Audi Q8: when coupé meets SUV

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All images: TechRadar

It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that as the numerical component in the names of a series of cars increases, the cars get larger. Take Audi's Q series of SUVs: there's the entry-level Q2, a slightly larger Q3, and a slightly larger Q5 that's then dwarfed by the seven-seat Q7. Following this logic, then, the new Q8 should be about the size of a small ocean-going cruise ship. 

In fact, despite the Q8 sitting at the top of Audi's SUV range, it's actually a touch smaller than the Q7, and designed to combine the elegance of a four-door coupé with the raised driving position of a SUV. This means that while it doesn't offer quite the same functionality as the more practical seven-seat Q7, the five-seat Q8 promises a bit more luxury, and more space for passengers.

More practical than you'd think

Let's start with the looks. The Q8 is dominated by its large front grille, which contributes to a fairly imposing design. It certainly doesn't lack presence, but it's not perhaps the most elegant-looking SUV out there. There are some nice little touches though, like the frameless doors, in keeping with what we'd expect on a coupe.

The coupe styling does mean the rear of the car slopes significantly more than on other Q series cars, which means you're going to be sacrificing some volume when it comes to boot space. Still, with a 605-liter boot capacity you won't be short on space, with the Q8 happily swallowing up our buggies, suitcases, bags and a dog.

We drove

Audi Q8 50 TDI

Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cylinder diesel
Power output: 282bhp
Max speed: 152 mph
0-62mph: 6.3 seconds
Price: From £63,115 (model tested: £85,565)

You're not short of space inside either. Not only do all four occupants get plenty of legroom, but passengers in the back get plenty of headroom too, despite the sloping coupe styling. It might not be quite as practical as the huge Q7, but it's a lot more functional than you might initially give it credit for. 

The fit and finish are exceptional, and the interior feels suitably opulent for a flagship Audi '8'. The controls are focused around two high-resolution touch displays, similar to what we've seen in the A8, A7 and A6. The upper 10.1-inch screen is used for controlling the infotainment and navigation system, while the lower 8.6-inch display allows the driver to adjust the climate and comfort settings. The touchscreen works a treat, with a pleasing haptic response as you navigate round the Q8's settings or plot a route. 

There's also Audi's virtual cockpit display, which can be switched between two views: classic and navigation. The Q8 includes sound systems from Bang & Olufsen, with the top of the range version sporting 23 speakers to deliver 3D sound.

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No shortage of driver aids

Audi has been one of the pioneers of driver assistance and safety technology, so it's no surprise to find the Q8 packed with such tech.

The highlight in the Tour Assist package is adaptive cruise assist, which supports the driver with accelerating, braking, maintaining speed and keeping distance in traffic jam situations. The system detects lane markings, roadside structures, vehicles in adjacent lanes, and vehicles driving ahead. 

Emergency Assist detects whether the driver is inactive (perhaps due to tiredness or illness) and provides visual, acoustic and haptic (by way of gentle tension of the seatbelt) warnings. If these don't prompt a reaction, the system takes control of the Audi Q8 and automatically stops it in its own lane – it will even place an emergency call once the vehicle has come to a halt.

Other highlights include Crossing Assist, which detects critical traffic crossing in front of the car, while Audi pre sense 360° warns against vehicles approaching from the side. Finally, rear cross traffic assist registers approaching cars during slow reversing maneuvers – handy when you're coming out of a parking space.

On the road

The Q8 features a 3.0 TDI 6-cylinder engine with an MHEV or mild hybrid system that sees an integrated lithium ­ion battery and belt alternator starter (BAS) feed into a 48-volt primary electrical system. This means that should you find yourself coasting along with your foot off the accelerator between between 34mph and 99mph the engine will switch off, with the BAS restarting the engine as soon as power is required. Clever stuff.

All-wheel drive (AWD) is standard, as is air suspension, and while you can happily throw the Q8 round winding country roads it really comes into its own when covering a large distances. Even with the large 22-inch alloy wheels the cabin remains an incredibly quiet and comfortable place to be, delivering an effortless driving experience as you waft along from your raised position.

Despite its size, it's also not daunting to drive or park. This is thanks to the numerous driving aids on tap, but also to the nicely weighted steering and the optional four-wheel steering that helps you maneuver the Q8 in tight spaces.

Verdict

The imposing front-end styling might not be for everyone, but if you can get past this then you'll find the Audi Q8 to be an incredibly capable and luxurious SUV. The interior is a lovely place to be, while the Q8 is much more practical than you might perhaps expect. If you're looking for a premium SUV that offers something a little different to the more functional designs most SUVs conform to, the Q8 won't disappoint.