2021 Audi Q8
2021 Audi Q8
What happens when you chop the roof and cut down the interior space of Audi’s largest crossover? You get the Q8, the newest style leader of their lineup. Befitting its price, it is absurdly comfortable and, in SQ8 and RS Q8 trims, absurdly quick.
Even the oldest Q8s are still new enough to be covered under their factory warranty, so nothing much changes for its third year on the market other than a few additional standard safety features.
The base Q8 continues to be powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 that makes 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The upmarket SQ8 and RS Q8 both use a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that doles out either 500 or 591 hp, respectively. All models share an 8-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard across the range.
The thriftiest Q8 is the V-6, which is rated at a still-dismal 17 mpg city, 21 highway, 18 combined. Adding horsepower reduces those numbers further: an SQ8 is rated for 15/21/17 mpg, while an RS Q8 will manage just 13/19/15 mpg.
Safety features have been enhanced for 2021, with all Q8s now getting blind-spot monitors to go along with the previously-standard automatic emergency braking. Other driver assists like adaptive cruise control and a surround-view camera system remain optional.
As for crashworthiness, the IIHS named the Q8 a Top Safety Pick and the NHTSA awarded it a five-star rating.
All prices include a $995 destination charge. The Q8 is available in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trims, while the SQ8 is only available as a Premium Plus or Prestige. The RS Q8 comes only in Prestige trimmings.
With a starting price of $68,195, the Premium is the most affordable Q8. It comes standard with features like 20-inch wheels, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, dual touchscreens, wireless Apple CarPlay compatibility, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, and leather upholstery.
The Q8 Premium Plus begins at $73,045 and adds goodies like four-zone climate control, 21-inch wheels, and a surround-view camera system. This is the base trim of the SQ8, which begins at $90,195.
The $78,845 Prestige earns its title with standard luxuries such as a leather-swathed dashboard, matrix LED headlights, power soft-closing doors, a head-up display, and standard driver-assist features. An SQ8 Prestige is $96,095 and an RS Q8 is $113,995.
Style is as much a commodity as anything else. The handsome Q8 is an apt example of this. It spawns from the same platform underpinning the Audi Q7, and the two share the same 3.0-liter V-6 (base model Q7s with the unpopular turbo-4 notwithstanding). Yet the cheapest Q8, with its sleeker roofline and emotive styling, costs another $9,000 over the cheapest V-6 Q7.
So yes, you pay dearly for styling. But you can’t put a price on being smitten with your car’s looks, and the Q8 is sure to inspire such irrational adoration. Unlike the Q7, the Q8 seems to have been pulled taut over its chassis, the body coming off as stretched and lithe and purposeful. Look closer and the flowing lines around the rear fenders suggest a pair of powerful haunches. And the full-width tail lights out back might be the best rear lighting treatment on any contemporary Audi.
Audi simply knocked it out of the park with a clean design, fine materials, and oodles of usable tech that’s cleverly ingrained in the design. And the designers knew how to set the mood, with customizable ambient lighting and glossy black trim that matches the darkened touchscreens.
That’s right—screens, plural. The Q8 gets two: a 10.1-inch unit that sits near the top of the dash for infotainment duties, and an 8.6-inch display that is tasked with the climate controls. Both are fast, easy to use, and beautifully rendered.
Passengers will find themselves comfortable no matter where they find themselves sitting. The lower roof relative to the Q7 doesn’t impede head room, and leg room is plentiful at 40 inches. There’s no third row here, and that’s as it should be—get the Q7 if you need that. Four is really the proper number for the Q8, and as if to drive that point home the optional Executive Package deletes the middle rear seat in favor of two power-adjustable rear thrones. Skip that indulgent option and five people fit fine.
Cargo space is likewise not as good as its larger sibling, but again, maximum practicality isn’t the point of the Q8. Besides, the 30 cubic feet of cargo behind the back seat and the 60 total cubes with the seats folded should be enough.
Most buyers will pass on the pricey SQ8 and RS Q8 for the standard model, and tempting as the faster models are, we can understand why. Pricing aside, the regular Q8 gives up surprisingly little when it comes to dynamics or usable power.
We’ve driven the 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 in other Audi models, and we find it’s as home in the Q8 as it is anywhere else in the brand’s lineup. Plenty of power means there’s no trouble hustling up to speed when merging on the highway or going for pass, and the strong, silent operation of the engine is properly luxurious. That could also describe the 8-speed automatic, which can hardly be noticed in ordinary driving. Step on the gas, though, and it fires off quick and precise downshifts.
Yet we can’t help but wax poetically about the high-power models. The SQ8 we’ve yet to drive, but we had a chance to wheel around the RS Q8. It is as ridiculous in person as it sounds on paper: 2.5 tons, 591 horsepower, 0-60 mph in just 3.6 seconds. It is dizzying how adept it is; the similarities to a proper sports car are spot-on.
All Q8s get all-wheel drive, and it is an excellent partner in crime for those moments when traction is limited. Otherwise, it biases power to the rear for a sportier feel.
Every Q8 rides with regal composure, but the optional air suspension (standard on the performance models) really irons things out. We’d opt for it if we were buying.
The 2021 Audi Q8 is a proper flagship luxury crossover: it looks good, is supremely well-appointed, and is very quick, even with the base V-6. It’s a worthy suitor for anyone looking for an SUV of this caliber. We’d get ours in Premium Plus.
—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection