Performance SUVs are not something I like. I find that a performance SUV, no matter how powerful, is not as enjoyable as a sports car. The SUV’s added sportiness often makes the situation worse. The last two Audi performance SUVs really changed my mind. Both the Audi SQ7 & SQ8 are both remarkable all-round vehicles that I would consider purchasing if I could afford it. Naturally, the Audi RS Q8 was the best-selling SUV Audi has ever produced. I was thrilled to try it out.
The Audi SQ7 & SQ8 SUVs are fast, powerful and agile. However they have a relaxed feel than an Audi Sport model. They’re great all-round SUVs that can be used for everyday driving. The RS Q8 has even greater power and capability as well as better performance.
The Engine Is Good
Under the hood lies the same 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8 that powers the Audi RS6 Avant, giving it 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. It’s one of Audi’s all-time great engines; effortless power, silky-smooth delivery, and a V8 rumble and growl that reminds you you’re not in a typical family SUV. What’s fascinating is that it packs quite a bit more power than the standard ‘S’ cars but it never feels any less refined. Interestingly, it never feels significantly faster, even though it is, which is likely a byproduct of its perfect manners.
However, it’s more efficient. The RS Q8’s go-pedal will cause you to forget all you thought you knew about physics. It should be slower than it is, for a vehicle as large and heavy as the Audi RS Q8. It pulls and feels great regardless of speed or gear. You feel instantaneous, effortless power all the time.
Audi deserves a round of applause for the engine sound in its cabin. It’s probably synthetically enhanced using speaker trickery which is common in the premium car market. Audi has placed the speaker trickery closer to the rear of the cabin. This makes it sound more like exhaust. The interior exhaust sounds of most luxury cars feel like they are all around you. This is a common problem with BMW, but the Audi RS Q8’s sound feels a little distant. It sounds like it’s coming from behind your ears. This is actually quite nice.
Honed at the Nürburgring
When the RS Q8 first appeared, I recall speaking to an Audi exec. Audi’s unveiling coincided with an announcement by the Nurburgring that the RS Q8 had set the SUV lap record. The Audi executive spoke to me about the handling of the car and said that Nurburgring is the best place to prove its capabilities. Audi’s performance at the Nurburgring proved it was worth the effort of any skeptics who might have thought the RS Q8 was just another SUV equipped with a large engine.
The Audi RS Q8 is a great car, even when you push it to the limit. It has incredible stability, and it feels effortless. Despite its size, the Audi RS Q8 isn’t too heavy, out of control, or anxious. The RS Q8 manages weight well, and there is no significant body roll. It is a great vehicle and I am confident in its ability to handle weight. Lamborghini Urus or Aston Martin DBX The RS Q8 will give each car a serious scare. This is a truly impressive piece of kit.
What’s even more interesting is that the Audi RS Q8 is more fun than I imagined. Again, I’m not a huge SUV guy. Sure, the SQ7 and SQ8 were great to drive in a calm, but fast, manner but they weren’t exactly fun. I never thought the RS Q8 would actually be sports car-fun but it is. Remarkably, the steering is accurate and has decent weight to it. It’s completely numb but that’s to be expected from a performance Audi SUV and not really an issue. Still, it allows you to place the big car with ease and it responds well to you inputs. The RS Q8 could rival much smaller sports cars on a twisty back road and confidence in its steering has a lot to do with that.
Its ride is perhaps even more crucial than all that. After spending a week riding with it, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the bike absorbed bumps despite being on huge 23-inch wheels. Its Nurburgring training is another reason for this ability. It is not a flat track. There are many bumps and off-camber turns. The famous Karussell, a 180-degree turn that is filled with concrete slabs in the middle, is also part of the ‘Ring. A car that is too stiff will have trouble at the ‘Ring. This includes a heavy vehicle like the RS Q8. The big Audi had a more flexible suspension, which allowed it to withstand the bumps at Nurburgring, setting a blistering lap time of 7:42.
That same Nürburgring-honed air suspension made easy work of soaking up rough New Jersey pavement, as well as insulating the cabin from the NVH that comes along with it. Whoever is working on Audi Sport’s suspensions deserves a raise because the RS Q8 not only manages to keep its weight in check while driving quickly but it also manages to keep it comfortable as well.
The Audi RS Q8 may not be as comfortable as the standard Q8 or the SQ8, however, it is far more pleasant than being stiff. The Audi RS Q8 is a family-friendly car that can do everything.
The car looks unhinged. The exterior of my test car was Navarra Blue. I had hoped for Java Green and Dragon Orange, but the Navarra Blue added some menace to its looks. It looked nearly black under certain lights, and that was thanks to the Black Optics package which made all trim pieces and parts of the car black.
The cabin was my only disappointment. The cabin is typical Audi: it’s beautiful, packed with great tech and comfortable. The RS Q8 isn’t special enough to be worth its high price. This is true for all Audi Sport models as the interiors of their model are not that different from those in the base cars. Audi defends the interiors of their standard models as they are very well made. However, I would still like it to be a little more unique.
The rest of the cabin is great, though. Wireless Apple CarPlay worked perfectly, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit is as brilliant as ever, and — being a Q8 — its back seat perfectly fit a child seat with ease. The RS Q8, despite its mega performance, remains a fantastic car to haul a family in.
Perform it All
The Audi RS Q8’s balance is the best thing about it. Performance SUVs can sacrifice comfort for performance, while others are too focused on performance. Others are too comfortable and sacrifice the fun of driving. The Audi RS Q8 appears to strike a perfect balance of both. I had previously believed that the Audi SQ7 was the perfect setup, but after spending a week driving the RS Q8, I have changed my mind.
The Audi RS Q8 is a sharper, more fun, and quite a bit faster. Admittedly, it’s also more expensive, with a starting price of $114,500. Adding insult to injury, my heavily optioned test car’s price ballooned passed $130,000. That’s almost $50,000 more than the starting price of an Audi SQ7 or SQ8. Is it worth it? In my personal opinion, yes, actually.
Although I tend to be more frugal than others, it is hard not to see the advantages of the Audi RS Q8 being a better choice over the lesser-known siblings. You get a lot of performance without having to sacrifice ride comfort or any of the great technology. The RS Q8 has the same functionality as the SQ8 and the standard Q8. The RS Q8 excels in all areas and you will never regret a single day spent with it.
Publiated at Tue 24 August 2021 23.02:21 +0000