Diesel Audi Q8 has fuel-sipping swagger
While the world’s motorists increasingly gravitate from traditional sedans towards high-riding heavies, a more recently-created subculture of SUVs take some of the Utility out of the Sports Utility Vehicle recipe.
It’s spawned vehicles like the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and, more recently, the Audi Q8, that add some styling swagger to the practical-and-spacious SUV blueprint.
There’s plenty of that swagger on show in the Q8, which was launched in SA last year as the newest entrant to this relatively exclusive club. With its swooping coupe-style roofline, lower and wider stance, and prominent octagonal-grilled facade, this five-seater struts decidedly more sporting flair than its boxier, seven-seater Q7 sister model.
Audi positions the Q8 as the halo version of its Q range and it’s priced accordingly: the Q8 45 TDI Quattro retails for R1,573,500 which is a R437,000 premium over the equivalent Q7 model.
The diesel-engined 45 TDI recently arrived as the second Q8 to join the line-up after the vehicle was initially launched last year as a 55 TFSI Quattro with a 3.0l petrol turbo V6 wielding outputs of 250kW and 500Nm.
The diesel’s pitched as more friendly to fuel budgets and it delivers. After a week of urban and open-road driving the 45 TDI test car’s fuel consumption averaged 9.8l /100km, making it significantly more frugal than the 14.5l we achieved in the 3.0 turbo petrol version.
That will make the diesel the no-brainer choice for Q8 buyers seeking lower running costs, though they’ll take an initial hit with the purchase price as the diesel sells at a R56,000 premium over the petrol.
Money matters aside, I still prefer driving the petrol version as it’s a more lively performer, particularly in a standing start where it doesn’t succumb to turbo lag at Gauteng altitude like the diesel does.
The diesel’s only 1.1 seconds slower from 0-100km/h than the petrol (7.0 seconds vs 5.9 seconds), but there’s enough of a power pause to be noticeable, especially when you’re driving in a bit of a hurry.
Once the diesel Q8 is rolling along it feels satisfyingly peppy, with gutsy overtaking acceleration that makes it whip past long trucks rather effortlessly. It’s also a smooth and softly-spoken engine with no vestiges of agricultural origins.
The test car rode on optional air suspension that nicely smoothed out the ride on road undulations, though potholes and rougher tar exposed some jarring from the optionally fitted low-profile 285/40 R22 tyres. For a plusher ride I’d rather go for the standard higher-profile 20-inch tyres which are also more suited to offroad driving — the vehicle has up to 254mm of ground clearance and hill descent control so it’s not just a pavement poseur.
With the adaptive air suspension stiffening and lowering in Sport mode, the Q8 is fairly well settled in corners for a high-riding vehicle weighing 2.1 tons. It has more body roll than some sports SUVs, but the all-weather grip is plentiful thanks to all-wheel drive and stability control.
The Q8’s coupe-style roofline doesn’t impinge much on interior roominess and there’s plenty of headroom all round in the family-sized cabin.
The interior design is a study in modern digitally-inspired flair, with ambient lighting that playfully displays the cabin “mood” by glowing red when the air temperature is turned up and blue when it’s turned down.
With digital screens and a setting of piano-black and brushed-metal surfaces, it all radiates a high class feel. It all looks impressively high tech, though I’m not a big fan of the haptic touchscreen controls which almost completely replace physical buttons. They require a harder press than regular digital icons but don’t really have a pronounced “click”.
That said, I like the dampened heaviness of hand-adjusting the air vents; it’s a small touch that adds to the premium and solid feel of this Audi.
The Audi Q8 lights the way with laser LED Matrix headlamps, using an array of individually controlled LEDs that turn off independently of one another. It allows you to drive on high beam while the light “bends” around other road users so as not to blind them.
Optionally available for R35,920 is night vision assist that uses an infrared camera to detect pedestrians and larger animals at greater distances than the naked eye. Adaptive cruise control (R21,630) is another feature from the extra-cost catalogue, but overall the diesel Q8 is fairly well-specced for the price.
It is difficult to dislike the Audi Q8 with its styling dazzle and hi-tech appeal, and the newly-introduced diesel model adds frugality to the equation. I’d still choose the perkier petrol version though.
Type: Six-cylinder diesel
Type: Eight-speed tiptronic automatic
Type: All-wheel drive
Top speed: 220km/h (claimed)
0-100km/h: 7.0 seconds (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: 8.1l/100km (claimed); 9.8l /100km (as tested)
ABS brakes, six airbags, stability control, tyre pressure monitoring system, panoramic sunroof, Matrix LED headlamps, cruise control, virtual cockpit, four-zone climate control, electric steering wheel adjustment, electrically adjustable front seats, seat heaters in front, leather upholstery, electrically opening tailgate, infotainment system with navigation, Bang & Olufsen sound system, parking aid with 360° display, regenerative braking, electric windows, electric mirrors, ambient lighting
Warranty: One year/unlimited km; Service plan: Five years/100,000km; Price: R1,573,500
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