The cinematic vérité of the new Audi Q8
“You know, we call it a concept, but let’s make no mistake: This car is coming,” said Scott Keogh, President of Audi of America at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. “This is the new standard in luxury. People want this kind of quality, this kind of technology, and quite frankly they want the ride height of an SUV. I think it’s right for the times.”
Auto shows today are as full of wonder and whimsy as they have ever been. So much of what we experience at these events is a movie trailer, an advertisement for something we might never fully experience. The Audi Q8 concept debut in Detroit, however, was a cinematic movement, encapsulated in a handsome production model.
More than a motion picture on a screen, the 2019 Audi Q8 is now a moving reality, debuted in its production form with a fiery Dragon Orange metallic exterior—exclusive to the brand-new SUV—in Shanghai in June. On first look, it is a natural progression of the design language that began with the Ur-Quattro vehicle that made Audi a household name after dominating rally courses in the 1980s.
The signature, wide, flattened C-pillar of the classic all-wheel drive coupe transfers to this five-passenger SUV to create a sporty look that’s immediate and give cues to the future of Audi design. Accentuated wheel arches point to the vehicle’s capability and house available 22-inch wheels, the largest ever for an Audi production vehicle. The balanced proportions front-to-rear tell the gripping story of the all-wheel drive pedigree of the Audi Q8.
For Audi senior exterior designer Sascha Heyde working on his first model, articulating that vision is clearly about proportion. The vehicle’s shoulders flare over the wheels to emphasize width, stability and strength. The taillight bar stretches across the width of the vehicle and offers a broad surface on which to express the driver’s intention with dynamic turn signals. The horizontal design statement is supported by a high-gloss black panel that draws design inspiration from the Ur-Quattro.
On the front of the vehicle, a new octagonal “mask” immediately captures attention, surrounding and expanding the Singleframe® grille structure to give the new Audi Q8 a chiseled, brawny look. The vertical slats in the Singleframe® grille of the new front fascia also mark a design cue for the future of the entire SUV line.
The most striking visual of all is the subtle balance of the soon-to-be iconic roof silhouette. Its sloping roofline is immediately recognizable—but with something distinct. There’s a subtle sloping difference that at last finds the optimal SUV roof angle to both make a sporty statement and yield plenty of room for the rear passengers.
The interior of the 2019 Audi Q8 represents yet another singular vision, brought to life by Mauricio Monteiro Dos Santos and his interior design team. What you get with the Audi Q8 is nothing short of everything Audi designers have learned over decades of past iterations of vehicles. The forward-looking interior of the Q8 arrived right on time, all with a literal tilt toward the driver to help put forward a sense of focus and ease.
Those acquainted with the Audi A8 will find something familiar here within the Q8. After all, both represent the top of the Audi lineup. Of course, one thing the A8 doesn’t offer is 67.5 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats folded down.
The second generation of the Audi virtual cockpit along with two touch screens for the MMI® touch response system and an available head-up display make for one of the most visual and informed drives on the market today. More than just replacing what could be dozens of buttons for the many features and functions available on the Audi Q8, the two middle screens orchestrate the connected drive to be intuitive, drawing simplicity out of the complex. These screens dissolve almost imperceptibly into the horizontal gloss black panel of the dashboard when not in use, and they house the mechanisms to give the touch and sound feedback that we’ve come to expect. And it all works in perfect harmony with the vehicle’s natural language voice control.
Then, of course, there are the the available Valcona leather front seats with 18-way power and massage functionality, open-pore natural wood touches throughout, and myriad charging and connection options for compatible devices—premium features we always associate with the Audi brand and what Dos Santos calls the “soft layer” of the interior.
1 Always pay careful attention to the road, and do not drive while distracted. See Owner’s Manual for further details and important limitations.
Deeper than the sheet metal and premium appointments is a storied drivetrain and the capable chassis of an all-around driver’s vehicle, the real spirit of the Audi Q8. A pull on the gear selector takes the Q8 out of Park, transferring power from the 335 horsepower TFSI® engine through an eight-speed Tiptronic® transmission and applying it via permanent quattro® all-wheel drive. A touch on the MMI® screen brings up the Audi drive select options to tailor shifting and chassis response to your drive.
1 Before exiting the vehicle, always make sure the vehicle is shifted into Park, and the parking brake is set. See Owner’s Manual for important details.
There’s an abundance of low-end torque to break new ground on the same old commute. And a 5.6-second 0–60 brings out the “sport” in sport utility. This is the layer that can’t quite be described in words and must be felt on the road—the will of the accelerator juxtaposed with the quietude of the interior, thanks in part to the available dual-paned frameless windows. The available all-wheel steering and adaptive air suspension work in conjunction for a drive that’s nimble at slower speeds and can provide more stability when you’re changing lanes on the highway.
What you get with the Audi Q8 is nothing short of everything Audi designers have learned over decades of past iterations.
To describe it any further would do the vehicle a disservice. A motion picture may contain tens of thousands of words, but it takes an experience of the new Audi Q8 to give you its complete shape. Suffice it to say, the Q8 is one case where the premiere was better than the preview.