The brawny Audi Q8 is the company’s first—and biggest—SUV coupe, exterior designer Sascha Heyde says. Left unsaid is the idea that consumers are increasingly turning their backs on traditional three-box sedans, resulting in the Q8 likely displacing the A8 as Audi’s flagship model when it arrives in the U.S. late this year.
The Q8 shares its basic structure with the three-row Q7 SUV, though the architectural hardpoints have been tugged and teased to deliver a sportier stance. The 117.9-inch wheelbase is the same, but the Q8 is 3.3 inches shorter and 1.4 inches lower than the family-friendly Q7. The key dimensional change is across the axles, however: The Q8 is an inch wider.
The broad-shouldered proportions are accentuated by the wide grille up front, a full-width light graphic at the rear, crisp sheetmetal pulled tightly out over the wheels, high shoulders, and a low roofline with a carlike greenhouse.
Graphically, the Q8 is more a tall five-door hatchback than a true coupe, but that brings practical benefits. Open the rear hatch, and two golf bags will sit crossways in the 21.4-cubic-foot load space behind the rear seats. Fold the seats flat, and the Q8 gulps 62 cubic feet of stuff. The rear seats also slide forward and back to optimize either load space or rear passenger legroom.
The Q8 cabin flaunts the same high-tech minimalism as the A8—lots of clean surfaces, with screens taking precedence over buttons. The 10.1-inch touchscreen at the center of the dash controls infotainment and nav functions; underneath it, in the center console, is an 8.6-inch touchscreen for the HVAC system and other comfort controls, as well as text input. In front of the driver is the 12.3-inch TFT screen that is the centerpiece of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit.
European buyers will be able to order their Q8s with a 231-hp or 286-hp 3.0-liter V-6 diesel, but the U.S.-specification Q8 will be powered by Audi’s 340-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 gasoline engine driving through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
It’s an Audi—and an Audi SUV—so of course the Q8 is all-wheel drive. The torque split is biased 60/40 to the rear axle, though in marginal conditions, the mechanical center differential will send the most torque to the axle with the most traction.
Three suspension systems are available: steel springs with adjustable shocks or and two air suspension setups, one oriented toward comfort and the other toward sporty driving. The air suspensions are height adjustable, with 10 inches of ground clearance available in the Off-Road setting, while the Dynamic setting drops the Q8 a half inch closer to the tarmac than the standard ride height. Four-wheel steering is available as an option.
The base wheel in Europe and elsewhere is a 19-inch alloy. But U.S. models will be S-Line specification with the choice of two options packs—Premium Plus and Prestige. The Q8 will come standard with 21-inch wheels, with 22s available as an option.