Lord Of The Road: The Audi Q8 Is Beautiful, Daring, And Audacious
I’ve always liked Audis. Not all of them, of course; but, in general, I have a deep respect for the brand. There’s passion there. There’s depth. And most of all, there’s pride. Arguably even more so than its more established compatriots—probably due to the fact that they have always felt they had more to prove, perhaps.
While other designers usually crave validation, the Q8 refuses to crowdsource its appearance and chooses to
make its own brief but powerful statement. And it has the haters hopping mad. While most bold and daring designs are a love-it-or-loathe-it affair, the Q8 presents itself as an ultimatum: you either concede and accept that Audi is now driving the conversation in this space by finally defining what a luxury crossover should be, or look like a fool trying to deny it.
That, in itself, is a large part of its appeal. It doesn’t pander. It doesn’t need your approval to know its beautiful, daring, and audacious. It just knows and that is that kind of confidence that pulls you in by the nose hairs—plus it is highly contagious. In fact, just barely a minute into my drive, I started getting comfortable with the stares—something I normally hide from— because unlike those moments when you feel you’re driving a generic status symbol, with this Q8, you become part of the statement, not the cliché.
What makes it even more impressive is this is not due to novelty because the Q8 is no longer new. It was mid 2016 when Audi broke the news that it would be unveiling an all-new SUV in the form of the Q8. Teaser shots and a concept vehicle shown at motor shows like the North American Auto Show in Detroit gave us an idea of what the Q8 would look like and many thought it would remain just that—a concept. Or if and when it did finally reach production, we would see a heavily diluted version that would appeal to a much larger base.
Instead, what we got was a pissed off crossover with an axe to grind with other premium coupe-SUVs such as the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.
Dubbed as the top-tier model in the growing Q family, the new Q8 shows off new styling cues such as the larger Singleframe grille (first seen on the latest-gen A8), sleek HD LED headlamps, a sloping roofline, large C-pillars, and LED taillights flanking a thin LED light bar. It’s an SUV wrapped in a sleek five-door coupe.
While the roof may be sleeker than most SUVs in the range, the cabin is actually quite generous in terms of space. The cargo hold, for instance, is pegged at 605L with the seats up. Fold those rear chairs and you get 1,755L to play with. Of course, the requisite power tailgate is part of the package, along with an optional motorised parcel shelf.
More Audi goodness can be seen up front with the two large touchscreens dominating the centre dash. Another info display is placed in front of the driver and gives all the necessary driving data needed. It’s a mix of A8 but in a larger and more flexible execution.
The new Q8 utilises Audi’s patented Spaceframe platform, albeit with more lightweight materials to help save weight. This, along with the mild hybrid tech thrown in helps save on precious fuel. The 3.0-litre TDI V6 in the Q8 50 TDI comes with a 40-volt electric motor, a lithium-ion battery, and a belt-driven alternator to add extra power and act as a generator when called upon.
The new system, for instance, can run up to 160kph on pure electric power and harness some 12kw during regenerative braking and deceleration.
But the pièce de résistance are those fabulous HD intelligent headlamps that may look quite at from a distance. On closer inspection, however, they integrate the daytime running lights and the low beam into the upper section, while positioning the high beam—which is darkened and offset to the back—underneath.
In the optional HD matrix LED headlights, each high beam comprises 24 individual LEDs. So rather than the current set-up that others use, where the lights will automatically dim when it senses oncoming traffic, the HD matrix LED headlights of the Q8 illuminate the road dynamically and precisely while excluding other road users from the cone of light. They also serve as the cornering light. So in a way, the headlights paint the road ahead, but very cleverly avoid blinding oncoming traffic or even the vehicle driving in front of you by using all 24 LEDs rather than the standard high and low. It’s the lighting equivalent of having a two speed gearbox vs a 24-speed one.
With the top-of-the-line headlights, the daytime running light signature has a digital character and for the first time is three-dimensional. It consists of seven short segments and two longer ones at the edge of the headlight. The latter shift the visual focus to the outside, highlighting the width of the Audi Q8. The taillight uses a similarly three-dimensional design with its 12 segments— connected by the distinctive light strip which conveys depth. When braking, the brake light fills the surfaces between taillight segments.
In combination with the HD matrix LED technology, headlights and taillights not only feature dynamic turn signals, they are also expressively showcased whenever the car is locked or unlocked. With the leaving home function, for example, a dimmed point of light first swipes from the inside out when the SUV is unlocked. It then moves back at full brightness to illuminate the segments. With the coming home function, this sequence plays out in reverse when leaving the Audi Q8. The harmonious interplay between the headlights and taillights gives the SUV a dynamic character. In the future, Q8 owners will be able to use the myAudi app on their smartphone to activate various functions of the HD matrix LED headlights such as the cornering light and experience them from the outside— a unique feature in a competitive eld.
So yeah: regardless of what energy source is behind the development, we couldn’t be more grateful for the Audi Q8—even if we are not entirely sure who to thank. I say that because while it is obviously those white coats in Ingolstadt that should get the credit, you get the feeling that this is a car that wasn’t born out of love but built out of spite. And I say that as a compliment, just in case you’re wondering.