Audi RS Q8: super SUV spotted at the 'Ring

Published: 28 August 2019

► Flagship Audi SUV gets S treatment
► SQ8 has MHEV biturbo V8 diesel
► RS Q8 also snapped

Is the recently revealed RS6 Avant not extreme enough for you? Meet the Audi RS Q8, an SUV that promises to strike the unusual blend of performance and practicality – by giving you a metric shedload of each. 

We’ve snapped Audi’s super-SUV virtually sans-camo, instead sporting Ingolstadt’s black and red racing livery. Try to look past the nice paint-job, and you’ll see the RS Q8 follows the Audi Sport MO, but on a larger scale. Look at these fresh pictures and you can see all the usual RS design touches, from dropped, aggressive bumpers to huge composite brake callipers – and two drainpipe exhausts hanging out the rear. 

Audi SQ8

Keen as ever to milk the cash cow that is performance SUVs, Audi has launched the 429bhp SQ8. A showcase version of an already flagship model, the SQ8 has been given much of the same hardware as its seven-seat SQ7 sibling.

The end result being a 4.0-litre biturbo diesel V8 (yep, performance diesels are making a comeback at Audi) producing a faintly ludicrous 664lb ft of torque.

With a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 148mph, it’s not quite up to RS pace, yet we don’t reckon anyone will be complaining quite yet – especially in a car weighing the best part of two tonnes.  

It must need lots of tech to keep it on the road…

Indeed it does. Using a 48-volt subsystem to power electric motors placed on each axle, the SQ8 makes use of something called active roll stabilisation. As it roughly says on the tin, said motors act to twist the stabiliser tubes in opposite directions, thus increasing rigidity and reducing roll angle. All good stuff for hard cornering.

Audi SQ8 front tracking

Settle back into a cruise however and the stabilisers decouple, leaving you with a far more forgiving chassis. It’s joined by a sport differential, Audi’s famed Quattro all-wheel drive system (distributing power in a 40:60 ratio) and all-wheel steering. The latter aimed at making the SQ8 more manoeuvrable at low speeds, yet agile when the twisties appear on the horizon.

Anything good in the engine?

Apart from the 664lb ft of torque? Yes, actually. The two turbochargers are placed in the inner ‘V’ of the engine, creating shorter gas travel paths and better responses as a result. They’re sequential, too, meaning while one turbo works at low revs, the other then takes over from 2,200rpm. Turbo-style teamwork at its finest.

Perhaps even smarter, though, is the electric powered compressor or EPC. Designed to assist the turbochargers when starting off or at low engine speed, it funnels the intake air into the EPC and compresses it a second time, thus increasing its potency.

Audi SQ8 engine

Like the active roll stabilisation, the EPC is powered by the 48-volt subsystem which, in turn, forms the backbone of the SQ8’s mild hybrid unit (MHEV). Proving it’s not all about performance (who are we kidding?), this enables the car to coast at speeds between 34 and 99mph, while start/stop mode is activated anywhere below 13mph. Making the whole thing viable is a belt alternator starter (BAS), that allows the engine to fire up much quicker than it would when paired to a conventional starter.

How can I tell it apart from a regular Q8?

Given how sharp-suited the S Line Q8 is, you’d have to be fairly eagle eyed to spot an SQ8 from afar. The quad pipes, silver grille, mirrors and underbody protection are giveaways, though, as are the bolder wheelarches and 21-inch alloys.

When can I buy an SQ8?

Orders open in July 2019, with first deliveries taking place in September. Prices are expected to start from around £82,000.

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Everything else you need to know about the Q8

If Audi keeps going at this rate of SUV growth, it’s going to run out of Q numbers. This is the all-new Audi Q8 SUV – Ingolstadt’s new flagship crossover.

Audi’s new Q8 will take on a huge number of premium SUVs including the Mercedes GLE Coupe and BMW X6, along with in-house VW Group rivals like the Porsche CayenneBentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus.

CAR went for an early preview of the new Q8 ahead of its official reveal, so we’ve got the full story on the new coupe SUV.

’The new face of the Audi Q family’

Remember the Q8 Concept and Q8 Sport Concept? The real thing doesn’t look that much different, does it? Audi says that the Q8 represents the next design step for the brand’s SUVs, mainly down to the styling of the front grille.

The truly enormous octagonal ‘Singleframe’ uses both horizontal and vertical slats, with the vertical ones highlighted in chrome. The next generation of Audi’s Q cars will feature a similar design when they’re facelifted – CAR understands that the Audi Q3 is the next car in line for a refresh. The ‘Singleframe’ arrangement will be body-coloured as standard, with S line models like the one pictured featuring an anodised grey one. A ‘black pack’ will paint it, the mirror caps and other choice exterior details in, you guessed it… black.

Audi Q8 front overhead

At the rear, the coupe-like silhouette makes the Q8 look awfully similar to that of the Urus in profile, with a thick C-pillar and integrated rear spoiler. The rear panel is a homage to the original Sport Quattro and, similar to the A8A7 and A6, the Q8’s LED front and rear lights feature their own animations when you lock and unlock the car at night.

Dimensionally, the Q8 has the same three-metre wheelbase as the Q7 but it’s 66mm lower and 27mm wider than its more practical sibling. Since it’s just a five-seater, Audi says the interior layout has allowed for more rear space for those sitting in the cheap seats. The boot with the rear seats up has 605 litres of space – 165 litres less than a Q7 in five-seat mode. Still, after CAR was invited to poke around the new SUV earlier in 2018, we noticed that the load bay has a wide opening, a low load lip and square space. The seats fold flat, too.

Inside the new Audi Q8

We’re trying hard not to say the same thing over and over, but the Q8 uses the same interior layout as the new A8, A7 and A6. So, there’s a twin-screen infotainment system that uses haptic feedback, intelligent navigation and AI-enhanced voice control. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit instrument display is there, too. The only noticeable differences are the steering wheel, which is shared with the Q7 and Urus, and (hold in that yawn) different venting arrangement atop the dashboard.

Audi Q8 interior

The centre console is high with an angular gear selector, flexible armrest and suitable stowage that can be optionally specified with a wireless phone charger. Unlike some of the MLBevo stablemates like the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus and third-generation VW Touraeg, the Q8 does without physical buttons and switches for the on and off-road driving modes, save for an up/down Drive Select switch also found on the A8/7/6.

While we’re big fans of the Q7, it’s worth pointing out here that the Q8’s cockpit is markedly different from its seven-seat sibling. While it doesn’t exactly need one right now, we’d expect the Q7 to be facelifted soon to keep up with the pace of Audi’s interior change.

Audi Q8 centre console

Audi is also promising solid refinement while you’re sat inside the Q8. Along with the excellent interior quality that we noticed during our early preview, a double-glazed windscreen is standard. Optional double-glazing for the side windows will make your Q8 an isolation chamber on wheels.

What powers the new Audi Q8?

For now, V6 power is all that has been confirmed. At launch, the Q8 will be available with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel badged (50 TDI) putting out 282bhp and 443lb ft, good for a 6.3sec 0-62mph launch and a top speed of 144mph.

A 228bhp V6 diesel (45 TDI) and a 33bhp V6 petrol (badged 55 TFSI) will join in early 2019. Although unconfirmed, it’s pretty much a given that there will be an e-tron PHEV version at some point in the future, given that the Q7 e-tronCayenne e-Hybrid and Bentayga Hybrid all exist. We’ve also spotted an SQ8 out winter testing.

Audi Q8 side

All engine variants use a 48v mild hybrid system to allow for a much more integrated start/stop system, advanced coasting abilities and gives the ICE a gentle boost. Every Q8 also has quattro all-wheel drive with a 40:60 front/rear power bias and an eight-speed ZF automatic. Standard Q8s have steel springs with adaptive dampers, while air suspension with either a comfort or sport bias can be specified – as can rear-wheel steering.

Audi Q8 SUV: price and release date

Audi’s new flagship SUV will be available initially in 50 TDI format in July 2018, with the 45 TDI and 55 TFSI versions joining the range in 2019.

Prices aren’t confirmed yet but expect it to be a few thousand pounds more on average than a similarly-specced Q7.

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Audi Q8 rear

By James Dennison

Head of automotive video for CAR magazine and our sister website