Currently reading: Audi Q8 e-tron road trip: 500 miles from dunes to desert
Inspired by Audi’s electrified assault on the Dakar Rally, we took the all-electric Audi Q8 e-tron on an epic coast-to-coast trip across the UK

Epic adventures don’t come much more epic than the Dakar Rally. With a 5000km route of off-road stages that takes competitors across the searing hot sands, towering desert dunes and rocky mountain roads of the Arabian Peninsula – from the Red Sea coast to the Persian Gulf – it’s perhaps the last truly great endurance test of man and machine.

Since 2022, Audi has used the Dakar Rally as the ultimate proving ground for its electrified powertrain technology with the innovative Audi RS Q e-tron. It’s just the latest example in Audi’s 45-year-long history of using the white-hot of competition – and some of racing’s most challenging and gruelling on-track and off-road events – to explore, test and hone ideas that have helped Audi accelerate development of ever-better cars for the road.

So, suitably inspired, we wondered how could recreate the spirit of the Dakar Rally a bit closer to home. That’s why we decided to take the all-new Audi Q8 e-tron on our own epic 500-mile coast-to-coast journey from the dunes of Ynslas beach on the Welsh coast to what is (hotly debated to be) the UK’s only desert at Dungeness in Kent. Our aim: prove how the Audi Q8 e-tron is Audi’s most inspiring all-electric SUV to date.


Learn more about the all-new Audi Q8 e-tron here.



Electrified quattro capability on the dunes

It’s 6am. It’s cold, and it’s wet. We probably couldn’t have picked a worse day to start a trip commemorating the desert heat and sandy dunes that Audi faced on the 2023 Dakar Rally.

Although, to be fair, this year’s Dakar Rally did have its fair share of stages affected by heavy rain and bad weather, giving the electrified Audi RS Q e-tron a uniquely gruelling workout. Can Audi’s new Q8 e-tron prove equally capable – and even more comfortable – in the worst the British weather can throw at us? We’re about to find out.

As we peel off the B453 towards Ynslas beach in our Audi Q8 e-tron, the asphalt goes no further, and the long stretch of sand to the Irish Sea begins. This is where the Audi Q8 e-tron’s electrified quattro capability shines bright

With a few taps of Audi’s seamlessly integrated in-car MMI touch-response infotainment system and its stylish haptic buttons the Audi Q8 e-tron rises up on its adaptive Sport air suspension to ‘High Level 1' mode, giving us 35mm of off-road-friendly ground clearance and a confidence-inspiring view of the terrain ahead

As we make our way to the wall of dunes circling this scarcely believable sand-made car park, it’s impossible to ignore the seamless transition from on-road to off-road driving. No sudden loss of traction, no unwanted hops and skips – just effortless, cloud-like ride comfort and business as usual

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Accompanied by the low futuristic hum of the Audi Q8 e-tron’s all-electric ‘engine note’, we lower the electric windows to take in the ocean air – marvelling at the uninterrupted sound of lapping water and the distant chirps of winged early risers. The Audi Q8 e-tron simply takes refinement to another level. It’s one thing running on close-to-silent all-electric power, and quite another to create a cabin like this. You really could hear a pin drop.

We come to a stop, turn off the car and the warm-up ritual begins: all in preparation for sunrise. This time it’s the lower half of Audi’s dual-screen infotainment system that commands our attention. In a matter of moments, the climate control warms the stylish interior from a spring chill to a summer high. The heated seats aren’t too far behind. Clutching our morning coffee, all that’s left is to sit back, relax and enjoy the view.

Effortless cruising on A-roads and the motorway

As much fun as it is relaxing on the dunes of Ynslas, the open road beckons. So, too, does Bristol: the second stop on our road-trip, some 150 miles away. Loading up the route plan in the Audi Q8 e-tron’s MMI Navigation Plus system takes seconds, and it isn’t long before we’re on our way.

Heading south on the A470, we get our first chance to experience the Audi Q8 e-tron’s cruising capability and its seamless in-car tech. Audi’s virtual cockpit is every bit as effective and intuitive as you would want in a premium SUV, and shuffling between navigation, podcasts, classic tunes and the wealth of DAB radio stations on offer quickly becomes second nature.

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You can even use intuitive voice control to ask the Audi Q8 e-tron to change the track, increase the volume, warm you up, cool you down, or even read out your texts (amongst many other things). Equally – analogue users rejoice – physical gloss-black buttons and a duo of click wheels below your thumbs on the steering wheel make controlling the infotainment system feel effortlessly easy and safe.

Hours quickly feel like they turn to minutes, helped enormously by the Audi Q8 e-tron’s revelatory Tour Pack, which comes fitted as standard on our Audi Q8 e-tron’s Vorsprung trim. Its adaptive cruise assist with active lane assist and predictive efficiency assist – think ‘smart’ cruise control – makes long-range motorway driving feel effortless.Equally, the smart dampers of the Adaptive Sport air suspension don’t just provide a refined ride – they also take efficiency to new highs (quite literally) lowering by up to 13mm at motorway speeds for a more streamlined energy-efficient low-slong form.

Urban style meets smart tech in Bristol

Before long, we’ve crossed the impressive Prince of Wales Bridge that spans the River Severn and we’re making our way into Bristol’s bustling city centre – our Audi Q8 e-tron easily morphing from grand tourer to city run-around with exceptional ease.

Being a large SUV, you might assume that the Audi Q8 e-tron would feel out of place among the hustle and bustle of urban life. But you’d be wrong.

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In the heart of the city, visibility is everything and that’s why the virtual door mirrors that come as standard on our Vorsprung spec are as easy and practical to use as they are sleek and showstopping to admire. From the A-roads and the motorway to here in the heart of the urban bustle, you learn how effective they are in a wealth of different driving environments.

No matter what the weather conditions – be it torrential rain, morning dew or the darkest of rural nights – our Audi Q8 e-tron’s virtual door mirrors had an answer. The OLED screens always remained sharp, never fogging up and never obstructed. Equally, the multi-touch display grants quick access to multiple views that help you weave your way around thew wealth of urban obstacles, while the turn signal view is truly invaluable when changing lanes and navigating junctions, giving you an even broader view of other road users around you. 

In addition, the Audi Q8 e-tron’s City Assist Pack of sensors and driving assist features (which comes fitted as standard across the full breadth of the Audi Q8 e-tron range), provide a second, third and fourth set of helpful eyes to spot other traffic and hazards. The result: the Audi Q8 e-tron feels like it shrinks in size in the city, while we grow in confidence.

From Hotwell Road, we marvel at the majesty of the Clifton Bridge from below. But we want to get some height and see the bridge from above. A quick glance at the glowing green outlines around the virtual door mirrors’ monitors confirms that it’s safe to pull off at Granbury Hill, where we use the Audi Q8 e-tron’s all-electric oomph to effortlessly take us to the top of the hill. A tight parking space off Clifton Down is ably navigated by our Audi Q8 e-tron’s 360-degree view camera and Park Assist parking aids, leaving us with more energy to tackle the steep footpaths ascending Bristol’s public park and the picturesque Clifton Observatory atop.

Our whistlestop tour of Bristol is taken in the Audi Q8 e-tron’s stride and as we pass the umpteenth zero emission zone sign, we get a warming reminder that we’ve expelled the total sum of zero carbon emissions from our tailpipe for our chance to enjoy the city’s sights. And it feels great.

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Peace and tranquillity in the New Forest

The next day, over breakfast, we jump on the MyAudi app from the comfort of our hotel’s sofa to consider our best route to the New Forest National Park. The A36 is the shortest distance, but the M4 provides the path of least resistance, so we set our course, ready to sync it with the navigation in the car. Not a blink later, nestled in our Audi Q8 e-tron’s cosseting Valcona leather seats, Bristol’s high-rises are replaced with mighty redwoods.

You’re spoilt for a quiet scenic parking spot in the New Forest. But, battered by Britain’s characteristically wet weather and years of use, the car parks and entrance trails are generally littered with crater-sized potholes. Where a hatchback or family estate might find itself rocking around like it’s trailing in the wake of the perfect storm, our Audi Q8 e-tron’s all-conquering ride height and quattro capability shines once again, carrying us comfortably across uneven muddy terrain with minimal effort and maximum composure.

Transfixed on the tree canopy above, we lower the windows and open the panoramic glass sunroof, taking in the sweet perfume of the forest, and the peerless sounds of birds chirping and wild horses trotting uninterrupted in the near-silence of Audi’s all-electric motor. But, as alluring as the Valcona leather seats might be, we haven’t driven all this way to stay in the car. It’s time to explore on foot. Perching on the Audi Q8 e-tron’s perfectly positioned tailgate we get our walking boots on and head into the forest.

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A long walk builds up an appetite and as the clouds move in once again and the faint mist turns to a cinematic rainstorm, we rush back to the cossetting cocoon of the Audi Q8 e-tron. As soon as it comes into view, we open the electric tailgate remotely. Muddy boots bagged and, in the boot, we set the climate control to its maximum heat, drying us almost faster than we can complain about the Great British weather. Route point set, we get back on the road.

Heading south towards the coast we stop in Brighton for dinner. To say it’s blustery on the South Coast today would be an understatement: “One of the windiest days we’ve had this year,” as our resilient waiter says. The sound of waves smashing against Brighton Pier is intermixed with the crashing of awnings, swinging metal signposts and anything light enough to lift – a stark contrast to the superhero tranquillity of the Q8 e-tron’s four walls. They say a picture paints a thousand words, so we’ll let the video (below) do the talking.

Navigating our way to Dungeness: the UK’s only desert

As the sun starts to shine on the last day of our cross-country road-trip, so too does the electric motor in our Audi Q8 e-tron. A nice mix of undulating A-roads and tree-lined B-roads set the rules of engagement: 402bhp and 490lb ft of useable torque come together in a perfect performance package. The Audi Q8 e-tron’s confidence-inspiring quattro makes for a fabulously entertaining drive, and one that rewards with every corner. Before we can enjoy the winding coastal roads too much, Dungeness appears on the horizon.

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For those unacquainted, Dungeness is a headland on the coast of Kent, formed almost entirely of shingle beach. Thanks to its unique geography and climate, it can potentially be classified as the UK’s only desert (although this is subject to some debate in more discerning circles than ours). With scarce plant life, a series of stylish wooden shacks and hollow boat shells, this vast area of low-lying land looks remarkably ‘wild west’. And it’s here’s where we find Shingle House: an architectural masterpiece set inland facing out to the coastline.

Against the backdrop of its ultra-modern wood and glass façade we take a moment to admire the contemporary design of Audi’s Q8 e-tron – the earthy tones in the Chronos grey metallic paintwork echoing the shingles surround the site. The devil is truly in the detail and much like the award-winning design of Shingle House, the Audi Q8 e-tron’s sculpted front-end conjures up classic Audi’s of old and yet unlike anything you’ve seen before – purposeful, aggressive, and supremely modern in equal measure.

As the sun drops below the horizon line, we take a moment to appreciate the Audi Q8 e-tron after dark. Decades of development in lighting technology has ultimately been realised in the Audi Q8 e-tron’s ultra-impressive Matrix LED headlights – which are a spectacle on the move and parked up on the driveway, but also cut through the blackest of nights with pinpoint precision and truly awe-inspiring illumination. It will be hard to go back to conventional headlights after this.

The interior lighting of the Audi Q8 e-tron is equally impressive. Sitting shotgun, we can’t help but indulge in the joy of configuring our own ambient lighting atmosphere, mixing, and matching the door sills and dashboard recesses with one of 30 different colours and shades.

After just over 500 miles behind the wheel of Audi’s all-new Q8 e-tron SUV, one thing has become exceptionally clear. This isn’t an electric car designed for the city, nor is it solely designed for the open road. It isn’t a commuter car or a cross-continental family load-all. No, the Audi Q8 e-tron is designed for everything you might throw at it and then some. All weather and all journeys.

Find out more about the all-new Audi Q8 e-tron here.

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