Structurally and externally, little has changed, with the engineers keen to stress that despite its performance and capability, the RS Q8 is a daily-usable series-production vehicle, and apart from those vast 23in wheel options, the only other noticeable updates are the carbonfibre trim around the revised front grille and lower bumper, plus the rear diffuser with its RS-trademark twin oval exhausts.
In the build-up to the RS Q8’s official launch later this month, Autocar was given exclusive behind-the-scenes access and granted a high-speed passenger ride around the ’Ring.
Audi factory ace Frank Stippler is not hanging about. We’ve got one hot lap of the Nürburgring and damp but drying conditions similar to those during his record-breaking run. (Had it been dry, Stippler reckons, there were another four or five seconds on the table.)
Obviously, we can’t truly get a handle on what the car’s doing when riding shotgun, but there’s enough feel through the seat of the pants to suggest the RS Q8 is hugely capable.
The relentless acceleration is a given, and looking at the telemetry later reveals there’s even enough grunt through the 180mph kink of Döttinger Höhe to spin a lightly unloaded inside rear wheel. The optional carbon-ceramic brakes work well, too, tirelessly hauling the car down from big speeds – although on a lap that’s 80% full throttle, they’re not worked as hard as they could be.
No, what’s surprising is the Audi’s agility. Where you’d expect plough-on understeer and extreme body roll, the RS Q8 takes a neutral and flat stance. If anything, the balance in these conditions is more towards oversteer. You can feel the rear-wheel steering pointing the nose into the apex in slower turns and the trick diff allows Stippler to get early on the throttle at the exit to get the rear rotating for a quicker exit.
Tellingly, we’re in the Auto driving mode. “When it’s a little slippy like this, then in Dynamic with stability disengaged, we’d have oversteer all the way from entrance to exit,” says Stippler with a smile.
Rapid changes of direction are no problem for the RS Q8, yet despite the roll stiffness, the trick suspension can still deliver enough compliance to ride the big kerbs with real suppleness.
Inside, the most obvious tweak is the inclusion of RS-specific displays for the TFT instrument cluster, but with its roll-cage, race seats and discarded rear bench, the interior we saw was in all other ways unrepresentative.
It’s truly impressive, and while we’ll have to wait for our turn behind the wheel (and in a car with rear seats) to deliver a proper verdict, we’ve learned enough to know that Porsche won’t have it all its own way in the battle for high-performance SUV supremacy.