It was an inevitability, wasn't it? Audi’s Q8 (cunningly known as the Audi ‘Kuwait’ in some circles) dived into the often maligned, yet incomprehensibly popular coupe-SUV niche with Audi’s first go at a full-sized RS SUV. Audi’s only previous RS SUV model, the RSQ3, was somehow near-acceptable thanks to the compact footprint and the fact it is better to drive than the equivalent RS3 Sportback, yet the RSQ8 is something altogether more serious.
The numbers are substantial. Audi’s RSQ8 starts at over £100,000, weighs over 2300kg, has nearly 600bhp and, at 23 inches, the biggest set of wheels ever fitted to a production Audi model. It also uses a remarkable amount of fuel, has an outstandingly large grille and includes pretty much every element of Audi’s technical armoury, from a rear-wheel steering system to active anti-roll bars and more.
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But before we write off the RSQ8 as being little more than an overloaded meat lovers in contrast to evo's generally preferred pizza margherita, Audi Sport, the company responsible for developing this herman monster of an SUV, has some impressive form in the recent RS6 and RS7. So the question that needs to be answered is whether this car can go beyond mere numbers and deliver a thrilling driving experience lacking in almost all super-SUVs of its type.
Audi RSQ8 in detail
- Performance and 0-62 time – It feels exactly like 592bhp powering over 2.3 tons of German SUV
- Engine and gearbox – It’s a familiar combination, but one that keeps improving with every application
- Ride and handling – No one will ever mistake this for a sports car, but its capability is deeply impressive, if not particularly immersive
- MPG and running costs – Not much, and lots. But if you can afford it in the first place...
- Interior and tech – Top-notch for non-fingerprint haters and build and material quality, with just enough RS to feel distinct
- Design – Imposing but fussy nose aside, it’s by far the most palatable coupe-SUV out there; 23-inch wheels perhaps a little too far...
Prices, specs and rivals
Pricing starts at £103,750 in the UK for the ‘basic’ RSQ8, with Carbon Black and Vorsprung models above bundling various options and aesthetic packages into two concise versions. Standard equipment is comprehensive, as you’d expect for its six-figure price point, so pretty much all of Audi’s trademark features are included – matrix LED headlights, 22-inch alloy wheels, Audi’s top-drawer heated, ventilated and electrically operated sports seats, a full suite of interior displays made up of the usual virtual cockpit and dual-touchscreen MMI systems. You get the point.
From here, the aforementioned Carbon Black model swaps out the standard 22-inch wheels for a set of 23-inch items, a sports exhaust system and, as its name might suggest, a liberal application of carbonfibre trim components inside and out. The top-spec RSQ8 Vorsprung goes the whole hog, loading the RSQ8 with Audi’s full active driver-aid suite, a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 17 speakers, head-up display, panoramic sunroof, soft-close doors and a massage function on the front seats. Contrary to other RS models though, the Vorsprung’s aesthetic changes actually tone the RSQ8 down from the Carbon Black model, swapping out the carbon for a dark titanium finish outside, and polished oak interior trim. When was the last time you heard of wood in an RS model?
It would be ridiculous to say that a £100k starting price seems reasonable, but in context, the RSQ8 is actually priced rather sensibly, sitting slightly beneath the Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo, a cousin sharing plenty of mechanical attributes, but with less standard equipment and lacking the RSQ8’s mild-hybrid and active chassis elements. The tech is available on the Porsche, but you have to pay for it. BMW’s X6 M Competition not only makes the RSQ8 look positively genteel and sophisticated, it’s also near-£10k more expensive, although it will have subtle power and specification gains on the Audi.
Look further up the pricing tree and the Lamborghini Urus, which shares its underlying chassis, engine, and interior tech (need I go on?) is a rather steep £159,925, although the lure of a Lamborghini badge will surely justify plenty of that price variance for the sort of people to which the Urus appeals. Aston’s less powerful but more elegant and glamorous new DBX is in the same pricing sphere at £158,000, while the Maserati Levante Trofeo remains a left-field performance SUV choice at £122,710.