Presumably, you don’t need to be sold on the large, lavish, luxury-dipped SUV-coupe concept. It’s a polarising niche and certainly not for everyone.
But given you’re still here surveying the Audi Q8 50 TDI and haven’t yet skipped over to a review of Q7, or perhaps a Mazda CX-3, it’s fair surmise you don’t mind the cut of this Ingolstadt machine’s stylised jib.
If big SUV-coupes are your thing, why consider the Audi Q8 50 TDI? Well, as a strict five-seater you probably don’t need the more wagon-esque Q7’s third row of seating. And given 50 TDI is exactly the same price as the petrol 55 TFSI, you’re specifically after the oiler.
You’ve possibly also considered BMW X6 xDrive30d, Mercedes-Benz GLE350d Coupe, Range Rover Sport SDV6 of course – despite the lack of coupe-ness – and why not the Maserati Levante. Meanwhile, Porsche Cayenne Coupe is in the petrol-only ‘no go’ zone, while the mighty diesel V8 performance SQ8 could well be a $36,000 step up you’re willing or able to take.
Or possibly not. As an embodiment of Audi’s penchant for style and tech, the Q8 is a strong statement of where the company is at and where it’s heading. You could just desire the thing on singular merit. In many ways, particularly presentation, it’s ‘none more Audi’.
Is there enough depth and polish in the experience for the Q8, even the relatively affordable 50 TDI version, to deserve its place as Audi’s family-friendly figurehead?
The 50 TDI might sit above the lower-spec ‘45 TDI’ in some markets, but in Australia it’s effectively the entry level of its high-tier model line, kicking off at $129,990 before on-road costs.
While it’s the same price as the 55 TFSI petrol, it’s also an identical ask to the Maserati Levante diesel. Against other logical six-pot-oiler rivals, that’s $6000 up on X6, $4020 beyond Benz’s GLE and over $7000 more than the 225kW Range Rover Sport SE.
The elephant in the showroom is, of course, the Q7. Even in its fancier S line guise, the seven-seat 50 TDI is $10,000 more affordable.
Why stop at the standard premium experience when you can option a Premium Plus package, detailed below. It adds $12,100 to our tester’s bottom line. There’s also a choice of modest and indulgent upgrades, including $9000 worth of nappa-spec leather trim over the ‘regular’ stuff.
Add $2300 for white metallic paint (there’s two standard and seven extra-cost colours) as well as $1850 for black exterior highlights and $900 for black roof rails, and our test car clocks in at $147,050 before on-roads.
Unsurprisingly, flagship status brings with it a lengthy list of features, few glaring omissions, lots of little surprises, and some delights. Wireless Apple CarPlay that audibly warns you’re leaving your phone behind when exiting? Check. A fancy Las Vegas-like light show with the Matrix LED headlights at the push of the key fob? If you’re offering…
No options ticked, the outside gets S line sports styling, 21-inch wheels, adaptively damped steel-sprung suspension, LED lighting with high beam assist, an electric tailgate, front and rear parking sensors as well as auto-dimming and heated wing mirrors.
Inside, the cabin features fully-electric front seating with memory and heating/ventilation, leather trim, Virtual Cockpit digital instrumentation, high-grade haptic MMI Navigation Plus touch infotainment and climate control screens, DAB+ radio, Audi connect plus services, a head-up display, 360-degree cameras, three-zone climate control, an auto-dimming mirror and electric luggage compartment cover. Adaptive cruise control is also standard.
There’s a lot going on, then, as you’d rightly expect. So what does the $12,000-odd Premium Plus pack add? It ups wheel size to 22 inches, brings fully-adaptive air suspension, HD Matrix LED headlight trickery including dynamic indicators, four-zone climate control with a dedicated rear touchscreen, rear privacy glass, 17-speaker and 730-watt Bang & Olufsen sound and 30-colour LED cabin mood lighting.
The Audi Q8 range scored a five-star ANCAP rating in 2019. It fits eight airbags.
The basics are covered with autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems, augmented by active lane keeping and some clever extra functionality such as front and rear radar-based cross traffic alerts, pre sense front (multi-stage) collision avoidance, pre sense rear and even some nifty pedestrian protection within its 360-degree sensor-based Parking Aid Plus.
Matrix LED lighting, with its adaptive high beam trickery, and/or Night Vision assistance, which detects and deters wandering people and animals on the road ahead, brings cutting-edged safety enhancements to the Q8 table if you don’t mind the extra outlay.
Let’s make no bones about it: Audi Q8 isn’t for shrinking violets. Exterior styling wise, it both looks like the world’s biggest five-door hatchback and the stylistic missing link between more sedate and stoic Audi models and its upmarket cousin, the Lamborghini Urus. It’s a handsome brute indeed.
But it’s cabin space that’ll be the deal-clincher for many buyers. Audis are renowned for their smart, slick and sharp interior designs, but it’s the Q8 that really lays it on in an elaborate manner, mostly for good.
What initially grabs your attention is the the high-definition digital screen fetish, the conspicuous mood – a ‘let’s party’ mood at that – lighting and particularly stylised blend of materials and finishes. It certainly has wow factor and big draw, if only for those who relish techy excess.
It’s about as different from a Range Rover, say, as it could possibly be, so it’ll whet some buyer tastes though not all. For my part, it’s neater and more mature in general design than that current go-for-the-jugular Benz fanciness.
With a little more acclimatisation, you discover it feels good, too: richly tactile in way that more affordable Audi often don’t. Stuff that looks like metal feels like metal. The switches, levers and clever haptic touchscreen (electric) zaps are all key contributors to the upmarket feel. Even the regular-grade leather is quite fine. It’s genuinely feels like a quality rig.
The cabin is at its most impressive at night though, thankfully, you knock the mood lighting intensity down to a subtle effect and if there’s a main gripe, it’s that the shiny passenger side dash fascia acts as a blinding mirror in direct sunlight.
The trio of screens – 12.3-inch instrumentation, 10.1-inch and 8.6-inch in the centre stack – look pin sharp, function quickly and deliver their desired eye candy effect. The features look gorgeous, the content offers a degree of personalisation, and it’s mostly intuitive to use. It makes for a clean, minimalist presentation yet thankfully still fits a handy audio volume control dial.
But it’s not all rosy: the screens smudge easily, some content (tone control, say) is distractedly hidden away, and it takes some familiarity to fast track the desired audio streaming source at each start up. If you’re a techno-luddite (like me) be prepared for a bit of a learning curve to get on top of Audi’s connectivity methods.
Eventually, you discover just how commodious the Q8 is. The first row has an airy ambience but row two is downright palatial. Legroom is fantastic, shoulder and headroom is limousine like, and there’s certainly case that if you don’t want or need seven seats, maximising the five-seat format pays big dividends.
The relatively flat floor – it is all-wheel drive, of course – and fitted four-zone climate controls shows real care for rear occupants when so many SUV drop the ball in this department.
At 605 litres, the boot volume isn’t as generous as a Q7, but the loss is around the tailgate angle and the sheer depth of the boot space means that, practically speaking, it’s highly useable and flexible. The 40:20:40-split seating stows for a decent 1755 litres of load-through space.
The Audi Q8 is a big unit. At around 2300kg kerb, it’s heavy too.
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 produces 210kW that clocks on at just 3500rpm, almost right at the tail end of the 600Nm mid-range that arrives at 2250rpm and begins to wane at 3250rpm. It’s a solid unit with a suitably flat delivery curve and with such heft to haul around it tends to harness a good percentage of its total outputs regularly.
It plies those outputs through an eight-speed conventional automatic and quattro all-wheel drive.
Audi claims an acceleration time of 6.3 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint. Maybe. It takes a lot of rolling, not a lot of stopping, and a much gentler right foot to get near its 6.9L/100km combined consumption claim.
On test, it tended to fluctuate between high sevens (not bad) at best and nearly 10L per 100km (not great) with general stop-start urban driving.
There are some fuel-saving measures in its driving smarts. It’ll shut down the engine once you’ve almost come to a stop. And it’ll shut down the engine, using an elaborate 48-volt method, at higher cruising speeds, if under particular and quite rare circumstances. It’ll also give your right foot a little knock to lift off the throttle when it thinks you should, which is touch annoying to be frank, but they’re all designed to save millilitres of diesel here and there during general driving.
From the get-go the Audi Q8 seems big and quiet and neither sense diminish with extended seat time. On one hand, it’s premium and opulent. On another, it often feels plus-sized for task of negotiating the Aussie urban confines.
It’s easy to imagine it’s happier purring along an Autobahn en route to some Swiss ski resort when you’re attempting to squeeze it into an inner-city Sydney or Melbourne car space.
It has the right ‘feels’: the door ‘thunks’ confidently, frameless window glass seals neatly and it cosily cocoons its occupants. There’s a slight chatter from the otherwise smooth diesel V6, a little slap from those huge 285mm tyres across expansion joints, but otherwise the cabin ambience on the move is nigh on serene.
It might look like a jumbo-sized hatchback – it’s larger in the flesh than pictures suggest – but it performs with the dignity of a proper limousine and is as relaxing in row two as it is up front. On one four-up trip of mixed urban and highway driving, the rear passengers wouldn’t stop raving about how “nice” the Q8 is to spend time in.
The Q8's wafty suspension and smooth V6 diesel are fitting of a luxury flagship
The air suspension is a matter of taste. Sure, it’s all singing and dancing in its settings and adaptability to on-road terrain, and it rounds out any sort of abrupt vertical movement caused by potholes or speed humps. But it’s just like nearly every other air-sprung calibration fitted to heavy premium SUVs out there in that it lacks a little composure and body control.
Unless you jack up the firmness in the settings, compromising ride comfort, it doesn’t feel quite as planted as composed as steel-sprung, adaptive-damped systems, which is standard fitment on Q8.
There are smarts to raise the ride height and augment traction off road, but it’s no stretch to conclude that the package, including those 22-inch wheels and small-groove highway rubber, are better serving nicely graded European gravel tracks than what Aussies consider proper off-roading.
The steering, too, is a matter for personal preference. It’s linear and direct, but there’s a degree of weight that, while arguably suiting a big, heavy premium SUV, is a touch heavy off-centre during small adjustments when tracking straight ahead, or when twirling away when parking.
The latter takes some patience and resolve given the combination of Q8’s tough to judge front and rear ends, a leisurely turning circle – tighter four-wheel steering is a $4500 option – and some of the loudest and most trigger-happy parking sensors in the biz. The AEB and front pre-sense combination is also a little on the enthusiastic side, too.
The V6’s 210kW and 600Nm is ample though Q8 would probably struggle with less. It really mans the battle stations at anything more than casual acceleration. Tap-for-Sport mode, via the transmission controller, has long been a handy feature of the Audi (and Volkswagen) breed, but no matter what the mode the eight-speed auto is reasonably polished. If there’s a markdown, it’s that Comfort drive mode is, in an effort to conserve fuel no doubt, just a bit tardy in kick-down and upshift responses.
Unsurprisingly, it’s happier out on the open road than in the urban cut and thrust. Resetting the trip computer with a full (85-litre) tank, the Q8 displayed an impressive range of 1050 kilometres. And given its quiet and refined nature I’m sure you’d arrived at an empty tank more relaxed than you might in many other SUVs.
Audi offers a modest three-year warranty/unlimited-kilometre from the moment the vehicle is first registered or delivered, whichever comes first.
Capped-priced servicing for Q8 is a reasonable $2040 for three years/45,000kms or $2960 for five years/75,000kms at 12-month/15,000km intervals.
Where the Audi Q8 hits its mark true is in impact and presence. It might well win your heart over more easily than it’ll win over your head. And there’s certainly enough of the right stylish and techy stuff to do so singular merit and lure as a cool ride that both shakes off a lot SUV stigma while, in trade, not quite offering all-out SUV utility. That’s no foul, though: Audi does a more sensible and affordable Q7 if sheer family friendliness is top priority.
It’s not without a few shortcomings once you dig into the live-in experience, though that they are small quibbles is testament that the Audi Q8 delivers the key luxury flagship traits as promised.
But is the 50 TDI the one to get? I wouldn’t part cash without cross-shopping the identically-priced 55 TFSI petrol version. And I wouldn’t opt for the extra-cost air suspension without trying a steel-sprung example with either powertrain.