The 2019 Q8 is the latest and greatest from Audi, a so-called four-door coupe that was inspired by models like the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Coupe. These models trade in a little utility for a heavy dose of style, though the Audi is the least compromised of the trio when it comes to useable space. It's 21 cubic-feet of cargo volume behind the rear seats is roughly the same as the other two, but the way it's packaged allows for a more usable area. Rear visibility and rear headroom are improved, too. That said, new versions of both the X6 and GLE are on their way, so expect to see both of those models make some gains.
Like most Audis, the Q8 shares a lot with other Volkswagen Group models, namely the Porsche Cayenne, Bentley Bentayga and Lamborghini Urus. Our tester was the mid-level Premium Plus model. It's $4,000 more than a base Q8 Premium but includes features like 21-inch wheels, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, illuminated door sills, four-zone climate control, ventilated front seats and wireless charging. Other options on this model include $595 for the Daytona Grey paint, the $600 cold weather package and the $2,750 driver assistance package. The latter adds adaptive cruise with traffic jam assist, active lane assist and traffic sign recognition. All in, this Q8 will set you back $79,340.
Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: The Q8 is stylish and offers a large-sized take on the 'coupe' crossover mashup segment. I like it. The six-cylinder is strong and capable. The interior is an elegant evolution of Audi's upscale cabin treatment. It's quiet at highway speeds and the chassis nicely dampens Michigan's cratered roads. The steering is light yet responsive when you want it. With lots of creases, a prominent grille and the appearance of an off-road style front fascia (it's the angle), the Q8 has more presence than its competitors from BMW and Mercedes. I was able to jam three large plastic tubs and a huge cardboard box in the back, too, so there's fewer compromises with Audi's more conventional design. The Q8 seems like a winner for the Four Rings.
Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: This is an attractive vehicle. Seeing it in the parking lot for the first time, it looks athletic, imposing and aggressive yet sharp and clean, especially in this Daytona Gray. I've always thought the Q5 and Q7 look a little pudgy, but not this. I wanted to get in it as soon as I saw it.
I was greeted by a spacious, comfortable interior with Audi's signature architectural styling. Also there are a lot of digital displays here, including the instrument panel, the infotainment touchscreen, and the HVAC control screen. While they all look very nice, I found the touch controls a little finicky. Sometimes I had to press extra hard to get the touchscreen to recognize my input. There was also a little lag at other times. It was nowhere near as frustrating as in the I-Pace, but it was enough to make me wish for more hard buttons. I appreciated having some audio controls on the steering wheel, but there were a couple of times I accidentally changed the audio source from there while steering around a corner.
The Q8 drives like a true Audi. It's calm when you want it to be, and jumps to life at your command. I especially liked the tuning of the suspension in the Q8. It seemed nearly impossible to catch the active damping system unaware. It feels nice and taut going down the road, like a skier with her knees bent ready for the next mogul. When those moguls came, the Q8's suspension was always read to absorb the blow and keep the cabin still and quiet.
This feels like a glimpse into the future for Audi, and I can only help but wonder how the German brand translates this aesthetic and dynamics into its E-Tron lineup in the years ahead. If Audi can continue to do right by consumers with its clean styling and fine-tuned driving dynamics while appealing to those of us who crave electric power, it should be a fun ride.
Doing a @nalgene check in the @Audi Q8. @therealautoblog pic.twitter.com/e9CpZWLRjk — John Snyder (@jbeltzsnyder) March 6, 2019
Assistant Editor Zac Palmer: Even if the Audi A8 is technically the flagship of Audi's lineup, the Q8 must be far more important for the brand in the U.S. It displaces the Q7 as the most expensive Audi SUV money can buy, and houses all the new technology Audi is throwing at its cars.
One worry of mine with "coupe SUVs" that the Germans love so much is always visibility. The Q8 feels like it commits to the slung-back body style partway. Both the Mercedes and BMW competitors to this vehicle have a much more rounded and traditional shape, whereas the Audi is all straight lines and angles. I think this looks a lot better than the others that just come off as bulbous and bloated comparatively. The incredible Audi taillights and full-width LED strip out back look right at home in the dark, too. My biggest disappointment are the black plastic inserts to simulate exhaust outlets in the rear bumper — they're laughable, and Audi can surely do better.
I liked the Q8 way more than I thought I would. Super smooth cruiser, and somehow Audi keeps making its taillights look better with each new model. @therealautoblog pic.twitter.com/2q8wpRO2O2 — Zac Palmer (@zacpalmerr) March 12, 2019
I heaped praise on the Audi A6's interior and infotainment system, and the Q8 feels like a carbon copy of that, but in taller SUV form. In short, it's fabulous and feels worth every dollar of its expensive asking price.
The driving experience itself is relatively ho-hum, though. There's enough torque and power, the 48-volt system provides near seamless starting and stopping and the chassis strikes a good balance between isolation from the road and responsiveness. We'll have to wait for the SQ8 to get anything in the sporty realm, but even the normal Q8 holds onto corners far longer than a big SUV has any right to. I do have a slight quibble with the transmission. The ZF eight-speed provides near unnoticeable shifts consistently, but every now and then there's a slightly more jarring transition between gears, unbecoming of this transmission's usual smoothness. It's certainly no dealbreaker, but I was surprised to notice the little hiccup in such an otherwise fluid machine.