Audi Sport is set to preview its plans for a luxurious new 600bhp-plus BMW X6 M and Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 Coupe-rivalling SUV at the Geneva motor show in early March with the unveiling of a lightly-veiled concept version of its upcoming Audi RS Q8.
Formerly known under the name quattro GmbH, the Audi performance car division is set to build on the original Q8 concept revealed at the Detroit motor show in January with its own interpretation of the big five-door SUV featuring a powered-up drivetrain and lowered suspension, as well unique exterior and interior styling cues.
While the original Q8 concept shown in Detroit received a newly developed petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain, its Audi Sport performance sibling appears set to go a more conventional route with a direct injection petrol engine. Details remain scarce just over a month prior to its planned unveiling, though sources at Audi Sport’s headquarters in Neckarsulm in Germany hint the RS Q8 will receive a heavily-fettled version of the German car maker’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8.
Already used in a number of performance orientated Audi models, the 90-degree unit destined for the RS Q8 is claimed to boast a similar output to that already used by the Audi S8 Plus, which packs 605bhp and 516lb ft of torque. By comparison, the twin-turbocharged 4.4-litre V8 used by the BMW X6 M produces 567bhp and a similar 553lb ft, while twin-turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 that propels the Mercedes-AMG GLE63 delivers 549bhp and 516lb ft.
As in the S8, the new performance SUV channels its reserves through an eight-speed torque converter equipped automatic gearbox and Audi’s traditional Torsen torque sensing quattro four-wheel drive system, with a torque vectoring function integrated into a so-called Sport Differential to provide individual apportioning of drive to each of the rear wheels.
Audi officials hint at a 0-62mph time for the RS Q8 of under 5.0sec. They also suggest it will be capable of delivering a top speed beyond 186mph. As a point of reference, the X6 M offers figures of 4.2sec and 174mph in combination with an optional M Driver’s Package , with the GLE 63 claiming 4.3sec and a similar 174mph when fitted with the AMG Driver’s Package.
As well as featuring a new driveline, the RS Q8 concept bound for Geneva is also planned to receive more aggressive styling than the original Q8 concept in line with its current line-up of performance models.
Sources privy to early styling proposals for the new Audi Sport model say its dominated by a heavily decorated eight corner single frame grille featuring a wider design than that seen on current Audi models, with Audi Sport’s traditional high gloss honeycomb grille insert and quattro lettering within the lower part of the grille frame.
The new look grille is bookmarked by distinctive trapezoidal shaped headlamps with Audi's matrix laser technology that is capable of projecting a light beam of up to one million pixels together with an LED function for the day time driving lights and strobe like dynamic blinkers.
Also set to feature is a heavily structured front bumper, which is said to be completed by a prominent splitter element that helps to accentuate the new Audi's width while aiding air flow to the engine bay.
Compared to the existing SQ7 – the most performance orientated of Audi’s large SUVs, the RS Q8 concept receives a lower and more sloping roofline along with a shallower glasshouse and more heavily angled rear tailgate - all of which helps to provides it with more sporting silhouette than its upright sibling.
It also adopts elements from the original Audi quattro from the 1980s, including prominent shoulders above the large wheel houses and a characteristic C-pillar treatment. The wheels used on the original Q8 concept measure 23-inches in diameter and come shod with generously dimensioned 305/35 profile tyres – a combination that is likely to be upgraded for the RS Q8.
At the rear, the new Audi has clear stylistic similarities to the earlier Audi e-tron quattro concept, with a full width LED light band incorporating the tail lamps within a separate black panel underneath the rear window.
At 5020mm in length, 2040mm in width and 1700mm in height, the Q8 concept is 32mm shorter, 72mm wider and 41mm lower than the second-generation Audi Q7, with which it shares its MLB (Modularen Langs Baukasten - modular longitudinal architecture) platform as well as its high strength steel and aluminium body structure.
Inside, Audi has used the Q8 concept to preview new high-definition display and touch screen monitor technology that is being developed for inclusion on future models. A similar package is expected on the RS Q8 but with unique features, including an Audi Sport steering wheel, seats and trim elements.