On 3rd March, it will be exactly 40 years for Audi since it first showcased the Quattro at the Geneva Motor Show. Till date, the Quattro remains to be an inspiration for the Ingolstadt brand. And in these four decades, a lot has changed in terms of design and technology. Call it great timing or a coincidence. In India, Audi will kickstart their 40 years of Quattro celebration with the launch of its flagship SUV, the Q8. Now, what could be better than the Q7, you would think? That depends on what aspect you are judging it on. Well, the Q8 is one class above and below. Is that even possible? Technically, yes.
The Q7 is longer and taller than the Q8 but falls short of Q8’s hunky wide-body and scooched stance. This also means that your extended family will have to trail in the less appealing family car on that road trip. Also, the Q8 like the Q7 does not get the space for your pets or kids when your extended family tags along. That’s where the Q7 scores big, it is both practical and easy on the pocket. Well, I think when Marc Lichte thought of designing Audi’s flagship SUV, he was looking for something more extravagant than the Q7. You can see it in the Q8’s coupé design that there’s some DNA present from the ancestral Quattro rally legend.
At the front, it’s got a wide-mouthed single-frame grille that proudly features the Quattro moniker, which is surrounded by the Mexican wave performing HD Matrix LED Headlights – when you unlock or lock the car, the indicators perform the Mexican wave dance. At the rear, it’s a bit different, a single uninterrupted line that will run from one taillight to another. It lights up beautifully when you tap on the brake pedal. And finally giving the Q8 a wholesome stance are the humongous 21-inch optional rims and wider tyre profiles. That’s a mighty upgrade from the Q7, but there’s more.
For a car weighing over 2,000 kilograms, it is fairly quick. Very much in the Sportscar territory. Now, Audi claims the Q8 racks up to the 100 km/h mark in 5.9 seconds. We tested it and recorded 6.05 seconds. That’s still quick to round up an overtake in the city. But that’s not what it’s meant for. Of course, you do get a lot of driving modes to explore. But it is more of a sedate cruiser, gradually building up speed. And if you still want to go fast then the dynamic mode is where the power surge is quicker but lacks a little in that mid-range. You still manage to have fun shifting gears from the paddle shifters and to break it to you if you were expecting the V6 to crack up a roar, all you would hear is a mechanical burble. Before taking the Q8 on unpaved roads, we sent it around the bend to experience the Quattro all-wheel drive. It did help the rear wheels to steer in sync with the front wheels, generating more grip in and out of the cornet. With that, there was body roll but controlled. Now came the time to drive it on unpaved roads, carefully treading without scratching the 21-inch rims, it was comfortable at cruising speeds. In the city though, the 48V hybrid-assist system improves the Q8’s efficiency by aiding the stop-start operation. The process always seemed natural and was smoothly carried out every time the car idled for a long time. Also, driving it for long periods isn’t a problem as the seats have massage functions for your back, shoulder, but some customizations you can only change from one of the two screens in the centre. There’s a lot to talk about the screens inside the Q8.
When you sit inside the Q8, the infotainment setup looks familiar to the A6, but everything around it is a whole lot more premium. For instance, the luxurious bits like the soft-touch finishes, piano black treatment on the panels, inlays, the leather-wrapped seats, among many others. Right from the beginning, Audi has been very specific on their approach with the Q8, every unit that they sell in the country will be different than the other. And they are also going to sell only 200 of them. Talk about standing out from the crowd. This is one Audi that will grab all kinds of attention. Again, shifting focus on the two giant screens that Audi has mastered for a really long time. One — the virtual cockpit which is phenomenal and it is exceptionally uncomplicated. Also now you have a head-up display. Two — the infotainment touch screens that can control the Q8’s climate control, navigation, cooling and heating effect on the seats, select drive modes, adjust air suspension, change ambient lightings and a ton of features that you might not even use on a daily basis. But it’s there anyway. Personally, I didn’t enjoy the haptic feedback touch on the screen, and I’m glad that you get an option to turn it off.
For passengers at the back, there are button controlled sunblinds, a huge panoramic sunroof, four-zone climate control, manually adjustable seats for recline angle, and of course a good amount of legroom and headroom. That’s after considering the fact it’s a coupé. It’s also practically possible to seat three at the back comfortably. And with the omission of the third row, you get a sizable boot size of 605 litres that’s wide and deep but isn’t tall to accommodate a large trolley bag. Again blame the coupé design. But you do get folding rear seats that fold almost flat making up for the short boot height.
It’s becoming a thing, ridiculously fast SUV coupés. Lamborghini nailed it with the Urus. And slowly everyone is catching up. Soon Audi will get the RS Q8 to India. It’s the fastest SUV in the world. Fastest 8th dimension in Audi’s words. To me though, the Q8 is still a quarter to 8. As the best is yet to come in some other form. And who would that might be? Keep guessing.
Verdict: While the Q8 isn’t a record-breaker as compared to its wickedly faster RS cousin, its enchanting sight will, however, set you apart from the million others on the street. What it does is that it delivers exclusivity in your already extravagant backyard.
- Engine: 3.0-litre, 48V mild-hybrid, V6 turbo-petrol
- Power: 340 HP
- Torque: 500 Nm
- Transmission: 8-speed tiptronic/automatic
Price: ₹1.33 crore (ex-showroom, India)