Flagship Crossover from the Four Rings
We’ve long suspected that Audi would be the next automaker to jump into the coupe-crossover game with a model that would slot in above the Q7 sport-ute, and the wait is now over. The 2019 Audi Q8, which will share a good deal of its architecture with the Q7 and Lamborghini Urus, should arrive in U.S. dealers at the end of the year.
Unlike the more spacious and conventional Q7, the Q8 gets a more aggressive form factor. Its roofline is about 1.3 inches closer to the ground than the formal Q7, and although it shares the same 117.9-inch wheelbase, the Q8’s bodywork shrinks around the wheels for an overall length of 196.8 inches (down 2.1 from the Q7). Most importantly, the Q8 is a useful inch wider than the Q7, giving it a very planted stance.
Audi says the Q8 will introduce the brand’s new utility-vehicle styling language, starting with a new evolution of the company’s single-frame grille. Gone is the narrow, tall aperture, replaced with a much wider grille opening that dominates the front end of the Q8. The octagonal grille pairs with aggressive air inlets in the bumper’s lower corners, and the narrow headlamps get striated LED accents. The cover model Audi used to debut the Q8 gets a contrast-colored grille frame and coordinating lower fascia accents, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Audi also offers black and body-color options for those bits.
Large fender flares over the front and rear wheels are said to recall Audi’s original Quattro rally/sports car, and the roofline’s sharp edges are Ingolstadt’s foil to the rounded Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and hunchback BMW X6. The window opening is trimmed with a single ring of brushed aluminum trim, a highlight picked up above and below by matching rocker panel trim and roof rails.
Emphasizing width, the rear end is dominated by a wraparound taillight element. Between the two primary lights and underneath the body-width LED accent is a blackout panel that houses Audi’s four rings, again a throwback to the original Quattro coupe. Unfortunately, everything housed beneath that pretty piece of lighting is a mess. There are too many horizontal lines, faux vents, blackout panels, and baubles, cluttering what is otherwise a very clean exterior design.
Inside, the Q8 takes Audi’s current styling trends to the year 2040. The instrument cluster is dominated by the company’s Virtual Cockpit infotainment screen, which has map and driver information settings, as well as reconfigurable instrument displays. The center stack gets a widescreen, touch-sensitive display for the infotainment system, while climate controls are housed on an angled touchscreen just in front of the shifter and cupholders. That’s a bit worrisome, as we’ve found similar systems from Land Rover to be unnecessarily distracting and prone to glare. Hopefully Audi has solved those problems with its latest update to Multimedia Interface (MMI). The boat-throttle gear selector makes another appearance here, pairing with a flat-bottomed steering wheel to give the driver something racy and special to hang on to.
The Q8 will seat five passengers, likely in relative space and comfort. Its alphanumeric designation would suggest it’s the crossover version of Audi’s A8 flagship, and some rumors suggest Audi will discontinue the sedan in favor of the utility vehicle amid flagging sales for sedans industrywide. As such, expect the Q8 to offer plenty of stretch-out room for rear seat passengers, as well as the last word in comfort and convenience features. Quilted leather and glove-soft suedelike materials abound in both the front and rear cabins.
As to what’s powering the Q8, we’re not completely sure, as Audi hasn’t revealed the U.S.-spec machine’s details yet. Expect it to offer Audi’s supercharged 3.0L TFSI V-6 in base models, with 333 hp and 325 lb-ft. Upmarket models might offer the SQ5’s turbocharged 3.0L V-6, which is good for 354 hp and 369 lb-ft. Also, expect the A8’s optional turbocharged 4.0L V-8 to show up in the inevitable SQ8 variant, boasting 460 hp and 487 lb-ft. There’s also a good chance the Q8 will be available with a plug-in hybrid system on its turbocharged mills.
Pricing, as with those powertrains, is the subject of mere speculation, but it’ll definitely slot in above a similarly equipped Q7 in Audi’s hierarchy. Don’t expect much (if any) change from a $60,000 bill for the base Q8, with more powerful and better-equipped models cresting $90,000 with ease. As a pretender to the A8’s flagship throne, it’s likely the Q8 could cost even more than that.
In addition to the Q8 (and likely SQ8), there could also be an RS Q8 in the pipeline, giving the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S and Lamborghini Urus stablemate a run for their exotic-car money. But with five months to go till we learn more about the regular Q8, don’t expect Audi to confirm much S/RS-related news for a while. Still, even the standard Q8 will go gangbusters, giving Audi an entry into the halo-like crossover coupe segment.