Audi’s answer to the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe

After six years of rumors that began when Audi trademarked the Q8 name in 2012, the German company finally unveiled its proposition against the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe. It called the Audi Q8, and it’s heavily based on a concept car that the Germans introduced in 2018. It’s modern, aggressive, it packs Audi’s latest technology, and promises to give the X6 and GLE Coupe a good run for their money.

When BMW introduced the X6 in 2009, a new segment was born. But although the crossover BMW describes as a Sports Activity Coupe proved somewhat popular with SUV enthusiasts, the trend didn’t catch on with other automakers until 2013. That’s when Mercedes-Benz revealed plans to develop a coupe-like crossover based on the M-Class. Shortly after, rumors of a Cayenne Coupe emerged, signaling that Germany’s finest automakers finally pay more attention to this niche. Come 2018 and Audi joined the battle with the prettiest SUV it has created in recent years.

  • 2018 Audi Q8
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • 0-60 time:
    8 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    78000 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

Design-wise, the Q8 remains faithful to the Sport Concept we’ve seen in 2017. It looks surprisingly sporty given its size, and the front fascia is downright aggressive. It’s like Audi wanted to design a crossover based on the R8 sports car.

The front end sports the traditional Singleframe grille, but the element has been redesigned to look unique for this model. The unit is wider, taller, and sports sharp corners for a menacing look. The chrome trim is backed by a thick frame that extends toward the headlamps and the fog lamp bezels, while the grille combined vertical and horizontal slats finished in chrome and black.

The slim headlamps feature LED technology as standard, while Matrix LEDs are available. The black trim underneath make the lights seem a bit bigger than they are, but that effect vanished when the tiny LED strips light up. As a cool feature, Q8 owners can use the myAudi app on their smartphone to activate various lighting functions from the outside. The lower bumper is just as sporty as the grille, featuring massive vents onto the sides. The lower section curves upward over the underbelly plate, taking the shape of a sporty splitter. The muscular engine hood with the bulged center section completes the look.

The side view blends the best of performance hatchbacks and crossovers. The massive 22-inch wheels are tucked under prominent wheel arches, while the 10-inch ground clearance gives the Q8 an imposing stance. On the other hand, the fine arches that define the front fenders and the rear haunches suggest that the Q8 is a rather dynamic SUV. The roof shape reminds me of the original Quattro notchback of the 1980s, especially due to the gently inclined D-pillar and the tall quarter window. However, the Q8’s roof goes the coupe way toward the rear, with the rear door window becoming narrower and the D-pillar slope increasing as it moves toward the really small deck lid.

The rear fascia is equally unique. The taillights scream for attention thanks to their slim, angular design with small, vertical LED strips and the horizontal light bar that runs the entire width of the tailgate. The protective plate in the bumper is shaped like a diffuser, while the exhaust pipes are rather big. The sloping tailgate sports a sizable spoiler at the top.

As far as size goes, the Q8 is 16.4 feet long, 6.6 feet wide, and 5.6 feet tall, which makes it shorter, wider, and lower than the Q7. Needless to say, it’s the sexiest vehicle Audi has launched in many years!

Interior

The interior is obviously based on the Q7, but it has an impressive amount of unique features. The continuous air vent strip is placed at the top of the dashboard, a design cue we’ve seen in a few Audis so far, but the lower section is finished in black, giving the cabin a luxurious look. What’s more, the background matches that of the infotainment screen, leaving the impression that the entire dash is just a big display. The blue ambient lighting at the bottom further enhances that effect.

Speaking of displays, the MMI touch system in this crossover consists of two different screens. There’s a 10.1-inch unit in the center stack and a smaller, 8.6-inch screen above the center console. The latter handles inputs for heating and air conditioning, which results in a clean layout with almost no buttons and knobs. The instrument cluster is also fully digital, with 12.3 inches of room to display drivetrain data and the navigation map. There are two views selectable from the multi-function steering wheel, while a third, optional view gives the driver access to a sportier display. Finally, there’s a heads-up display that projects more data onto the steering wheel.

The wide center console is flanked by two big and comfortable seats wrapped in fine leather with a diamond-quilt pattern. While the standard seats look comfortable enough, Audi offers customized contour seats with massage and ventilation functions. There’s also optional four-zone climate control and an air quality package. Other convenience features include LTE Advanced data transfer, Wi-Fi hotspot, a navigation system with intelligent suggestions, and Car-to-X services for traffic and hazard information. The optional Audi Connect key allows you to lock/unlock the car and start the engine using an Android smartphone.

But how comfortable is the Q8 given that it’s shorter than the Q7? Well, the wheelbase is nearly 10 feet long, which means there should be plenty of legroom for rear passengers. The photos suggest that you can’t stretch that much behind the front seats, but you won’t become numb after a two-hour ride either. Audi claims that the Q8 offers superior legroom and headroom compared to its rivals. A quick comparison reveals that the BMW X6 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe offers similar legroom, but the Q8 fairs better when it comes to headroom for rear passengers, mostly because its roof is just a tad boxier above the rear seats.

As far as luggage room goes, the Q8 can swallow up to 62 cubic feet of stuff with the rear seats folded flat. That’s more than the X6, rated at 53.8 cubic feet. That’s a lot of room for a coupe-styled SUV, but the tailgate opening is a bit narrow, which probably limits what you can stuff in the trunk. However, you can still carry large bags, and you can stack up a few items until you lose visibility through the rear window.

Drivetrain

Audi has yet to release drivetrain information as of this writing, but much like the Q7, it should get a range of four-cylinder and V-6 engines. In the Q7, the 2.0-liter four-banger cranks out 252 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque. Next in line is a 3.0-liter V-6 making 333 horses and 325 pound-feet of torque, which is the most powerful gasoline unit now that Audi has dropped the 4.2-liter V-8 for the SUV. Moving over to diesels, the familiar 3.0-liter TDI churns 272 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque, while a second version of the turbo-diesel V-6 generates 218 horses and 369 pound-feet of twist.

A Q8 e-Tron version is also likely. This model will pair a 3.0-liter TDI and an electric motor built into the eight-speed automatic transmission. The combo develops 373 horses and 516 pound-feet of torque in the Q7 and provides a 35-mile range on electric power only.

While engine information is absent, Audi did release some info about other parts of the drivetrain. The Q8 is equipped with a mechanical center differential that transfers torque to the front and rear axles at a ratio of 40:60. When required, it transfers the majority of power to the axle with the better traction. Naturally, the crossover is equipped with Quattro all-wheel drive as standard.

The Q8 also benefits from the company’s new mild hybrid technology. The 48-volt system incorporates a lithium-ion battery and a belt alternator starter. During braking, it can recover up to 12 kW of power and send it back into the battery. This technology also enables long coasting phases with the engine deactivated and a start-stop range that begins at 13.7 mph.

The SUV rides on a suspension system with damper control at standard, but there’s an optional air suspension with controlled damping that adjusts ride height by as much as 3.5 inches. Total ground clearance is up to 10 inches, which makes the Q8 a comfortable ride off the pavement. All-wheel steering is optional and increases agility at higher speeds.

Prices

Pricing information is not yet available, but expect the Q8 to cost a bit more than the Q7, which retails from $49,900. With the BMW X6 priced from $62,950, the Q8 is likely to cost at least $60,000 before options.

Competition

BMW X6

2015 BMW X6 High Resolution Exterior
- image 555202
2015 BMW X6 High Resolution Exterior
- image 555203

The first true coupe-like SUV available on the market received an extensive update for the 2015 model year. Highlights include a narrower front grille, a more aggressive front bumper, and revised taillights and exhaust pipes around back. The crossover is also 20 pounds lighter than its predecessor, a noteworthy improvement given its slightly longer and wider body shell. Under the hood, the second-gen X6 carried on with the same engine choices, including the 3.0-liter inline-six and the 4.4-liter V-8. While the former carried over unchanged, making the same 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, the latter got its output increased from 400 ponies to 445 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. Pricing starts from $60,600 for the 2016 model year.

Read our full review on the BMW X6.

Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe

Mercedes-Benz joined this market in 2015 with the GLE Coupe, a coupe-style version of the M-Class SUV, renamed the GLE for its mid-cycle facelift. However, the GLE coupe is quite old compared to the Audi and the Bimmer, as its underpinnings and design were introduced all the way back in 2011. As a result, the GLE Coupe comes with some of Mercedes’ older engines. The gas range begins with the GLE 400 4Matic rated at 333 horsepower and 354 pound-feet. More power can be had with the AMG GLE43, which uses a 3.0-liter V-6 rated at 385 horsepower. Finally, the AMG GLE63 S, powered by the old 5.5-liter V-8, benefits from 577 horsepower and charges to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. As far as diesels go, there’s the GLE 350d 4Matic with 258 horsepower and 457 pound-feet. Unfortunately, only the AMG versions are available in the U.S., with pricing starting from $70,500. A brand-new model will arrive in 2019 though.

Read our full review on the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe.

Conclusion

It’s way too early to draw a conclusion with official data still missing, but it’s exciting to see Audi expanding into a new market. The BMW X6 is no longer solo in its segment, and it appears all the major German companies are working on a competitor. With the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe already in showrooms and the Porsche Cayenne Coupe underway for 2018, we’re about to witness a new battle of the titans. From what we know so far, the Q8 has a few important advantages over the competition. For starters, it’s brand-new, a feat that comes with a more modern design, all the latest tech, and a lot more appeal for new customers. I also think that the Q8 is quite the looker and the Quattro Sport-inspired roof is a nice touch compared to the hunchback look of the X6 and GLE Coupe. If this crossover also gets an e-Tron version, BMW and Mercedes are in big trouble until their new-generation SUVs arrive. Finally, the Q8 sports the bigger trunk and offers significantly better headroom for rear-seat passengers.

  • Leave it
    • * Release date unknown
    • * Yet another useless, X6-like crossover

References

Audi Q7

2017 - 2018 Audi Q7 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 585697

Read our full review on the 2017 Audi Q7.

Audi Q8

2017 Audi Q8 Sport Concept High Resolution Exterior AutoShow
- image 711670

Read our full review on the 2017 Audi Q8 Sport Concept.

2017 Audi Q8 E-tron Concept Exterior Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 700403

Read our full review on the 2017 Audi Q8 E-tron Concept.

Spy Shots

October 4, 2017 - Audi Q8 reveals its interior

2018 Audi Q8
- image 736280
2018 Audi Q8
- image 736278

May 29, 2017 - Audi Q8 caught testing at Nurbugring once again

2018 Audi Q8 Spyshots Exterior
- image 718371
2018 Audi Q8 Spyshots Exterior
- image 718372

April 7, 2017 - Audi Q8 caught testing at Nurburgring

2018 Audi Q8 Exterior Spyshots
- image 712279
2018 Audi Q8 Exterior Spyshots
- image 712284

July 13, 2016 - Audi Q7 based mule caught testing

2018 Audi Q8 Exterior Spyshots
- image 682290
2018 Audi Q8 Exterior Spyshots
- image 682289

Update History

Updated 10/04/2017: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Audi Q8 out for a new testing session, and this time we have more clear images of the interior.

Updated 05/29/2017: Our spy photographers caught the upcoming Audi Q8 out for a new testing session at the famous Nurbugring race track.

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