Audi Q8 e
Punch from a plug
Audi offers ample choice in the premium segment. The A8 is the premium model in the form of a traditional sedan. However, due to the popularity of SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles), Audi also offers the finest it has to offer in the form of a luxury off-road vehicle. In this regard, the Q7 is the more traditional SUV, which also lends itself to off-road use. The Q8 is more focused on sportiness and therefore has lines with elements of a coupé.
Space and equipment
Inside, the Q8 is a cocoon of luxury and excess. The interior is very spacious. Both front and rear seats therefore offer plenty of head and legroom. However, despite that abundant space, bucket seats with integrated headrests have been chosen that are far too low to contribute to safety.
The dashboard is dominated by displays. As in most modern cars, a display on the dashboard takes centre stage Characteristic of Audi's top models is an additional screen underneath. Where buttons for operating the climate control system used to be, there is now a display to control those same functions. The dials behind the steering wheel have also been replaced by a display. The advantage of all this digitalisation: it looks tidy and allows one to choose to some extent how data is displayed.
The Q8 is a premium model from Audi and so can be fitted with all the luxury and safety features the brand has to offer. Note that some of this depends on option packages. A special mention goes to the B&O audio system. The sound of this is sparkling, clear and a delight to the ear.
The reason for this test drive is the introduction of the Q8 with plug-in hybrid drive (also known as PHEV for plug-in hybrid electric vehcile). That is, under the bonnet one will find a 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor. The electric motor is powered by energy recovered during braking and coasting. As the name "plug-in" suggests, it can also be charged from a plug, increasing the influence of the electric motor and therefore reducing fuel consumption.
The Q8 PHEV can drive on only the petrol engine, only the electric motor or a combination of both. When the destination is entered into the navigation system, the computer plans when to use which engine to cover the route as efficiently as possible. This works nicely and offers significant added value over cars that simply run down the battery first and then fall back on the combustion engine. It also prevents the battery from running out at the end of the journey, just when entering the destination city.
When both engines provide propulsion together, this Q8 is even quieter, smoother and more refined than the combustion-only variant. However, the difference between driving only on petrol or only on electricity is huge. The petrol engine is overwhelmingly much stronger than the electric motor and therefore the throttle response differs depending on the drive chosen. This "shortcoming" was also found during an earlier test of the Audi Q7 PHEV, but there the difference was even greater. According to Audi, the Q8 PHEV can travel around 47 km all-electric. Despite the fact that weather conditions during the test drive were extremely unfavourable (severe frost), that promised distance can be well realized. When the battery is empty, the petrol engine's consumption is around 10 litres per 100 km.
There are two versions of the Q8 plug-in hybrid: the "55 TFSI e" is good for 381 hp / 600 Nm. The "60 TFSI e Competition" driven here tops that with 462 hp / 700 Nm. This refers to the combined power of both engines. When the engines join forces for maximum performance, the initially quiet and refined Q8 transforms in an instant into a seethingly aggressive machine that devours asphalt with great power. Occupants are then pressed firmly into their seats (0- 100 km/h in 5.4 seconds) while noticeably demanding the utmost from the powertrain and chassis.
To keep the hefty weight and enormous power under control, many assistance systems are active. The ride height varies during the drive and in the steering wheel, it is noticeable that driver commands are translated into a change of direction only after several layers of electronics do their magic. Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage is purely personal. Those who prefer sporty driving with a purely mechanical feel will feel less comfortable in the Q8. On the other hand, those who like to leave the work to the machine and enjoy the fact that such performance can be extracted from such a large car with such ease, will thoroughly enjoy the Q8 PHEV.
The Audi Q8 is now also available with plug-in hybrid drive. This is a logical development, as diesel is falling out of favour due to the composition of its exhaust gases, while tax makes giants like the Q8 extra expensive. For those who, for whatever reason, are not yet ready for the all-electric car, a plug-in hybrid is a good intermediate solution. On short distances, the "Q8 TFSI e" is quiet, quick and emission-free like an all-electric car. At longer distances, that same electric motor allows the petrol engine to do its job more efficiently and with more refinement.
Hybrid technology has no disadvantages, other than the need for regular charging. When not charged consistently, the battery is merely ballast and consumption even picks up. The extra weight of the battery is relatively small on the total weight of the Q8. Therefore, handling has remained the same: comfortable with a sporty undertone.
- Extremely comfortable
- Spacious and practical
- Even quieter and more refined than a conventional Q8
- Sparse standard equipment
- Rear windows cannot be fully opened
- Accelerator response differs when driving on electric or petrol