What is it?
Why would I buy
Road presence, lovely engine, surprisingly practical
Why would I avoid it
...because I can’t afford one! And it’s not very efficient.
If you have ever seen the Audi Q8 screen lead on its Indian website, it seems the SUV was tailor made for me. It shows a gentleman who is fit, rich, well dressed, and grey. Now, I might not be fit, rich, or well dressed, but I am certainly pretty grey. But, what the picture doesn’t tell you is that to truly be a Q8 person, one must also be a little practical, a little adventurous, and a little thoughtful. Did I mention rich?
The Q8 – to get the basics out of the way - is a coupe SUV. A mutant breed of sorts that is gaining quite a fan following. It comfortably costs over a crore and a half rupees; our test car with some add-ons costs an additional few tens of lakh more. It’s a five seater, it has handsome ground clearance, a big boot on paper, and it is properly luxurious.
Now we haven’t driven the latter, but the Range Rover is a formidable opponent, no question. But, the Q8 is a very handsome and sporty looking car. Where the Range Rover is more elegant and should I say a little boxy, the Q8 is pure aggression with some brash overtones. It’s a little in-your-face, a little polarising, but very desirable all the same.
How is it on the inside?
While the Q8 might be quite emotive on the outside, it’s a little aloof, a little formal, and very functional on the inside. Yes, it’s luxurious, and tightly put together, with overflowing comfort and convenience features. But, it lacks that warm, fuzzy, heart melting design and colours and materials that help one fall in love. It’s more machine like in that sense; but a very precise, a very well engineered, and very agreeable machine at that.
The quality, like me mentioned earlier, is fantastic. Everything from the choice of materials to the finishes, and even the operability of the rollers, the buttons, and the strong haptic feedback of the touchscreens, conveys that with utmost clarity. The touchscreens themselves look pretty expensive and work flawlessly.
In terms of features, there’s a whole gamut of them. You get an electrically adjustable multifunctional steering, cruise control, a detailed Driver Information System, two-zone climate control, electric seats for the driver and the front passenger, ambient lighting, wireless charging, cup and bottle holders for occupants in all corners, a panoramic sunroof, an electric tailgate, electric sunblinds for the rear passengers, and voice command functions.
Additionally, Audi has loaded this press car with over 12 lakh worth of options, which include the flat bottom steering wheel, the perforated leather on the gear shifter, the head up display, the sportier front seats, and the two zone climate control system and USB ports for the rear passengers. Even the Alcantara leather, the door scuff plates, and the sportier steel pedals are optional extras. And on the outside, one has to pay more for those the 21-inch alloys and the red brake calipers.
There’s no cool box, no 360-degree camera, and no electric fold for the rear seats, however.
Space for occupants meanwhile is in spades. There’s acres of shoulder and elbowroom, both front and back. There’s lots of leg and knee room all around too. And, even though this is a coupe, the rear headroom is surprisingly good. The seats are lovely too, both front and back. These are large, supportive, comfortable, and nice to the touch and feel. The boot too is shaped well, and unless you have something oddly tall, almost everything should fit.
How does it drive?
Now, one of main reasons to buy the Q8 (the others being its looks, its badge, and its build quality, of course) has to be the way it drives. And that’s Audi’s take on it as well. It says the typical Q8 customer is a well-to-do individual who loves both being noticed and driving, almost equally.
There’s only one drivetrain option currently available on the Q8. It is a 3-litre, turbocharged, direct injection, V6 petrol engine that’s mated to an eight-speed torque converter with the drive being sent to all four wheels. The power output is 340bhp and it delivers a near flat torque curve that peaks at 500Nm.
These figures are impressive, but it’s the way the Q8 harnesses this output and puts it on the road that really makes this SUV coupe special. First, dab your way to ‘dynamic’ mode. This weighs up the steering, perks up the suspension, adds immediacy to the throttle response, and prevents the gearbox from short shifting. So, no matter where the needle is on the right dial, you give the throttle pedal a good shove, and whoa, the Q8 just takes off!
And it’s not just pure acceleration, which with a claimed 0-100kmph time of under six seconds is pretty impressive, no doubt. But, it is the engine’s easy revving nature, its refinement, and its sporty aural notes; not to mention, the effortlessness the Q8 showcases in gathering speed, which come together to put a smile on your face every time you drive the Q8 hard. It makes you want to keep playing with the throttle, keep reveling in the noise, and keep passing all and sundry like they were standing still!
Around corners, the Q8 has a quick and light turn-in. There’s no excessive body roll. And courtesy those fat tyres and quattro tech, one can not only carry way more corner speed than one would think sensible, but with measured power going to all four wheels, the corner exits are fast and delightful too. And this is a large and heavy SUV, mind.
But, ‘dynamic’ is only one of the many modes the Q8 gets. There’s auto, efficiency, comfort, allroad, offroad, and individual. Efficiency ruins the throttle response in a bid to get more kilometres per litre. Comfort like dynamic is well judged and it lightens the steering, keeps the throttle response alert, and makes the ride more absorbent, more rounded, and as a result more comfortable.
In ‘off-road’, the ride height increases, the Q8 now rolls more from side to side even over undulations, and it feels a little loose and disconnected. Allroad is similar to ‘offroad’. Finally, there’s an individual mode that allows you to pick and choose from various modes and club them into one. Our favourite combo: steering – dynamic; suspension – comfort; drivetrain – dynamic. Fuel efficiency, be damned.
Besides endorphins secreting dynamics and performance, the Q8 is also easy to live with. The light and quick steering makes it easy to park and negotiate traffic with. The good visibility, especially upfront, helps with the latter as well. Moreover, at slower speeds, the ride is quiet and absorbent, and with the body movement well controlled, the Q8 makes for a calm and comfortable commute companion.
Should I buy one?
If you want an SUV that stands out, drives well, and will never be common place (given its steep pricing), the Q8 is a great option. And not to mention, it’s a comfortable option for four adults. Plus, it has some practicality sewed into it as well courtesy a usable boot, flat folding rear seats, and manageable ingress and egress.
Where does it fit in?
The Audi Q8 is priced at Rs 1.33 crore ex-showroom. Add to it the loadings you see on our test car, and you are looking at another 12 lakh in spends. So on the road, it should only be a couple of tens of lakh off the two crore mark. For similar monies, you can also buy the Porsche Cayenne and the Range Rover Sport.
Pictures by Kapil Angane