feedback to mimic real buttons simulating being pressed for confirmation. It still operates like a smartphone or tablet, allowing swiping and pinching. Even the rear passenger climate controls are small touchscreens. Voice control completes the control methods. All the major functions are automated and can be fine-tuned to the demanding needs of any owner.

The only thing better than looking and sitting in the Audi Q8 is driving it. Firing up the 3-litre V6 brings the 3D camera of the Parking Assist system online. There are plenty of angles with trace lines to ensure clear vision around the vehicle, but the 3D option creates a moveable life-like rendering of the Q8, which can be rotated 360 degrees with a swipe. Cabin refinement is high, allowing the Audi to operate in near silence, partly due to the 48-volt system that runs the automatic Start/Stop and will turn of the engine at constant speeds between 30 to 90mph. This makes the Bang & Olufsen stereo even more effective than it already is.

Switch to DYNAMIC mode and even then the V6 doesn't intrude into the serenity. What does happen is all 340 turbocharged horsepower makes itself felt, launching the Q8 forward at velocities that belies its weight and dimensions. Even on the standard suspension it can be hustled in a manner more akin to a large sports sedan rather than a hulking suv. The transmission, brakes and grip from the Quattro four-wheel drive offer confidence at all but maximum attack.

The Audi Q8 was worth the wait.


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