Pedro Arrais review: Audi Q8 a sport-ute built for drivers

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Take all the attributes of a luxury SUV, marry it to the graceful lines of a coupe and you get the 2019 Audi Q8.

The luxury segment, like the automotive market in general, has seen a huge demand for SUVs. Manufacturers have responded by offering a model in each segment.

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The Q8 represents a maturity in the market, as manufacturers strive to offer variants to fill every niche segment it can find.

The Q8 is, for all intents and purposes, a Q7 with two fewer seats and a sloping rear end.

The traditional boxy look of a SUV is still hugely popular, but rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz have both been offering versions of coupe-like SUVs for a number of years.

The Q8 is meant to appeal to SUV luxury buyers who value style over practicality. While the Q7’s appeal was to carry a growing family, the Q8 tells the world that it’s time for the adults to have some fun.

But step back and you might notice a difference in the design between the Q8 and the other Audis in the showroom. You are viewing the first model created by Marc Lichte, Audi’s new head of design.

While the Q7 and Q8 are almost identical under the skin, the two vehicles side by side show a more aggressive Q8 silhouette, with beefy 285/45 R21 tires filling out the wheel wells.

The wheelbase, height, front and rear track are the same, but the Q8 is both shorter and wider, giving it a more planted stance.

Dimensionally, it is larger than both the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.

There is only one powerplant available, a turbocharged 3.0-litre V-6 mated with a eight-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels.

The engine produces 335 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, which makes it more powerful than the in-line six of the BMW, but 50 horses shy of the Benz.

Those extra horses give the GLE bragging rights on a zero-to-100 km/h dash, but the Q8 is only 0.3 seconds behind, at 6.0, so it’s no slouch, either.

But I would trade that third of a second for the superior fuel economy the Audi offers, at 14 litres per 100 km in the city and 10.7 on the highway. Standard engine stop/start no doubt helps.

All three vehicles hold five passengers, but the Q8 holds more luggage, with up to 1,911 litres with the rear seats down — 386 litres more than the X6.

The coup de grace is its towing capacity — a whopping 3,493 kilograms. BMW, by comparison, recommends a maximum of 750 kg for the X6.

If you do take the Q8 for sojourns off the paved road, you will find the adjustable ride height will give you a few extra millimetres of clearance.

But who wants the outdoors when a much more attractive environment beckons from within?

Audi is a luxury brand and the Q8 looks to impress owners with the pinnacle of its craft.

The Q8 comes in two trim lines — the Progressiv, starting at $81,200, and the Technik, which starts at $88,800. I sampled the latter.

The first thing you notice when you enter the Q8 is how technology literally surrounds you, and how it blends into the overall style.

On most cars, there is a centre infotainment screen. In the Q8, there are three. The first is the dash, which is called the Virtual Cockpit. Not only does it replicate an analog speedometer and tachometer, but it can also display your navigation screen and other configurable combinations.

The centre, with one screen stacked upon the other, gives the driver (and front passenger) the ability to pick and choose the astounding number of controls, menus, sub-menus and apps offered.

To call the system cutting-edge is an understatement.

The two touchscreens both feature haptic and audio feedback, and you can turn both off if desired as well.

The only physical button is for the engine push start/stop.

I am a sucker for vehicles with a massage system built into the front seats. Not only was there such a system, it actually gives different massage settings. Sadly, the Q8 does not have the module that dispenses a fragrant scent (found in the A8) at the same time.

Fit and finish is impeccable, and the quality of materials is exemplary.

Just be advised that the Q8 is nowhere in the same league as the A8 when it comes to luxury appointments. If you want to be coddled in the back seat, the A8 is the vehicle of choice. But if you are looking for more of a driver’s car, the Q8 is your steed.

Still, a panoramic roof, side privacy screens, four-zone climate control, heated seats and controls for the rear occupants make the back seat a more-than-comfortable experience.

For me, the Q8 represents the new benchmark by which to measure luxury SUV/crossovers. With its high level of luxury, excellent road manners and its cutting-edge technology, it represents how far the humble SUV has evolved.

THE SPEC SHEET

Type: Luxury mid-sized SUV/ Crossover, front engine, all-wheel-drive

Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-litre V-6, 335 hp at 5,000 to 6,400 r.p.m., 369 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,370 to 4,500 r.p.m.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Dimensions (mm): Length, 4,986; width, 1,995; height, 1,705; wheelbase, 2,995

Curb weight (kg): 2,270

Price (base/as tested): $88,800/ $92,085 (includes $100 AC tax)

Options: Dynamic Ride package $3,185

Tires: 285/45 R21 on alloy wheels

Fuel type: Premium

Fuel economy (L/100km): 14.0 city/ 10.7 highway

Warranty: Four years/80,000 km new car

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