The premium segment has faced a pretty tough time lately with sales seeing a 40% decline. The “buying down” trend has seen South Africans opting for more affordable cars as the country is plagued by economic setbacks. This, coupled with the exchange rate fluctuations, meant a product delay for Audi South Africa. We didn’t see any models launched last year, but 2019 is going to make up for that and we kick it off with the new Audi Q8. And what a way to start.
LOOK AT YOU!
The Q8 is Audi’s flagship SUV offering and at a starting price of R1 388 000, you know you’re in for a lap of luxury. It has to be one of the nicest looking cars I have seen in a while. It follows on from the design language seen in the Audi A8 and that which we will see going forward on all Audi models.
Audi has been criticised for being evolutionary rather than revolutionary when it comes to their design, but head designer, Marc Lichte, is changing that. The face of Audi is now that bold single frame grille that will be on all Audi products going forward. And I like it!
But my favourite angle is the backside with the narrow, high-gloss black element with an integrated light strip which extends between the rear lights. Yoh, but it looks hot! Everything about the look of this car makes me love it more.
Inside is all very fancy pants with the top 10.1-inch MMI touch response display. With its black-panel look, it almost dissolves into a large, black surface when switched off. Just under that is another 8.6-inch screen which operates the heating and air conditioning, convenience functions and text input. The interior really looks fantastic.
I have been quite vocal about not liking touch screens in preference for buttons, and this time is no different. It all looks outstanding (if you don’t touch anything, fingerprint marks are not attractive), and if you are stationary, it is very comprehensive and easy to navigate. But driving and trying to change the temperature or the radio station can prove to be somewhat dangerous.
Thankfully, there is voice control and so you can say something like, “I am cold” and the Q8 will ask you what temperature you would like it set for you. We are a long way from being able to completely control our cars with our voice commands only, and so you will end up having to use the touchscreens more than I would deem safe to do so.
Other than that, it is a very comfortable and spacious place to be. The boot boasts 605-litres. It is lower and shorter than the Q7 but also wider. Space for rear passengers is certainly generous and I think that no matter where you are sitting in this car, you will have no problem getting comfortable.
When it comes to specification lists, Audi has decided to offer packages as to make things simpler and offer more value. On top of the extensive standard list, “…South African consumers can select between a S line Black package (S line exterior; high gloss black package, exterior mirror in black, black roof rails, 22-inch wheels, Adaptive air suspension, brake callipers in red); the S line Platinum package (S line exterior; single frame mask in platinum grey, 22-inch wheels, Adaptive air suspension, brake callipers in red) or the S line Sports interior package (4-way lumbar support for front seats, adaptive air suspension sport, decorative inserts in matte brushed aluminium, headlining in black, pedals and footrest in stainless steel, S line logos on exterior. scuff plates with aluminium inserts in front and rear and illuminated with S logo, sport seats in front and stainless steel load edge protection).
Currently there is only one model on offer, the Q8 55 TFSI, which comes with a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 engine producing 250 kW and 500 NM. You’ll get to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds. The Q8 45 TDI will be available at a later stage. It boasts a 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine with 183 kW and 600 Nm on offer. Audi predicts a pretty even split in sales between these two models.
If you’re in to off-roading, the Q8 boasts 254 mm of ground clearance, short overhangs and quattro permanent all-wheel drive as well as hill descent control.
I drove the petrol engine at the launch and after only a few seconds in the car, was already in love with the engine. It is quick off the mark and offers more than enough performance. The ride and drive overall is just so perfectly Audi. It is an absolute pleasure to drive.
With the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz Coupe and Porsche Cayenne Coupe still set to hit our shores, I think the Q8 will have it’s work cut out for it. But if I were to pick now, gosh, I would be the happiest gal just to be able to own one of these. I don’t think you will be left wanting anything more. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what you want from a car.