If you hadn’t noticed already, the launch of new Audi Q8 confirms that this is a company that’s laser-focused on technology. Unveiled in Shenzhen after months of teasers and rumours, the new premium SUV – oddly dubbed the Audi’s «first premium SUV» by Rupert Stadtler earlier in the day – follows a tranche of recent high tech launches from the company, which started at the back end of 2017 with the Audi A8.
At the time, the Audi A8 was the most advanced vehicle I’d ever sat in or driven. Well, not any more. The Audi Q8 is here and it ushers in a new era of high technology, laying the groundwork for the autonomous and connected car technology we’ll see more and more of over the next few years.
Audi’s intentions for the Q8 were clear from the moment it announced the choice of launch venue. Held in Shenzhen, China – the crucible for the country’s juggernaut-like high-tech industry – we took in the Huawei campus (a long time collaborator with Audi) where the talk was of 5G, C-V2X (cellular vehicle to everything) connectivity, traffic management systems and autonomous driving.
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Audi Q8: Design
Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though. The Audi Q8 may well be the next big thing for Audi, but it won’t drive itself. Not yet. That’s coming a little further down the line.
It does, however, signal a new direction; it isn’t just another big SUV from the German marque, despite appearances. It looks much more modern and fun than the Audi A8, for instance, which it supplants as the company’s flagship car, and a lot fresher than the Audi Q7.
Just like the A8, the Audi Q8 is dripping with technology but it’s recognisably an Audi. As you’d expect, it continues the same sort of styling as the rest of the Audi range. The SUV’s front is dominated by a large, hexagonal grille with vertical chrome bars, and segmented zebra-stripe front headlights flanking it to the left and right.
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But it’s not a completecoplete doppelganger for the Q7 or the A8, and represents another step along the road for Marc Lichte’s next-generation Audi design language. As befits a flagship vehicle from a company of Audi’s standing, it makes quite the statement, with a chunkier surround for the front grille, beefier wheel arches and a wider, squatter stance with the body sitting closer to the ground.
The result is that it looks more compact than the Q7 and, yes, the car is a touch shorter than its sibling. But it offers virtually the same amount of space inside. The key difference is that the Audi Q8 is strictly a five-seater, whereas you can get the Q7 with seven.
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Audi Q8: Interior tech and driver assistance tech
Despite the more youthful look on the outside, it’s pure luxury Audi on the inside. No funky colours, no outlandish textures here: instead you’re surrounded by calm, grey leather, piano black panels and chrome trim, topped off with wide, sweeping vents that span the entire width of the car at the front of the cabin.
In fact, on the inside, the car looks remarkably similar to the A8 and A7 Sportback with the focus firmly on technology. The latest version of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster takes pride of place behind the D-shaped steering wheel.
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A large 10.1in touch display for media and satnav sits high up in the centre of the dashboard and another, smaller 8.1in screen, used for climate control, text entry and handwriting recognition resides just below it. Both screens, as with the A8 and A7 Sportback, give a buzz haptic feedback when pressed.
Of course, that also means no touchpad or rotary control wheel anymore, a loss that some people might complain about, but the new Audi infotainment system is complex enough without the addition of yet another control method.
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READ NEXT: Audi A8 review
As for driver- assistance technology, there will be a choice of four different packages with 39 different technologies on offer, including the same slow speed traffic assistance as the Audi A8. Several different audio systems are offered with the Audi Q8, with a 23-speaker Bang & Olufsen system, complete with fancy dashboard-mounted tweeters topping the range.
READ NEXT: Audi A8 review
Audi Audi Q8: Engines
From launch, UK customers will have a choice of two 3.0-litre engines, one 335bhp petrol and a 282bhp diesel with the diesel going from 0 to 62mph in 6.3 seconds and with a top speed of 144mph.
Both will employ Audi’s mild hybrid technology, which gives you fuel savings when the car is coasting on the motorway and, of course, Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system which can be specified with optional four-wheel steering, just like the Audi A8. This will allow the car to manoeuvre in tight spaces more efficiently at slow speed and change lanes more securely on motorways and dual carriageways.
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Audi Q8: UK price and availability
Since this is a new model for Audi and one that sits at the pricier end of the spectrum, even above the Q7, prices are estimated to start considerably higher than Audi Q7, which starts at around £50,000. The Audi Q8 looks set to cost from £65,000, pitching the car directly against the likes of the Range Rover Sport, although it’s less expensive than the Porsche Cayenne.
Whether or not UK buyers will flock to it as they have to the Sport remains to be seen but, from first impressions, it’s a great combination of aggressive good looks, advanced tech and performance.