Its combination of style and pace powers the 2019 Audi Q8 to the front of the pack.
Frying Pan Road begins in the town of Basalt, Colo., and runs alongside Fryingpan River as it slithers northeast toward the Ruedi Reservoir in White River National Forest. It was on Frying Pan Road—where the curves placed a premium on handling and performance—that the “sports” side of the 2019 Audi Q8 sports utility vehicle came into full view.
There was an agility to the way the SUV carved the corners that belied its full-size stature and an eagerness to take on the next turn. The Q8 took on Frying Pan Road and made a meal out of it. While it doesn’t have any sports car pretensions, the Q8 has the feel of a properly sorted sports sedan: controlled, composed and rewarding—which shouldn’t surprise, as the goal from the start was to design and engineer an SUV for the driving enthusiast.
If you remember the original Quattro Coupe from the early 1980s, then you might have a sense of déjà vu after studying the design elements in the 2019 Audi Q8. This is completely intentional, as the designers acknowledge the influence that the ground-breaking and road-holding coupe had on the Q8. Like the Quattro Coupe, a well-defined plateau is sculpted into the top section of the front and rear fenders, and the shape and forward lean of the D-pillar evokes the legendary original. The rear taillight design features two taillights connected by an upper brake light, which appears over a black strip much like that on the original coupe.
The Q8 brings a host of new design features. One of the most visible is a redesigned Singleframe® grille that sets the template for future Q models, moving from a hexagonal to an octagonal shape.
Power is one thing the Q8 doesn’t seem to lack it as moves through the force of a 3.0-liter TFSI® turbocharged V6 engine that produces more torque than the supercharged V6 engine in the Audi Q7. It features a twin-scroll exhaust manifold designed to help the turbocharger build boost pressure quickly. The engine produces 369 lb-ft of peak torque from 1,370 to 4,500 rpm. This broad range of torque means power is readily available. Peak horsepower is 335 hp, available from 5,000 to 6,400 rpm.
The engine’s deep reserve of power is directly connected to the eight-speed automatic transmission’s ability to select the optimal gear for the driving conditions. Standard quattro® all-wheel drive also means that power is distributed to the axles with the most traction.
The goal from the start was to design and engineer an SUV for the driving enthusiast.
On the ascent of Frying Pan Road and in Dynamic drive mode, the transmission shifted quickly between gears and held onto lower gears to keep the engine in the thick of the power band.
Dynamic mode also lowers the ride height by 20mm and helps reduce body roll during cornering. Our vehicle was equipped with the all-wheel steering system that’s a part of the Adaptive Chassis package. A separate rear steering system turns the wheels in the opposite direction of the front wheels to help reduce the turning radius and turns the wheels in the same direction as the front wheels to help promote stability during changes of direction at highway speeds. Rear-wheel steering activation is practically imperceptible, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the system played a significant role in making our Q8 feel nimble on Frying Pan Road.
For different road and driving conditions, the Audi drive select system offers five other drive modes that include Auto, Comfort, Allroad and Offroad/Lift plus an Individual mode that the driver creates by choosing preferred steering, engine response and ride quality settings.
Much like the recent A8, A7 and A6, the interior of the 2019 Audi Q8 features the innovative MMI® touch response system that controls the vehicle’s infotainment, heating and ventilation systems. Audi interior designers favored a more minimalistic design aesthetic by eliminating many buttons and knobs and placing most of the controls within the two high-resolution screens of the MMI® touch response system. The infotainment touchscreen is neatly integrated within the black, glass-like panel that stretches across the mid-section of the dashboard. The controls for heating and ventilation reside within the touchscreen just below the infotainment screen.
Even as a first-time user of MMI® touch response, it was easy to find my way to the features within. The user interface is designed to feel second nature to anyone familiar with a tablet computer or modern smartphone. The infotainment home screen shows icons for each system or function, and every selection is followed by the response of a haptic vibration and audio confirmation.
Easy to use for the uninitiated, MMI® touch response became even easier through daily interaction. One particular feature that stuck out with Google Maps™ mapping service is how the system allowed us to drop a pin on a location and then automatically asked if we wanted directions to the pin.
Our vehicle was a Prestige trim model, which includes features such as the audiophile sound quality of the Bang & Olufsen® Premium 3D Sound System, a top view camera system that provides a virtual 360-degree view of the area surrounding the vehicle, HD Matrix-design LED headlight with animation, full LED taillights with animation, plus a head-up display system. The head-up display proved helpful by reducing the need to look at the speedometer on the second-generation Audi virtual cockpit. Also linked to the navigation system, the head-up display can display navigation directions, such as upcoming turns, in the driver’s line of sight.
With quattro® all-wheel drive and Audi drive select, the Q8 can make Colorado high country feel like its natural habitat.
Keeping us comfortable were the individual contour front seats with ventilation, memory and heating functions—a big plus in Colorado in December. Our car was equipped with Valcona leather from the available Luxury package, which includes an Alcantara® headliner, massage function for the front seats, extended leather package on the door armrest and center console, and dual-pane glass that helps keep the interior well-insulated from outside noise.
Inside the Q8, the miles pass by quickly in hushed tones. It’s an environment that combines the rewarding touch of premium materials, a fluid smoothness to the controls, and the visual appeal of sophisticated design.
In our three days with the 2019 Audi Q8, the vehicle never felt like it was out of its element, whether on short trips around Aspen or challenging routes such as Frying Pan Road. A driver simply dials in the Audi drive select mode to suit and then allows the engineering to show off. This SUV is not the original Quattro that inspired much of its design, but it is a rightful successor to the idea of the original: engaging to drive, technically advanced and in a class of its own.
Take a look at the 2019 Audi Q8