Personally, I don’t really like performance SUVs. In my experience, no matter how impressive a powerful SUV is, it’s never as fun as a real sports car. And the added sportiness usually only makes matters worse as an SUV. However, Audi’s last two performance SUVs have actually started to change my mind a bit. The Audi SQ7 and SQ8 were both incredibly good all-rounders, the ones I would consider buying myself, if I had the money. So naturally I was very excited to test the Audi RS Q8, the most powerful and efficient Audi SUV ever.
The Audi SQ7 and SQ8 are powerful and fast SUVs, but they are also a bit more relaxed than a real Audi Sport product. With their 500 horsepower V8s and luxurious cabins, they are both excellent everyday SUVs with the power and speed of a sports car. However, the RS Q8 offers even more power, much more capability and better performance.
The engine is good
Under the hood sits the same twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 that powers the Audi RS6 Front, giving it 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. It is one of the best engines of all time from Audi; effortless power, silky smooth delivery and a V8 rumble and rumble that reminds you that you are not in a typical family SUV. What’s fascinating is that it offers a bit more power than standard “S” cars, but it’s never less refined. Interestingly, he never feels much faster, even if it is, which is probably a byproduct of his perfect manners.
It is certainly more effective, however. Step on the pedal on the RS Q8 and it’ll make you forget everything you think you know about physics. Vehicles as big and as heavy as the Audi RS Q8 shouldn’t be as fast as they are. What’s nice is that it always pulls and always feels happy to do so, regardless of speed, gear, or rpm. It’s just instant and effortless power all the time.
Audi also deserves applause for the sound of its engine inside the cockpit. I’m pretty sure it’s synthetically enhanced with speaker trickery, which is standard practice in today’s high-end performance car world. However, Audi seems to have placed this speaker trickery more towards the rear of the cabin, making it sound like a real exhaust noise. In most modern luxury performance cars, the interior engine / exhaust sounds appear ambient, as if they are all around you. BMW is often to blame for this, while the sound of the Audi RS Q8 seems a bit distant, as if it is actually coming from the exhaust pipes behind you. It’s cool, actually.
Sharpened at the Nürburgring
I remember speaking to an Audi executive at the 2019 LA auto show when the RS Q8 was first unveiled. Audi has timed its reveal to coincide with the announcement that the RS Q8 has broken the SUV lap record at the Nürburgring. In my conversation with the Audi executive we were discussing the handling of the car and he basically said that the proof of his ability is at the Nürburgring. For any skeptics who might think the RS Q8 would be just another SUV with a big engine, Audi has proven itself on the Ring and you can feel it.
There’s incredible stability and ease of use with the Audi RS Q8, even pushing it hard, like it’s capable of a lot more than you can throw at it because, of course, it is. . Despite being a big old bully, the RS Q8 never feels too big, cranky, or nervous. It manages its weight incredibly well and lacks any sort of significant body roll. After driving it, not only do I have no doubts about Audi’s claims at the Nürburgring, but I also have no doubts that the RS Q8 will go hand in hand with the best SUVs in the world and hold up. Lamborghini Urus and Aston Martin DBX? I’d bet the RS Q8 would give both cars a real scare. This is a really impressive kit.
What’s even more interesting is that the Audi RS Q8 is more fun than I imagined. Again, I’m not a big SUV. Sure, the SQ7 and SQ8 were great for driving calmly but quickly, but they weren’t exactly amusing. I never thought the RS Q8 would be really fun for sports cars, but it is. Remarkably, the steering is precise and has a decent weight. It’s completely numb, but that’s to be expected from a performance Audi SUV and it’s not much of a problem. Still, it allows you to place the big car with ease and it responds well to your inputs. The RS Q8 could compete with much smaller sports cars on a twisty road and confidence in its direction has a lot to do with that.
Potentially even more important than that, however, is its ride. During my week with him, I was amazed at his ability to soak up bumps, despite riding on massive 23-inch wheels. This is another by-product of his training at the Nürburgring. The ‘Ring is far from a smooth track, with severe bumps, camber-free turns, and the famous Karussell is a 180 degree bend filled with concrete slabs in the middle of the roadway. A car that is too stiff will struggle in the Ring, especially one as heavy as the RS Q8. However, the big Audi’s softer suspension allowed it to absorb the bumps of the Nürburgring, helping it set its blazing 7:42 lap time.
That same Nürburgring-refined air suspension made it easy to absorb rough New Jersey pavement, as well as isolate the cabin from the accompanying NVH. Anyone who works on Audi Sport suspensions deserves a raise because the RS Q8 not only manages to control its weight while driving fast, but also manages to keep it comfortable.
Obviously, the Audi RS Q8 isn’t as comfortable as a standard Q8, or even the SQ8, but it’s far from too stiff and is perfectly pleasant to spend hours in. Without a doubt, the RS Q8 can be used as a do-it-all family car.
It looks mean too. My test car’s Navarra Blue exterior wasn’t the most exciting (I was hoping for Java Green or Dragon Orange), but it added some threat to the car’s appearance. Dark blue looked almost black in some lights and the Black Optics package, which made all of its trim pieces and even parts of the wheels black, helped with that.
My only real disappointment came inside the cabin, however. This is typical of Audi; superb, with excellent technology and comfortable ergonomics. However, the RS Q8 just doesn’t feel special enough inside to justify its price tag. This is the case with all Audi Sport models, as their interiors are never quite different from the standard cars they are based on. In Audi’s defense, the standard interiors are already pretty good, so there’s not much to objectively object to the interior, but I still wish it was a bit more special on the interior.
The rest of the cabin is great, however. Wireless Apple CarPlay worked flawlessly, Audi’s virtual cockpit is brighter than ever and, being a Q8, its rear seat fits perfectly into a child seat. The RS Q8, despite its mega-performance, remains a fantastic car to transport a family.
However, the absolute best part of the Audi RS Q8 is its balance. Some performance SUVs lean too far on performance and sacrifice comfort. Some lean too much into comfort and lack performance to make them fun. However, the Audi RS Q8 seems to be an almost perfect balance between the two. I used to think the Audi SQ7 was this Goldilocks setup but after driving the RS Q8 for a week I think I changed my mind.
The Audi RS Q8 is sharper, more fun and a bit faster. Granted, it’s also more expensive, starting at $ 114,500. Adding insult to injury, the price of my heavily optioned test car inflated $ 130,000. That’s almost $ 50,000 more than the starting price of an Audi SQ7 or SQ8. Is it worth it? In my opinion, yes, in fact.
Usually, I err on the side of frugality, but it’s hard to deny the advantages of owning the Audi RS Q8 over its lower siblings. It brings much more performance, without sacrificing much in terms of driving comfort, and keeping the same advanced technology. It also retains exactly the same functionality as the SQ8 or even the standard Q8. There is nothing the RS Q8 hurts and if you buy one you won’t regret a day spent with it.[Source: QuattroDaily]