Audi’s first SUV was the Q7 launched in 2002 at a time when crossovers were not so common and a SUV was a more robust sort of vehicle. Over the years, the SUV market has shifted towards crossovers and the line has been blurring. Manufacturers have had to make this transition as quickly as possible and for Audi, this move has seen the development of a new flagship, the Q8. A preview of it was given with the Q8 concept in Detroit last year and it will go on sale in Europe later this year.

Q8 Concept displayed in 2017

The new Q8 is described as a 4-door luxury coupe with the practical versatility of a large SUV. It is said to offer sporty dynamics and upscale prestige like no other SUV from the brand. Measuring 4990 mm long, 2000 mm wide and 1710 mm tall, it is wider, shorter and lower than the Q7 which has been the biggest Q model to date.

With a wheelbase of nearly 3000 mm, it offers a spacious interior that it claims beats of its direct competitors in most relevant dimensions, including interior length and headroom. For versatility, there’s an optional 3-seat system in the rear with longitudinally adjustment. With the seatbacks folded down, the luggage compartment under the powered rear hatch has a volume of up to 1,755 litres.

The Q8 design team was led by Marc Lichte who started his career in Volkswagen in 1996 and became Audi’s Head of Design four years ago. He has introduced a new design language for the Q family which is evident in the Q8 with its imposing Singleframe in octagonal design. The radiator grille stands upright and, together with the spoiler that has been drawn toward the front and the large, highly contoured air inlets, emphasizes the self-confident look.

The elegantly sloping roofline terminates in gently inclined D-pillars and rests against the quattro blisters above the wheel arches, which house wheels that can be up to 22 inches in diameter.

Numerous details hint at the design of the original quattro. Strong contours and athletically tight surfaces convey a feeling of power, sophistication and the special dynamics of the permanent all-wheel drive. The spoiler, wheel arch trims, door trim strips and diffuser are in a contrasting colour, to further emphasize the off-road look.

Standard LED headlights illuminate the road ahead, with HD Matrix LED technology available as an option. Here both the three-dimensional signature of the daytime running lights and the taillights have a digital character. A light strip connects the units at the rear and as in the original Audi quattro, a black surface underlays this strip. Q8 owners can use the myAudi app on their smartphone to activate various lighting functions and experience them from the outside.

Audi and quattro are synonymous and the Q8, as the top SUV of the brand, must certain have the drivetrain. The purely mechanical centre differential transfers the forces to the front axle and rear axle at a ratio of 40:60 as standard. When required, it transfers more to the axle with the better traction.

254 mm of ground clearance and short overhangs allows the Q8 to be used for off-road adventures. The suspension has damper control as standard and customers can also opt for adaptive air suspension with controlled damping, with either comfort or sport set-up. It adjusts the ride height depending on the driving situation and the driver’s preference by as much as 90 mm. In the event a steep slope is encountered, hill descent control allows safe and confident movement with computer management.

Besides the standard progressive steering, whose steering ratio becomes increasingly direct the further the steering wheel is turned, Audi also offers the option of all-wheel steering. The system can turn the rear wheels as much as 5 degrees – counter to the direction of the turn at low speeds to increase agility and at higher speeds in the direction of the turn for better stability.

Audi has given the Q8 a powertrain with new mild hybrid technology (MHEV). The 48V primary electrical system incorporates two important technology modules: a lithium-ion battery and a belt alternator starter. During braking, it can recover up to 12 kW of power and feed it back into the battery. The MHEV technology enables long coasting phases with the engine deactivated and a start-stop range that begins at 22 km/h.

Inside, the central element is the top MMI touch response display. With its black-panel look, it almost dissolves into a large, black surface when switched off. All elements refer logically to one another, from the flat air vent strip to the wide console on the centre tunnel bearing the tiptronic selector lever. In the dark, the contour light traces the distinctive design lines of the interior and provides backlight for the three-dimensionally lasered quattro badge above the glove compartment. Options including customized contour seats with massage function and ventilation, 4-zone automatic air conditioning and an air quality package.

With the MMI touch response operating concept, nearly every function can be accessed via two large displays. The upper 10.1-inch display is used for controlling the infotainment and the navigation system. The driver uses the 8.6-inch display below that for air conditioning management, convenience functions and text input. Operation is swift and simple: A tactile and acoustic click confirms when a finger activates a function. In addition to all this, the natural language voice control turns the Q8 into an intelligent dialog partner. Drivers can say their commands freely, eg “I am hungry” and in response, restaurants close by will be suggested.

The instruments panel is the fully digital Audi virtual cockpit. Its high-resolution 12.3-inch display can be switched between two views via the multifunction steering wheel. An optional plus version includes a third sportily-oriented view. The head-up display also projects important information onto the windscreen, including detailed lane guidance for navigation.

There are plenty of driver assistance systems in the Q8 to make driving easier and safer. These include adaptive cruise assist, efficiency assist, crossing assist, lane change warning, curb warning and 360- degree cameras. A remote garage pilot will be available in early 2019, guiding the SUV into a garage and back out again autonomously. The driver can be outside the car while this takes place and activates the process using the myAudi app on a smartphone.

Behind all of these features is a central driver assistance controller. It continuously computes a differentiated model of the surroundings and uses this to manage the assistance systems. The required data can be obtained – depending on the selected options – from up to 5 radar sensors, 6 cameras, 12 ultrasound sensors and the laser scanner.

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