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Audi Q8 55 TFSI: Quattro confident coupe redefined as an SUV

By Ghaith Madadha - Nov 05,2018 - Last updated at Nov 05,2018

Photo courtesy of Audi

AMMAN — Introducing an assertive new design language and face for Ingolstadt’s SUVs, the Audi Q8 also marks the four-ring brand’s expansion into the coupe-like end of the SUV segment. Launched globally earlier in the year and weeks ago in the Middle East, the chunky and luxurious Q8 is practical and reassuringly committed on the road. 

Built on a shared platform as other Volkswagen-Audi group SUVs like the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga, the Q8 employs much of the high tech systems first introduced last year for the A8 flagship luxury saloon, including its standard 48-volt mild hybrid system and sublime optional four-wheel-steering.

Competing in a segment in which the BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupe have virtually had a free run so far, the Q8 seems set to make quite the impact as Audi’s take on the so-called “four-door-coupe” SUV. With sculpted surfacing and pronounced ridges, the Q8’s design has a more solid and focused sensibility. Avoiding its competitor’s rakishly rising waistline and impractically descending roofline angles, the Q8 has a more grounded and hunkered down aesthetic, and more importantly, offers comparatively generous rear passenger space and driver sightlines. Mature, confident and imposing in appearance, the Q8’s focal design element is its new octagonal grille.

 

New look, new segment

 

Dominating its visage, the Q8’s snouty eight-sided single-frame grille is set to adorn all future Audi SUVs, and was first seen on the 2015 Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept. While much of its design cues can be traced to the futuristic (and soon to be launched) E-Tron, the Q8 pays homage to its past. Discretely referencing the seminal and now classic 1980s Audi Quattro coupe, the Q8 features a thick grille frame flanked by heavily browed and moody headlights, blacked out section between its rear lights, and a similar C-pillar angle. But most pointedly, it features muscularly blistered wheel-arches in homage to the original Quattro.

Built using mixed materials including high strength steels for strength, rigidity and safety, the Q8’s extensive use of aluminium meanwhile reduces weight for the sake of dynamics, performance and efficiency. Offered with a single direct injection twin-turbo 3-litre V6 petrol engine and launch, and with more powerful and high performance V8s expected in the near future, the driven entry-level Q8 55 TFSI model proved confident and quick even on steep inclines and altitudes up to 2,000 metres above sea level, as driven on Oman’s Jebal Al Akhdar, and with a healthy 369lb/ft torque throughout a broad and accessibly versatile 1,370-4,500rpm at its disposal.

 

Seamless delivery

 

Responsive from idle owing to quick-spooling turbos evidenced by a distinctive turbo whistle with its frameless windows down, the Q8 pulls hard and consistent from tick-over to redline. And with 335BHP available at a 5,000-6,400rpm plateau, returns a brisk 6.2-second 0-100km/h time and 250km/h top speed.

Refined, smooth and quiet in delivery, the Q8’s mid-range versatility is aided by a smooth 8-speed automatic gearbox to best utilise output for performance and efficiency, and which becomes snappier, more responsive and concise in Dynamic driving mode. The Q8 is fitted with a standard 48v mild hybrid system, which helps it achieve moderate 7.2l/100km combined fuel efficiency despite its 2,195kg weight.

Powering various ancillary and electrical systems, and harvesting energy from regenerative brakes and the combustion engine, the Q8’s 48v hybrid system is not designed to contribute to driving the vehicle, but can provide a 5lb/ft torque boost back from the starter-generator when necessary.

Responsible for 0.7l/100km fuel efficiency saving, the 48v system allows for the engine to automatically switch off for 40-seconds between 55 to 160km/h, and for
stop/start system operation from 22km/h. Renowned for its tenacious traction, the Q8 Quattro four-wheel-drive system meanwhile drives with a 40:60 front-to-rear power split, but can re-apportion 85 per cent power rearwards or 70 per cent frontwards when needed for agility or road-holding.

 

Unexpected agility

 

Ascending through Jebel Akhdar’s tight and seemingly endless winding corners, it was the Q8’s optional four-wheel-steering system that most impressed. Aided by selective braking torque vectoring, the Q8’s four-wheel-steering allowed for uncannily tidy handling agility and road-holding that belies its size, height and weight, the Q8 dispatches quick hairpins without a hint of tyre squeal. Turning 1.5 degrees along with the front wheels for highway stability and responsive lane changes, the Q8’s rear-wheel-steering turns 5 degrees in the opposite direction at lower speed, or as necessary. Turning into corners like a smaller and lighter car, the Q8’s rear-wheel-steering acts to simulates a shorter, more manoeuvrable and nimble wheelbase.

Highly grippy and unexpectedly nimble through corners, and as stable, refined and settled at speed as expected, the Q8’s optional adaptive air suspension, meanwhile,  well compensated for its huge and firm 285/40R22 tyres on all but the sharpest and most jagged road imperfections. Taut and well controlled in Dynamic mode through corners, the Q8’s air suspension is meanwhile significantly smoother and more supple, forgiving and fluent in Comfort mode. Taking the edge off of rough gravel routes, the Q8’s air suspension is also a useful off-road tool and can raise ride height to 254mm for improved clearance and approach, break-over and departure angles.

 

Committed and comfortable

 

Designed for on road use, the Q8, however, delivers more off-road ability than is expected in its particular segment, and during test drive dispatched somewhat steep dirt road inclines with ease, and proved manoeuvrable, committed and adjustable driving over loose surfaces. A comfortable ride in most circumstances, the Q8 would have been more so with base specification 19-inch alloy wheels were they available for Middle East markets. Steering is meaty, quick and direct, but thinner wheels would improve road feel, while braking proved effective and resilient, if working hard downhill. Meanwhile, driving position is supportive and comfortable with good in-class visibility, aided by an optional 360° reversing camera.

Finished with an abundance of soft textures, leathers and rich optional black Alcantara roofline, the Q8 is designed in an elegant and user-friendly manner. Refined and quiet inside, the Q8 offers good cabin room, front and rear, for an SUV with a low coupe-like roofline, while luggage capacity is generous at 605-litres. Featuring twin large stacked infotainment screens with black glass haptic touch buttons, configurable Virtual Cockpit digital instrumentation, panoramic roof, Isofix child seat latches and Side Assist and Pre-sense safety system and four-zone climate control, it can also be equipped with seat ventilation, parking assistance and HD Matrix LED headlights.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

 

Engine: 3-litre, turbocharged, in-line V6-cylinders

Bore x stroke: 84.5 x 89mm

Compression ratio: 11.2:1

Valve-train: 32-valve, DOHC, direct injection

Gearbox: 8-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive

Drive-line: self-locking centre differential

Power distribution, F/R: 40 per cent/60 per cent

Power, BHP (PS) [kW]: 335 (340) [250] @5,000-6,400rpm

Specific power: 111.8BHP/litre

Torque, lb/ft (Nm): 368.8 (500) @1,370-4,500rpm

Specific torque: 166.9Nm/litre

0-100km/h: 6.2-seconds

Top speed: 250km/h (electronically governed)

Fuel consumption, combined: 7.2-litres/100km 

CO2 emissions, combined: 168g/km

Fuel capacity: 85-litres

Length: 4,986mm

Width: 1,995mm

Height: 1,705mm

Wheelbase: 2,995mm

Overhang, F/R: 978/1,013mm

Track, F/R: 1,679/1,691mm

Ground clearance: 254mm

Approach/departure angles: 22.1°/23.8°

Aerodynamic drag co-efficient: 0.34

Headroom, F/R: 1,044/981mm

Shoulder room, F/R: 1,512/1,486mm

Loading height: 820mm

Luggage volume, min/max: 605-/1,755-litres

Unladen/kerb weight: 2,195/2,270kg (est.)

Steering: Electric-assisted rack & pinion, four-wheel-steering

Steering ratio: 14.6:1

Turning Circle: 12.3-metres (as tested)

Suspension: Five-link, adaptive air dampers

Brakes: Ventilated discs, 375/350mm

Tyres: 285/40R22

Price, starting from: JD101,193

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