What if you want all that is appealing about the Audi Q7, in a slightly more striking silhouette? Then the Q8 is the answer.
If you want a large German luxury SUV without an image problem, Audi has always offered a great vehicle solution in the Q7.
Unlike BMW and Mercedes-Benz’s luxury SUVs, with their brasher styling, Audi’s restrained designs are more elegant and manage to mask the bulk of these large all-terrain vehicles.
But what if you want all that is appealing about the Q7, in a slightly more striking silhouette? Well, then there is the Q8. Both these large Audis share the same platform, suspension, powertrain and drivetrain components, but they differ quite radically in body shape, from the rear doors backward.
The Q8 is a sloping roofline coupe, with all-terrain driving ability. In Europe, these vehicles make desperately little sense, but South Africa’s treasure trove of gravel roads, and the many venues which are only accessible via gravel, make them a lot more justifiable in the local market.
The South African spent a week testing what could be classified as the most sensible of all Q8s: The 45 TDI derivative. It is powered by Audi’s three-litre V6 turbodiesel engine. This is a powertrain that can rightfully claim to one of the most distinguished modern diesel engines of our time.
The three-litre V6 diesel’s engine architecture is used in most Audi models and even powers VW’s excellent Amarok double-cab bakkie. In the Q8 45 TDI it powers to 183kW and 600Nm. Those are not overly potent engine outputs, and this is a comparatively heavy Audi at 2120kg, but the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox does a great job of interpreting your driving intentions.
Our Q8 45 TDI test vehicle rolled enormous 22-inch wheels. Although these alloy rims look great, they are not suited to rough gravel road riding, especially due to the low-profile tyres mounted onto them. Big wheels with small sidewalls usually delivering fidgety and uncomposed ride, particularly tracking over poorly surfaced South African roads.
The big Audi’s air-suspension system did a sterling job of mitigating the ride quality influence of those huge wheels. Perhaps even more impressive, is the way it prevents the 2.1t Audi from rolling when rounding high-speed corners.
Included as part of the R80 840 S-Line Platinum package, which also contains those huge 22-inch wheels, the air-suspension upgrade is well worth it.
Fast. Frugal. Balanced. And strikingly styled, especially with its optional styling upgrades, the Q8 45 TDI is a compelling luxury SUV package. But it is not flawless.
The sloping roofline does reduce its centre of gravity a touch, compared to the Q7, but for the slight increase in lateral stability, when changing direction at speed, you lose some luggage space. Actually, you lose a lot of luggage space.
Compared to the Q7 SUV, Audi’s Q8 has 165-litre less luggage capacity, which might matter a lot, to those luxury vehicle buyers who have two or three kids.
The Q8 45 TDI has a base price of R1 573 500, but our test unit came to R1 727 070. There is no question that Audi’s three-litre V6 turbodiesel engine is the ideal powertrain for this luxury all-terrain vehicle, especially when equipped with air-suspension.
If you regularly travel with a full complement of passengers and a lot of associated gear, the Q7 is a better choice, for those who seek a luxury all-terrain vehicle, with an Audi badge. But if style and presence are overriding concerns, the Q8 is a very accomplished sloping roofline SUV.