• Audi’s new Q8 SUV is based on the same platform as the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, and Porsche Cayenne
  • A coupe-like roofline gives this 5-seater a sportier stance
  • Power comes from a fairly modest 335-horsepower V6, though a future S Q8 variant should offer more grunt
  • Expect the 2019 Audi Q8 to reach U.S. showrooms by the 4th quarter of 2018

 

As Audi continues to expand its luxury-SUV portfolio with a crossover steed for every need, the latest in their niche-filling salvo is the new 2019 Q8, a stylish, full-size 5-passenger SUV. Wider and lower than the Q7, the Q8 has a sportier, coupe-inspired look that signals Audi’s latest design language. Blur your eyes and you’ll likely notice the Q8’s family resemblance to upmarket brand siblings like the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus and Porsche Cayenne, which are also based on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB platform.

Though official U.S. pricing has yet to be announced, the European version of the Audi Q8 starts at €76,300 (the equivalent of around $89,000), a considerable leap over the 4-cylinder Q7’s $50,875 base price, or the V6 model which starts at $57,375. While European-spec models include more standard features, the U.S. versions should still command a premium over their equivalent Q7 brethren.

Bigger and Sleeker, but (Slightly) Less Voluminous

Just as we’ve seen in other segments with higher-priced, coupe-style spinoffs offering sexier (and slightly less practical) alternatives to their more conventional stablemates, the Audi Q8 is intended for buyers who can’t resist sharp styling and tech-focused features, and can do without 7-passenger seating. Due to its sleek proportions, the new Q8 loses some of the spaciousness of the Q7’s interior, namely its ability to offer 3rd-row seating: The Q8 is a strictly 2-row setup. Because it sits 1.5 inches lower and is 2.6 inches shorter than the Q7, it feels somewhat less voluminous than its more family-focused counterpart. However, the Q8 is also 1.1 inches wider and sports the same 9.8-foot wheelbase, creating enough volume within the cabin to feel rather spacious. Despite the lack of a third row, this sport ute is still rather plus-sized.

Some sacrifices have been made to cargo capacity -- the luggage compartment swallows 21.4 cubic feet of cargo, compared to the Q7’s 26.8 cubic feet. Capacity grows quite a bit with rear seats folded, with 62 cubic feet opening up, compared to the Q7’s 60.4-cubic-foot figure. If golf is your thing, the rear compartment is big enough to stow two golf bags sideways. An electrical luggage compartment cover is available as an option, which uses a rail-based system to automatically retract when the tailgate is opened and fall back into place when shut.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

Ready for the Future

Power comes from Audi’s new 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 producing 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Unlike the Q7’s supercharged 333-hp V6, the new powerplant runs more efficiently. Also more advanced are the Q8’s 39 driver assistance systems, which share autonomous-capable technology with the A8. The hardware, which includes five radar sensors, five cameras, 12 ultrasound sensors, and a laser scanner, is technically capable of enabling the Q8 to drive itself with up to Level 3 autonomy. Those systems are not yet activated in the States, however, because U.S. federal legislation has yet to approve the technology.

Other future-friendly features will be available following the 2019 Audi Q8’s launch, including a parking assistant that enables the vehicle to steer itself around obstacles, and a remote-parking function which allows the driver to pull the car into and out of tight parking spots without being inside.

Driving Large

We tested the Audi Q8 in Chile’s Atacama Desert, a vast and raw landscape that claims the title of being the most arid spot on earth. While the Q8’s mean, modern silhouette and clean exterior lines complemented the stark surroundings nicely, the interior offered a futuristic respite from the harsh, dusty elements outside. The Q8 embraces digital displays and haptic touch screens with the same totality as the new A8: Behind the steering wheel is Audi’s familiar 12.3-inch “virtual cockpit” display, and the center stack combines a 10.1-inch infotainment/multimedia touch screen and an 8.6-inch touch screen for climate control and text inputs.

Though power from the new V6 offers adequately entertaining driving dynamics, the Q8’s throttle response felt a bit mild -- something which, admittedly, might have been due to the fact that our driving route covered elevations from 8,000 to 15,000 feet. Switched to Sport mode and driven aggressively, there’s enough motivation to get the job done once you’ve dipped into the meat of the powerband, which resides in the middle and upper registers. But speed-hungry drivers hoping for an experience that matches the Q8’s coupe-like looks might want to wait for the inevitable S Q8 spinoff.

Our tester was equipped with the optional air suspension, which can raise or lower the body by as much as 3.5 inches. The Q8’s suspension tuning just might be its most remarkable feature: Despite road surfaces which were cracked and broken, the new Q8 managed to ride smoothly and serenely over the uneven bits while handling the corners like a car that weighs considerably less than its nearly 5,000-pounds. Handling was aided considerably by the optional 4-wheel steering system, which managed to make the Q8 feel nimble and compact despite its generously proportioned footprint. Double-glazed glass kept the cabin quiet at high speeds, and a diversion over a fairly rugged off-road course made for an impressive display of the Q8’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system and outstanding wheel articulation.

More: 2019 Car Reviews: First takes on new models

Premium Positioning

If you find yourself drawn to the 2019 Audi Q8, be prepared to trade some of the Q7 SUV’s haul-loading practicality for some more alluring attributes like emotional styling and sporty handling. It’s no coincidence the new Q8 recalls the $200,000 Lamborghini Urus -- the Audi-branded offering has an identical wheelbase, width and overhangs as the more exotic SUV. And while the Q8 will never approach the Lamborghini’s wild performance levels, the forthcoming S variant will no doubt satisfy those seeking a punchier ride.

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