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First Drive: Audi Q8

First Drive: Audi Q8

If SUV cars were judged solely on the way they look and drive, we could safely claim the Audi Q8 is beyond ideal. Unlike BMW, which has completely fleshed out its SUV line-up from X1 to X7, Audi has some vacancies to fill. The brand is certainly late to the big, coupe SUV party, but if the wait is what has created the Q8’s versatility, strength and innovative elegance, then this flagship SUV is worth it. Offering generously sized five-seater with remarkable towing capabilities, the Q8 has big-time presence, a meticulously cultivated drive and lots of fresh technology. Built upon the same platform that underpins the Q7, Bentley Bentayga and numerous other VW Group SUVs, the Q8 spans the same distance between the front and rear wheels as the Q7 but checks in a little shorter, a little lower and a little narrower overall.

We try not to be a fanboy here when it comes to the appearance of the Q8 but it’s definitely easier said than done. Audi has really gone to town with this model. Competing against rivals like BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, the Q8 offers a more cohesive design – it’s sportier without being ugly. The flat roofline, wide body and frameless side windows add to the personality of the car and contribute to its powerful stature all while providing generous head room. The octagon grille with contoured air inlets and HD Matrix design LED headlights add an aggressive look to the car whereas the black underlay in taillight bar pays homage to the Ur-Quattro, thus connecting past innovations and the present.

Inside, the cockpit reveals the care and attention that the designers and engineers have taken to tailor every detail around the driver’s needs and comfort. Seamlessly integrated into the gloss-black panel stretching across the dashboard, the MMI touch response system’s two screens angle toward the driver and uses smartphone-like interface. The touchscreens function like invisible buttons with feedback to your finger as well as things can be pinched, zoomed and moved in intuitive ways. If modern technology is your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that you can use handwriting to key in your destination on the touchscreen or you can speak naturally as it comes with natural language voice control – for example, you say “I’m hungry” and the car will suggest restaurants nearest to you. Other equally impressive features include the 3D surround view camera, Google Earth mapping, gorgeous ambient lighting choices and spa-like massaging seat functions. We love the convenience of items like the wireless CarPlay and the console-based charge pad, though they vastly limit the small storage space. As for streaming your favourite tunes, the Q8 is equipped with a B&O sound system.

Adding to the array of tremendous technology features are the safety bits such as heads up display, Traffic Jam Assist adaptive cruise control and a host of sensors which can project a real-time 3D model of the Q8 in its environment on the infotainment screen that makes parking so much easier. And what can we say about Audi interiors that hasn’t already been mentioned? The level of refinement and finishing of this product is really second to none. Everywhere you look, you’ll spot just the right amount of luxury leathers and expensive trimmings being used.

The big question is: does the drive match the striking design? Press the start button and, the Q8’s turbocharged 3.0-litre V-6 engine thrums quietly and gets the car from 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds. Whatever driving mode you choose, power is readily on tap to overtake slow-moving vehicles with ease. It has a solid, highly sophisticated feel from behind the wheel underpinned by an air suspension and huge 20- inch wheels. The ride is excellent and the cabin is quiet as a library. The steering done up with thick-rimmed, leather upholstery feels quick and accurate. Perhaps a little twitchy on these oversized tyres, the suspension quickly rubs out rough patches while smartly communicating the road to the driver. Also, there’s the 48-volt fuel-saving electrical system to provide longer engine-off moments during traffic stops. Overall, it’s a very rewarding drive both in terms of comfort and handling.

Hands down, the Q8 takes a bigger trophy for Audi: it’s easily the most comfortable crossover Audi makes and one of the best on sale today. Of course, not everyone is willing to pay the premium price just for a car, but then again, the Q8 enjoys a status as a niche product that really isn’t for everybody. This also means that when buyers are convinced, they’re really convinced. For RM727,900, you can get your toot sweet at the biggest Audi dealer in Malaysia, Euromobil Sdn Bhd (we like ours in Dragon Orange).

 

Discover more about the Audi Q8 here.