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Audi’s Q8 is the brand’s version of (what is feeling like) the time-honored tradition of converting a three-row SUV into a two-row version with a swoopy roofline. In this case, the Q8 is based on the very nice Q7. Oddly enough, there already are a pair of two-row versions of this vehicle in the VW Group portfolio: the Porsche Cayenne and the Volkswagen Touareg (which is no longer sold in the U.S.). The Q8 is Audi’s range-topping SUV, with a modern turbocharged V-6 and a tech-heavy features roster highlighted by an interior with a two-touchscreen center stack and design that would make Rudolph Schindler blush. Deleting the third row opens some space for the second-row passengers and delivers a driving experience that is more carlike than any Audi SUV before.
The Q8 debuted as a new model for the 2019 model year, so the changes are minimal for 2020. Some options were reshuffled, likely in response to customer demand, and the DVD player, which was previously located in the glovebox, has been omitted from the Q8 entirely.
The $4000 upcharge to Premium Plus, which includes ventilated front seats, a surround-view camera system, blind-spot monitoring, and more, is an exceptional value. All we’d add beyond that is the $600 Cold Weather package for its heated steering wheel and rear seats, and the $750 Towing package, so that we could make use of the Q8’s 7700-pound tow capacity, for a grand total of $74,545.
Audi provides every Q8 with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. It pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission and the legendary Quattro all-wheel drive. A 48-volt hybrid-assist system aids stop-start operation, which was smooth and quiet during our experience. While the Audi had deliberate passing power on the highway, it felt hesitant around town unless we crushed the gas pedal. The transmission had mostly dutiful reactions, but it and the engine best cooperated in Dynamic mode, which provoked snappier responses. We only wish the engine and exhaust made gutsier sounds. The Q8 can also tow up to 7700 pounds when properly equipped. Following the guidelines established by other crossover “coupes,” the Q8 provides high-riding capability with sporty driving responses. While it swiftly changes directions and obediently hustles around corners, it’s less engaging than Audi sedans, such as the sleek A7. The Q8’s steering has light effort and linear feedback, which was relaxing on long trips but boring on switchback roads. Our test vehicle had the optional air suspension and wore 22-inch wheels—20-inchers are standard. These large rollers were mostly quiet even on uneven surfaces. With adjustable ride heights and four-wheel steering (included with the Adaptive Chassis package), our Q8 was agile in tight spaces and capable of tackling choppy terrain. Its brake pedal was easy to modulate at highway speed but suffered from inconsistent reactions in traffic. Still, it hauled the hefty crossover from 70 mph to zero in a competitive 170 feet during our emergency-braking test.
The Q8 has mediocre EPA estimates that are lower than some all-wheel-drive rivals. The government estimates the Audi gets 17 mpg city and 21 highway, which is identical to the six-cylinder Q7. The Q8 we took on our highway fuel-economy route also greatly exceeded expectations. It earned 28 mpg over 200 miles, while the last Q7 we tested saw 24 mpg in the same test. A similarly equipped BMW X6 returned 25 mpg.
In typical fashion, Audi has crafted a sophisticated and sturdy environment inside the Q8. The materials are premium, and the panels are expertly aligned. While the base model misses out on upscale features such as four-zone climate control and a leather dashboard with contrast stitching, it has standard heated front seats and a panoramic sunroof. Only the top-of-the-line model offers massaging front seats, upgraded leather surfaces, and quieter dual-pane glass. Our test vehicle had all that plus a head-up display and customizable ambient interior lighting. Not only is the Q8 visually impressive, it has more than enough passenger space. The driving position remains sporty despite its elevated height, and two adults can leisurely stretch out in the back. Although the two-row Q8 has less cargo volume than the three-row Q7, we managed to squeeze eight carry-on bags behind its back seat. That number increased to 23 (two less than in the Q7) with the split-folding rear bench folded nearly flat. Our test vehicle had the optional air suspension, which can lower the rear end to help with lifting luggage in and out. Inside, the Q8 has limited cubby storage. Its shallow center-console bin and narrow door pockets left us with few spots to store small items.
With a pair of vivid touchscreens integrated into the dashboard and center console, every Q8 boasts a cutting-edge infotainment system. Instead of the intuitive rotary controller found on other Audi models, the displays respond to touch inputs with haptic feedback. We quickly assimilated to its logical menus and large icons, but distractions were unavoidable. Thankfully, receptive voice commands and handy steering-wheel controls provide alternate operation. Standard features include a 4G LTE mobile hotspot and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. Wireless charging and two different Bang & Olufsen audio systems are optional. We’re particularly fond of the standard digital gauge cluster (called Virtual Cockpit), with its configurable settings and superb navigation.
The Q8 earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). While the base model is available with several driver assists, more advanced options, such as adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology and night vision with pedestrian detection, are reserved for higher trims. Our test vehicle had the optional 360-degree camera system that helped us navigate narrow drive-throughs and avoid scratching the massive rims. Key safety features include:
Audi provides the same limited and powertrain warranty as BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The Q8 also includes four years of 24-hour roadside assistance and a brief complimentary scheduled maintenance period.
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