Here, the Q8 succeeds where its rakish saloon cousin, the A7, disappoints. The SUV rides well, and with the supple stability you’d expect of a big luxury car. Even with those 22in wheels, there’s very little of the brittle jostling that can blight the smaller car on rougher surfaces, although the Q8 can’t quite match the velvet composure of the Q7.
Given the limited performance of the 50 TDI powertrain, we’d be surprised if most owners didn’t leave the adaptive air suspension in its Comfort setting the majority of the time. This feels like the easy-going sweet spot for the car, although the heavy bodywork can all too easily heave the adaptive dampers to the limits of their travel.
Indeed, Q8 owners who might otherwise have bought a traditional SUV will rightly expect a level of handling prowess, and in Dynamic mode, they’ll get it. The Q8 never really pivots within the limits of its mighty grip levels in the satisfying manner of a Cayenne or Alfa Romeo Stelvio QV but, with the suspension firmed up, you can appreciate its relatively low centre of gravity (justifying the reason why Audi has chosen not to fit active anti-roll bars).
With adhesion and stability a given, the optional four-wheel steering and a predictably uncommunicative electro-hydraulic rack help lend the car unusual agility. You can drive deep into corners without unreasonable fear of either understeer or misplacing such a giant footprint. Lean on the front axle and a lift of the throttle can tighten your line, but it’d be a stretch to say this kind of behaviour comes naturally to the Q8. It’s too clinical for that, although pleasingly so all the same.
The exit of corners is where this car really needs to do more, and that may well come with more powerful models. The sports-tuned suspension is supportive enough for this torque-vectoring quattro set-up to deliver a greater proportion of the engine’s effort to the rear axle, and the chassis might then take a stance commensurate with the debonair bodywork. Until then, the Q8 remains an admirably competent steer, but no more.
Audi’s tendency to equip its vehicles with vague steering kills any real sense of communication between your hands and the car’s front tyres, and it doesn’t make for a particularly engaging driving experience around Millbrook’s testing Hill Route.
That said, quattro four-wheel drive ensures the Q8 has plenty of traction out of sharper bends, while fast camber changes had limited effect on the Audi’s stability. The optional four-wheel steering fitted to our test car also adds to its sense of agility, particularly through tighter corners.