This is Audi’s latest high performance flagship, which perhaps inevitably these days is based on an large SUV, in this case the Q8. In fact, by being a go-faster version of a premium badged coupé-inspired off-roader, the new RS Q8 is arguably a niche within a niche within a niche.
While that makes it sound like it operates in a class of one, the 592bhp machine actually arrives in a hotly contested sector that’s already populated by cars such as the closely related Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo, the BMW X6M Competition and Mercedes GLE Coupe 63 S, to name but a few.
We’ve already had a chance to ride shotgun in the RS Q8 for a quick lap of the fearsome Nürburgring Nordschleife (where it set a 7min 42.253sec lap time to become the fastest SUV around the circuit) with Audi factory ace Frack Stippler, and even from the passenger seat it was clear the Audi devoured straights with alarming alacrity and seemed to cope with corners equally effortlessly. Yet you can’t come to any real conclusions until you’ve climbed behind the wheel yourself, which is why we’re in Tenerife and about to tackle some of the epic roads that cover the island’s arresting lava-formed landscape.
But before we do, a quick recap, because there’s a fair bit going on with the RS Q8. Underneath its aggressively enhanced Q8 skin (the legendary Group B S1 quattro is said to have influenced the go-faster add-ons, although you’d be hard pressed to see the similarities) is an upgraded SQ8. Out goes that car’s diesel engine, replaced by the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 petrol that serves in the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Lamborghini Urus. Here it delivers the aforementioned 592bhp and 590lb ft (That’s more than the Porsche, but less than the Lambo). There’s also a 12kW starter/generator that gives the unit mild-hybrid status, plus cylinder deactivation.
Drive is transmitted to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic to four-wheel drive that can channel up to 80% of the torque to the back axle (40/60 front to rear is the default setting) and is equipped with an active torque vectoring limited slip differential.
Suspension modifications run to a wider track (10mm front and 5mm rear), revised damper rates for the adaptive air suspension and the option of a 48V anti-roll system that’ll be familiar to Porsche and Bentley owners. Our car was fitted with this kit alongside optional 23-inch alloys (21s are standard), although the 295mm width of the tyre is the same regardless of wheel diameter. There’s also four-wheel steering (standard on the flagship Vorsprung), which can turn the back wheels up to five degrees in the opposite direction to the fronts at low speed, and 1.5 degrees in the same direction above 37mph.