I don’t think I’m going fool the greenies with my Java Green metallic Audi RSQ8. Not if they know how much power and torque the V8 engine under the bonnet has. It’s green, but it’s not green.
In the Audi world there are performance versions denoted by the S prefix in the model name, and there are the faster, meaner, ultra performance versions that wear the RS letters, like the RSQ8 here
But in an age where we’re shifting from internal-combustion engines to fully electrified vehicles in a bid to reduce emissions, the idea of a 5.0-metre-plus, 2390kg SUV that can lap the Nürburgring faster than last decade’s supercars requires something of a sanity check. Or does it?
The Audi RSQ8 is the fastest-ever production SUV around the Green Hell, recording a lap time of 7:42.253, just under five seconds faster than a Lamborghini Urus and 12 seconds quicker than the smaller Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S. That’s just extraordinary by any measure.
Does anyone need an SUV capable of that kind of performance? No. Is this something a genuine enthusiast with family in tow might covet? Yes.
And therein lies the reason for the RSQ8’s existence. It’s also quite possibly one of the most exciting driving experiences I’ve ever had on roads far more suited to Hyundai’s latest i30 N DCT hot hatch than a monster truck.
At $208,500 before on-road costs, this uber SUV is something of a bargain given its astonishing performance, luxury, and space benefits over some of its similarly-positioned competitors, both from inside and outside the Volkswagen Group.
I’m calling the RSQ8 a half-price Lamborghini Urus, given the Lamborghini is priced from $390,000 before on-road costs.
The RSQ8 is part of a Volkswagen Group super-SUV stable that also includes the Bentley Bentayga V8 from $334,700 before on-roads, or the stratospherically-priced W12 version for $432,700 before on-roads.
There’s also the Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe from $259,000 before on-roads with the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet but with substantially less grunt.
Or there’s the Mercedes-Benz GLE63 S Coupe priced from $222,700 before on-roads, with a twin-turbo V8 but again, less firepower. BMW steps into the ring with the X6 M Competition and its 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 with a price tag from $213,900 before on-road costs.
If the RSQ8 is on your shopping list, do yourself a favour and ignore the options packages. You won’t miss a thing, because this is one of the most highly-specified vehicles in the business – unless of course, you fancy the Java green paint job on our tester, which will set you back $6500. All the other colours (eight in total) in metallic or pearl effect are a no-cost option.
What you see is what mostly you get. In this case the equipment list starts with a set of 23-inch alloy wheels shod with Continental SportContact 6 rubber. The largest brakes ever fitted to a production car look more like entrée plates behind those wheels.
Other well-chosen inclusions on the RSQ8 are the quattro sport differential, dynamic all-wheel steering, electronic active roll stabilisation, and RS specific adaptive air suspension – all of them playing a part in what is an extraordinary performance vehicle.
Everything is standard fitment including the black exterior styling package, the HD matrix LED headlights (also dark tinted with dynamic front and rear indicators), and the electrically folding, heated door mirrors.
There’s also a panoramic sunroof and privacy glass for the rear side and rear windows, and an RS sports exhaust with black oval tailpipes which rounds out the exterior jewellery.
Inside, there are heated and ventilated RS Sports seats upholstered in rich Valcona leather with honeycomb stitching up front, while the rear seats are heated only.
The perforated leather steering wheel with a flat bottom is electrically adjustable for reach and height, and the door sill strips are illuminated with aluminium inlays and the RS moniker. There’s also an extensive ambient light system and a leather package that adds soft Nappa hide to the centre console, dashboard, and armrests.
On the tech front it’s all down to three large screens – two in the centre console to control infotainment and climate control, and the third serving as the driver’s digital instrument display, dubbed Virtual Cockpit by Audi. It’s mighty impressive and gets rid of all but a solitary knurled knob just in front of the shifter. It also means lots of greasy finger marks in a relatively short time in the car.
The audio system is by Bang & Olufsen with 16 speakers and 705 watts for what is superb clarity if you’re sitting in traffic and not listening to the intoxicating exhaust note from the V8.
There remains plenty of optional equipment packages, though. All told there are five, ranging from an RS Design Package in red or grey at $2900, to the Carbon and Black Styling Package for $9100, or the Sensory Package with a high-end sound system and Alcantara headliner for $9700.
For an all-out assault on performance for your RSQ8 you’ll want the Dynamic Package that gives you the world’s biggest braking system (440mm front carbon-ceramic discs), and unshackles your engine for a 305km/h top speed (up from the standard 250km/h).
The cost? A cool $19,500. Alternatively you could just stick with the standard stoppers – meaning 420mm front discs.
The Q8 range scored a five-star ANCAP rating in 2019, although the RSQ8 itself hasn’t been tested.
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 as well.
There’s a real sense of occasion whenever you climb into a high-end Audi product. It’s not just soft-touch surfaces wherever you look –this is more like an interior designed by the Swedish audio supplier Bang & Olufsen itself.
It’s high-tech meets Scandinavian minimalism with a touch of Hermes thrown in for the luxury effect and leather. The leather seats and steering wheel are soft and beautifully tactile, while the anthracite and matte aluminium inlays look like they’ve been lifted straight from a Bentley. So too the Alcantara door cards.
The infotainment system will take some getting used to without knobs to play with. You’ll need to familiarise yourself with multiple menus or just use CarPlay in my case, given it’s so much easier. In the end I think I’d like a few more dials to play with, especially when on the move.
The screens themselves provide impressive clarity and colour with haptic feedback if you push hard enough (double taps are almost mandatory), but you can’t fault the Virtual Cockpit driver’s instrument display with RS graphics.
Passengers of any size are going to have a sweet ride in the RSQ8 given the limo-like rear legroom, but for a small bulge for the middle-seat passenger to contend with – it’s barely noticeable. The really tall folks might have an issue with rear headroom, but it’s still cavernous back there.
Cargo space is just as vast with 605 litres behind the rear seats, expanding to 1755 litres when folded. They don’t quite fold flat – there’s a slight lip to contend with – but aperture is nice and wide for larger boxes to easily slide in.
It’s the same 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that powers the RS6 Avant, making an identical 441kW of power at 6000rpm and a momentous 800Nm of torque from 2200 to 4500rpm. It’s sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
It’s all hooked up to a 48V mild hybrid electrical system that helps with stop/start and cylinder on demand, rather than winding up the turbos. Nevertheless, outright performance is off the charts when you factor in the sheer size and weight of this beast.
The Audi RSQ8 can rocket from rest to 100km/h in 3.8 seconds and 200km/h in 13.8 seconds. It’ll knock off the quarter mile in 12.1 seconds (or faster) for those that want to make a statement at the Wednesday night drags.
Just five minutes after leaving our overnight accommodation and we’re already going hell for leather on the some on some of the best twisties in regional NSW.
The lead driver was pushing hard in an Audi TTS, and I’m not afraid to say I started out a bit concerned I might hold up the convoy driving such a brute. But a quick tap on the RS button on the steering wheel and a flick of the shifter to manual mode and the Audi’s technological sorcery immediately kicks into action.
The footprint and grip afforded by the monstrous Continental rubber is stupendous, even under such wanton abuse. It’s not just the tractor-size tyres at work here.
Rather, it’s the perfect harmony between all-wheel drive, dynamic all-wheel steering, the adaptive suspension, and active roll stabilisation which will leave you in awe as the RSQ8 punches out of tight corners, while leaving the RS5 Sportback in the proverbial dust.
There’s no sense of roll or pitch. It’s on rails, no matter how hard you push. You can definitely feel the four-wheel steering at work, as the monster truck seems perfectly poised under full noise. It also means the RSQ8 can tackle very quick changes of direction without a lot of arm twirling.
But it’s the immediacy of the throttle response and the complete omission of any low-down turbo lag from this engine that both astonishes and satisfies most. You just prod and you’re gone, but with such relentless shove as the eight-speed auto does its thing.
The steering feels naturally weighted and you can feel exactly where the tyres are pointing, so there’s a strong sense of confidence behind the wheel of this thing.
The standard brakes seem more than capable of wiping off speed in quick time and there’s no loss of pedal pressure or the appearance of brake fade even after a 40 minute blitz..
If you’re like me, you’ll be wishing you could enter it the Targa High Country if we ever get over this COVID thing.
And it’s not just the corner carving that will blow your mind. That same air suspension works its magic by providing impeccable ride comfort over all manner of bumps, broken roads, and course-chip bitumen.
That’s another thing that will have you scratching your head given those low-profile, 35-section tractor-size tyres.
Audi claims the RSQ8 will drink 12.1L/100km on combined cycle while emitting 276g/km of CO2 – something will put to the test with more rigour when we get the vehicle through the CarExpert garage.
Those tyres won’t be cheap to replace, nor will the brake discs – and remember Audi is still offering a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty (as does BMW, while Mercedes-Benz offers five years). Buyers can extend the warranty for up to 48 months or a maximum 160,000km.
Buyers can also purchase a five-year service plan for $4060 with 12-month service intervals.
I get the fact some might crave the Lamborghini badge on the front of the Urus, but unless you’re an arms smuggler with something to prove, the Audi RSQ8 is by far the better looking vehicle and for nearly half the money.
It’s also an almighty feat of engineering and technology neatly rolled into a ballistically quick and perfectly practical family hauler with more rear legroom than a first-class seat on an A380.