Audi Q8 review: is bigger always better?
We give the German carmaker’s flagship SUV a spin to see if it’s as luxurious as it claims
At first glance Audi’s naming system seems relatively simple. The bigger the number, the bigger the car.
The firm’s range-topping A8 limousine is therefore larger than its mid-size A4 saloon, while the Q2 SUV is minute compared to its Q5.
You’d therefore expect the new Q8 to be the largest crossover Audi has made so far, except it isn’t. That title goes to its seven-seater Q7. Instead, the Q8 is the company’s most expensive crossover to date.
Audi has just opened the order books for its flagship Q8 SUV. So what’s it like to drive? And is it really the most luxurious model in the firm’s SUV range? We got behind the wheel to find out.
The model we decided to trial was the Q8 50 TDI S Line. The entry-level model in the range, it has a price tag of £63,115. Our version had a number of options added, such as a panoramic glass roof and a Bang & Olufsen sound system. These brought its total value up to £76,590.
Design and practicality
Looks are subjective but we think the Q8 is surprisingly good-looking given its height and weight. The front end gives the car a presence akin to a proper off-roader, especially when the Q8 is in its highest suspension setting.
The back has a slightly sportier look. The black bar that runs between the tail-lights matches those found on the R8 supercar and S1 hot hatch. The muscular wheel arches also give the Q8 a sporty edge, as does the roofline that slopes downwards towards the car’s rear.
The roofline’s design does compromise on boot space, however. The boot has 605 litres of space when the rear seats are in place, which is less than the 770 litres offered by the marginally larger Q7.
But the Q8’s boot space is still vast and it’s unlikely buyers will notice much difference between the two models.
There’s also plenty of headroom in the back row for occupants over six foot tall and there’s enough legroom at the rear to rival a four-door limousine.
Interior and technology
The interior feels similar to most of the Audis we’ve trialled in the past. That is to say the Q8 has impeccable build quality and a design that will probably appeal to anyone who steps inside. It also has a host of attractive gadgets.
Let’s start with tech, a strong suit for most Audis. The Q8 comes with a dual touchscreen infotainment system that has been plucked from the A8 saloon and A7 sport brake.
Most of the car’s controls, such as its climate control and radio settings, are accessed through these panels. Only driver assistance features, transmission settings and start/stop functions have physical dials.
The system takes some getting used to, but it’s intuitive to use and the touchscreen provides a small vibration every time you press it. This makes you feel as if you’ve touched a physical button.
Meanwhile, the cabin’s design is pleasant but it doesn’t feel significantly more premium than other cars in Audi’s range. We trialled the Audi RS4 – based on the company’s mid-range A4 Avant – earlier this year, for example, and its cabin was very similar to the range-topping Q8s.
It’s a small issue that may trouble buyers wanting a car that’s a step above other Audi models on sale.
On the plus side, the company’s Virtual Cockpit system, which replaces the analogue dashboard with a digital version, is available as standard on the Q8. It’s one of our favourite infotainment systems on the market and works wonders here.
On the road
The Q8 can be a little intimidating for people driving SUVs for the first time. It’s a massive vehicle and the prospect of manoeuvring it through busy streets, or across twisty country roads, could be daunting.
But thanks to Audi’s impressive engineering, the Q8 is just as easy to drive on the road as a conventional saloon or estate. There’s minimal body lean when travelling around corners and the car offers enough performance to quickly get up to motorway speeds.
What really surprised us about the Q8’s sheer size, though, was how challenging it is to park. This is an issue with flagship SUVs as a whole.
We tried parking the Q8 in all manner of places, including the multi-storey car park of our local shopping mall. In most cases the Q8 was too big to fit standard-sized parking bays, resulting in the front or rear end hanging out by some distance.
Thankfully the cameras and sensors scattered across the car feed valuable information into the cockpit. This made parking the Q8 easier, but not entirely smooth. On one occasion we managed to fit the car into a parking space only to find we didn’t have enough room to open the door.
Our reactions to the Q8 are mixed. We liked its looks, we enjoyed driving it on twisty roads and we were impressed by the car’s ability to get up to motorway speeds with ease.
We were less keen on the Q8’s interior, although Audi does offer a host of optional extras designed to make it more luxurious. Finding a parking space large enough to accommodate the SUV was another drawback.
But if you can handle the car’s sheer size and have the cash to add some extras to the interior, the Q8 is a wonderful car to own. We were just disappointed that the standard model didn’t offer a slightly higher level of luxury.