Although its model nomenclature might suggest otherwise, the Q8 is 66mm shorter overall and 35mm lower than its Q7 sister car. It has a body that’s 27mm wider (without mirrors) than that of the Q7, but it uses the same axle track widths and the same wheelbase.
And it’s revealing that, as we reported recently, Audi might have used the short-wheelbase version of the car’s MLB-Evo platform (as used by the Porsche Cayenne) if it wanted more of a dynamic point of differentiation from the Q7’s driving experience. Doubtless for its own reasons, though, Ingolstadt chose not to.
The Q8’s exterior design succeeds in as much as it makes the car stand out. It’s probably best from the frontal aspect, where that bold, exaggerated ‘single-frame’ radiator grille adds plenty of presence. This, Audi says, is the face of the next generation of all Q-badged SUVs, although to our eyes it isn’t as elegant as Audi’s sales pitch might lead you to expect.
It’s part of an overall design that’s certainly striking and recognisable as an Audi, but it doesn’t make the Q8 an instantly attractive, must-have luxury item. You can see where visual links with the original Quattro have been attempted, but not one tester thought any of them really hit home or that the Q8 exuded the same sense of dripping allure as last year’s Range Rover Velar – nor even the visual charm of a Volvo XC40.
Only one engine is available in the Q8 for those ordering this year: Audi’s 282bhp 3.0-litre ‘50 TDI’ new-money diesel, which will also be finding a home in the 2019-model year Q7 very shortly. Here it’s hooked up to a 48V electrical architecture and mild-hybrid large-capacity battery and advanced engine starter-generator.
A 228bhp 45 TDI V6 diesel and 335bhp 55 TFSI V6 turbo petrol will be offered next year, the latter being the only engine you won’t also be able to get in a Q7 (at least until Audi’s recently spied RS Q8 performance derivative arrives).
UK cars get sports-tuned adaptive air suspension and 21in alloy wheels as standard, with four-wheel steering available as an option (just as it is on the Q7) and fitted here to our test car. The SQ7’s optional sport locking rear differential and active anti-roll bars, meanwhile, have been left out of the Q8’s technology armoury, at least for now.
Audi’s engineers say they didn’t feel as if they needed either the torque-vectoring diff or the active anti-roll bars to deliver a distinguished driving experience in the lower-roofed, naturally more agile Q8. We’ll find out if their confidence is well placed shortly.