Audi Q8 55 TSI quattro

Splendid Q8 stars across the board

Some people refer to cars like this as tortoises on stilts — the tortoise bit of course coming from its coupe-like shape, the stilts from its SUV nature, but coupé-SUVs certainly have become all the rage of late. Audi has been a bit of a late starter in this neck of the woods, starting with the Q2 not too long ago and now this Q8.

Look at it and Q8 defies its bulk — you will be challenged to understand that the Q7 shares its heart and is only a little longer, narrower and shorter as Q8 blends that coupe roofline and A8 luxury in a new flagship SUV as it takes styling cues straight off Audi’s 2017 concept, complete with those striking LED head and taillights.

Those auto-dimming HD Matrix LEDs with a washer system, range control and an animated dynamic turn signal and the similarly endowed animated dynamic turn signal rear combination lamps across its derrière, are among Q8’s several party tricks — either seen from a distance or viewed close up, they bring a funky edge to the overall package, all rounded off by a cool set of 20 inch cast alloy wheels.

Not sure why ours was white when there are twelve sexy colours to choose from, slightly shorter than Q7 thanks to less overhang front and rear, Q8’s most impressive cabin takes its styling cues from the A8 saloon and despite that sloping roof, promises room for tall adults in the back seats, although boot space drops a tad.

At 5 meters long, 2 meters wide and 1.71 meters tall, the Q8 sits on a 3-metre wheelbase to deliver a spacious and beautifully specced and detailed cabin and it's that Audi virtual cockpit with haptic feedback MMI Touch Response control that steals the show inside.  

There are various ways to control it all — via black and aluminium  buttons, the paddle-shifting power adjustable electromechanical leather multi-function steering wheel, voice control or haptics. Now those haptics answer several of our questions about touch operation, allowing you to run your finger across the screen to find what you are looking for on the open tab, before prodding harder to get the correct response. 

That eliminates the challenge of a complete lack of control over less sophisticated touch screens while driving over bumpy roads, but it still fails to address the bugbear of how easily the screen gets all smudged — something that still annoys me enough to take a lint cloth with to clean it with every time. 

All that said, there are other ways to control everything from the Bang & Olufsen 3D or Radio sound system through the Navigation Plus with MMI touch, Parking aid Plus with 360° surround view cameras to a tyre pressure monitoring system and so much more, via those clever knobs and buttons or the multifunction steering wheel too. 

Q8 of course packs in everything from Bluetooth and all the other device interfaces, to a rear cabin music control and so much more, while a most generous spec spreads from speed limiter cruise control to four-zone air conditioning, a contour ambient lighting package to power, folding and heated wing mirrors and a so-cool panoramic glass sunroof too.

One of its first cars to be listed by Audi’s new naming convention, this 55 TFSI packs a 250kW 500Nm turbocharged direct petrol injection V6 turning an 8-speed automatic and quattro all-wheel drive complete with a self-locking centre differential with four-wheel steering and optional air suspension, while mild hybridisation brings regenerative braking.

To be honest, the only aspect of Q8’s performance envelope not to star was its relative thirst. Pushed hard, we expect lofty figures, but even trying hard, we struggled to come this side of eleven litres per hundred versus Ingolstad’s claim of just over nine — even on the open road. 

Suppose that’s a moot point though — anyone dropping one and a half million on a car should not bother about fuel consumption, but in this modern world, it is an issue. That said, there is also the turbodiesel that will likely prove significantly more frugal…

For the rest, Q8 55 TFSI is an absolute pleasure to live with and a class act from end to end — beautifully styled outside and in, it's a most capable, contemporary, modern executive family transport solution. It goes like a bastard too, easily matching Audi’s performance claims in our tests and matching or bettering most of its rivals.

In fact Q8 is quite the car and earns a double-thumbs up from us. If you don't mind carrying a lint cloth and are happy with that consumption, that is. — Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED:       Audi Q8 55 TFSI quattro 
Engine:                    250kW 500Nm 2996cc turbo petrol V6                 
Drive:                      8-speed automatic AWD
0-60km/h:               3.06 sec
0-100km/h:             5.84 sec                      
0-160km/h:             15.00 sec       
400m:                      13.06 sec @ 160km/h            
80-120km/h:           3.41 sec
120-160km/h:         5.38 sec          
VMax:                       250km/h                               
Fuel:                         9.1l/100km                         
CO2:                         207g/km
Warranty/Service:  1y Unl/5y 100Kkm 
LIST PRICE:              R1.38M           
RATED:                     89%