Enter the Audi Q8, the fight for luxury and stylish SUV market

The Audi Q8 3.0 TFSI Quattro breaks away from the conventional SUV which many are accustomed to like the Q7

by AFIQ AZIZ/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

DRIVING an Audi car would be a dream come true for many, and I did not resist the chance to test drive the Audi Q8. Furthermore, the five-seater crossover was shipped thousands of kilometres from Bratislava, Slovakia.

The Volkswagen Bratislava plant is the only car-producing factory in the world to manufacture five brands under one roof, exclusively the producer of the Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7, Audi Q8, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen up!, Volkswagen e-up!, ŠKODA Citigo and SEAT Mii. More than 99% of its output is exported to 158 different countries.

As for Audi Q8, there are less than 20 units in Malaysia presently. The chance to test the car on country roads and to put the pedal to the metal on the highway, gives me the opportunity to really test its ability.

First and foremost, the Audi Q8 3.0 TFSI Quattro is no ordinary SUV. It breaks away from the conventional SUV which many are accustomed to like the Q7.

The Q8 has character, charisma, sleekness and luxury. The fine outer design, strong contours and athletic looks, combined with the three-litre V6 engine that punches almost 350hp to the wheels, give the Q8 the looks of a refreshing beast and would give other brands a run for their money.

Clearly Audi’s latest member of the “Q” family — Audi’s code for SUVs — has undergone a revolutionary refinement in its design language.

For the longest period, Audi’s SUVs have been caught in this “time zone” that everything must be almost boxy or stoic.

But the Q8 could be a serious challenger to other super luxurious SUVs from BMW, Porsche, Bentley and Volkswagen.

The Q8 has run away with its own signature and design statement. The front grill with a large octagonal shape, six horizontal slats and protruding fender are a head turner.

A wide, optionally coloured mask connects the Singleframe to the distinctive headlights. The spoiler, which is pulled towards the front, and the large, strongly contoured air intakes additionally highlights the aggressive look.

A Very Welcoming Drive
From the moment you open the door, sit on the Valcona leather seat and close the frameless-door, the SUV adjusts itself into the driving mode. The interior is really something, well equipped and rich with features that scream drive me…drive me.

When you exit, the seat will reverse slightly to the back, giving a larger legroom to step out of the vehicle.

The interior is designed to be deliberately clean and simple. The upholstery design is definitely for top executive suites.

The windscreen frame is wide, giving a clear view to the driver and the confidence in controlling the SUV.

Safety-wise, the Q8 comes with a system that will alert the driver when it is too close to a vehicle in front. The paddle will vibrate and a redlight will flash in such situations. Some may find it annoying but with so many drivers using the phone while driving, such feature may help you avoid an accident.

The upper multimedia interface (MMI) touch response display works so well. The system also accepts voice command which allows you to activate every function.

With its black-panel look, it almost dissolves into a large, black surface when the SUV is switched off. Simple, easy-to-understand symbols stand for the digital precision from Audi.

The slender and sleek dashboard lines with a strong horizontal focus highlight the impression of width conveyed by the interior of the model. You would totally be immersed in the cockpit especially on days when car crawls in Kuala Lumpur (KL) jam.

The upholstery design is definitely for top executive suites

Built for Speed
The SUV, a Q8, what do you expect …stable, smooth and a delight to drive. You can take that corners with ease and you can feel the SUV nailed to the gravel.

The transfer of force to the front axle and rear axle at a ratio of 40:60 gives a better traction.

On the bumpy palm oil estate roads, it handles so well, absorbs the punishments.

The engine is efficient — a combination of 3.0 Turbo fuel stratified injection (TFSI) and mild hybrid electric-vehicle technology.

The SUV is equipped with a six-cylinder spark-ignition engine with three-litres of engine displacement and direct injection that produces 250 kW (340hp).

In the wide rpm range from 1,370 to 4,500 revolutions per minute, it develops a maximum torque of 500 Nm (368.8 lb-ft).

Attributed by the turbocharged petrol engine, the Audi Q8 sprints from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 5.9 secs. Its top speed is electronically capped to 250 km/h (155.3 mph).

The engine also works in conjunction with the mild hybrid system, which can reduce consumption by up to 0.7 litres per 100 km on normal driving. Its most important component is a lithium-ion battery and a belt alternator starter (BAS) that supplies the 48V main electrical system.

When decelerating, the BAS enables up to 12kW of energy to be recovered and feeds this into the battery. At speeds between 55 and 160kph (34.2 and 99.4mph), the Q8 can move for up to 40 secs without the accelerator paddle pressed.

The BAS restarts the six-cylinder quickly and very smoothly too. The start-stop range begins at 22 kph (13.7mph).

The function would save fuel consumption, a feature that would come in handy the next time oil prices rocket to US$148 (RM610.13) a barrel. The transition from fuel to the battery system was so efficient.

I only used half of the total 85L fuel tank for a 250km journey from Shah Alam to KL, Ampang to Mont Kiara, to Putrajaya and even Sepang.

Steady and Dynamic Suspension
The Audi Q8 is equipped with adaptive air suspension and it feels like you are on a sponge. It can be adjusted to four modes with the Audi drive select dynamic handling system, varying the ride height of the body by up to 90mm (3.5 in). High ride comfort and agile handling — the adaptive air suspension brings both together.

All-wheel steering is another dynamic highlight of the Audi Q8. Fitted as a standard feature, the system turns the rear wheels by up to five degrees. At slow speed, they steer in the opposite direction to the front wheels, reducing the turning circle of the SUV by a good metre (3.3ft).

At high speed, they steer in the same direction as the front axle, supporting stability during lane changes. The management for the adjustable suspension systems is integrated into the control unit for the electronic chassis platform. The systems are closely interlinked and work in a highly coordinated manner with maximum precision.

It makes fast driving, cornering and even braking very stable like you are driving a large fast car.

Select Your Drive Mode at Your Will
The Audi drive select allows seven different driving profiles, including the off-road programme. For the off-road, the Audi Q8 benefits from the Quattro drive, the short overhangs and the large ground clearance — a maximum of 254mm (10.0in) with the adaptive air suspension and 220mm (8.7in) with the standard suspension.

The electronic chassis platform captures the tilt angle and displays information for the driver on the MMI. On steep slopes over 6%, the hill descent control provides support with automatic braking input. The system keeps the speed set by the driver at a constant level up to a maximum of 30kph (18.6 kph), allowing the driver to fully focus on the terrain.

It is such a delight with these off-road features which are not available on many other SUVs. That gives this RM727,900 (retail price without insurance) a strong advantage against the competitors in the same class.

The exterior, interior, powertrain and features would make the Q8 an appealing choice for the distinguished c-suite executives especially Audi loyal fans. It is an SUV which would take the fight against the best in the same category of over RM700,000.