The Audi Q8 is a sportier alternative to the Q7, but it still feels more at home on an arrow-straight motorway than a winding country road. Fans of super-sharp handling should look elsewhere
Currently, the Audi Q8 comes with one petrol and one diesel engine, available in several power outputs, both of which drive all four wheels through an automatic gearbox.
The 50 TDI diesel – a 3.0-litre V6 – produces 286hp, which is enough to accelerate the hefty Audi Q8 from 0-62mph in just 6.3 seconds. It gets a little noisy when you put your foot down, but it soon settles into a quiet, relaxing motorway cruise.
This is partly down to the mild-hybrid system you get as standard across the Audi Q8 range. This uses a small electric motor to boost performance and fuel economy by shutting the engine off when it isn’t needed. Audi claims it’ll return 41.5mpg and we managed 40mpg out of town and comfortably more than 30mpg in heavy traffic – not bad for a behemoth of an SUV.
There’ll also soon be a more affordable 45 TDI diesel model with 231hp that’ll be cheaper to run. It won’t have the same grunt for overtaking slow-moving traffic as the 50 TDI model, however. Expect a more-powerful 55 TDI engine to join the range at a later date.
Driving the Audi Q8 around town feels like piloting a particularly imposing-looking cruise ship down the Thames
If you fancy something a little faster, a 55 TFSI petrol model with 340hp will go on sale in early 2019. This is expected to accelerate from 0-62mph in less than six seconds, but with this extra turn of speed comes poorer fuel economy – achieving an mpg figure in the low thirties will require some careful rationing of the accelerator pedal.
Both diesel cars come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that’s relatively smooth, but can be a little sluggish to change down when you accelerate hard – especially in Comfort and Eco modes. The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic in petrol versions changes gears more quickly but isn’t quite as smooth at slow speeds.
The Audi Q8 comes with four-wheel drive to maximise grip on slippery roads and when you’re accelerating out of tight corners. Unlike in some other Audi models, however, this system can’t disengage drive to the rear wheels to improve fuel consumption.
The Audi Q8’s vast size means you sit very high up and get a great view out over traffic. Sure, its sloping roofline means rear visibility isn’t quite as good as in a Q7, but there are fewer blind spots to worry about than in a Mercedes GLE Coupe or BMW X6.
The Q8’s chunky door mirrors produce a distinct whistling sound at motorway speed and you’ll hear quite a bit of tyre noise from its vast wheels.
Around town, the Audi’s reasonably easy to drive for such a big car. There’s no disguising its vast size, but at least the standard air suspension irons out all but the worst bumps and potholes. Thankfully, the light steering means your arms won’t start to ache after a few hours of navigating through tight city streets.
Unlike the A8, the Audi Q8 doesn’t come with rear-wheel steering as standard – it’s an optional extra on all but Vorsprung models. This system helps reduce its turning circle around town and helps make it feel more stable when changing lane at motorway speeds.
It’s still pretty tricky to park, however, but at least you get front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera as standard. There’s also a 360-degree camera system that’ll help you avoid damaging any of the Q8’s huge wheels on tall kerbs but it’s only available in top-spec Vorsprung models or as part of the rather expensive Comfort and Sound pack.
The Audi Q8 gets slightly firmer suspension than the Q7, so it feels a bit more agile on twisty country roads but you’ll struggle to tell the difference unless you’re really barrelling along.
More interesting than the subtle suspension tweaks, however, are the Audi Q8’s numerous active safety features – especially in high-spec Vorsprung models. Standard S-Line cars come with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and cruise control, but top-spec cars get a semi-autonomous driving system that’ll brake, accelerate and steer for you on well-marked roads.
This uses data from the sat-nav to know when to slow down before tight turns, junctions and roundabouts – providing you keep your hands on the wheel. Fail to do so, and it’ll flash up warning messages, before eventually pulling over to the side of the road with the hazard-warning lights on. If you still fail to respond to its various beeps and buzzers, it’ll even call the emergency services.