The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV.
The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV.

ROAD TEST: Audi Q8 is a ritzy hauler

CHARISMA emanates from the Audi Q8. Red carpet worthy, it's a sizable and sleek vehicle that enters at the top echelon of the four-ring SUV range.

Packed with technological wizardry and good looks, this the large SUV you need when fashion is at the forefront of importance. But it's more than the automotive equivalent of Jimmy Choo heels - the Q8 also has ample room for adults front and back, along with a useful boot.

Imposing at nearly 5m long and 1.7m high, the Q8 isn't brash or confronting. The tapered roofline, classy grille and alluring contours provide a silhouette which looks expensive. And it is ... $128,900 before on-roads are added.

For that sort of coin you not only get a lavish rig but also the knowledge that it comes from fine stock. Family ties under the Volkswagen Group umbrella see the Lamborghini Urus, Porsche Cayenne and the Bentley Bentayga share the underpinnings.

The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV.
The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV. chris benny

VALUE

Front seats rolls back automatically to improve entry and exit to a cabin brimming with opulence and grandeur.

For this level of investment it meets expectations, with soft-touch materials, glossy dash finishes and a digital centre stack which includes a 10.1-inch touchscreen for infotainment and an 8.3-inch screen below it for vehicle and aircon settings.

The latter is Audi's latest interior innovation, and the haptic interface provides a gentle pulse when you touch an icon. Often they require a firm poke to operate. The temperature can be changed in half degree increments, or a swipe and select for larger alterations.

Combine that with the Audi 12.3-inch driver's cockpit, where the pilot can alternate between a variety of styles and set-ups via a steering wheel button - combine digital speedo and techo with satnav, trip details or music settings. Whatever floats your boat.

The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV.
The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV. chris benny

Standard equipment includes power tailgate, adaptive suspension dampers, LED headlights, three zone aircon, head-up display, heated and ventilated front seats covered in Valcona leather, satnav and digital radio, along with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and wireless phone charging.

Our test car had the $11,000 Premium plus package which incorporates monster 22-inch wheels (up from standard 21-inch), air suspension, matrix LED headlights, four-zone aircon and customisable LED interior lighting.

Black and white external colour options are standard. Those chasing metallic or pearl effect paint in silver, white, grey, black, two shades of blue, orange or brown need to fork out $2300.

The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV.
The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV. chris benny

SAFETY

Yet to be rated by ANCAP, the Q8 has some of the best kit you'll find and Audi says they have armed the Q8 with 39 driver assistance features.

All the gear you'd expect is standard, like emergency braking which automatically applies the brakes if a collision is detected when travelling at speed and in traffic (forward and reverse), along with a warning system to stop the doors opening if an approaching cyclist is identified. The Q8 will even remain stationary to avoid a collision if the driver tries to move out too early at an intersection.

With those massive wheels the 3D virtual image functionality is useful to avoid kerbing wheels. The images can be rotated 360 degrees so you can see any obstacle nearby before you begin to move.

The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV.
The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV. chris benny

COMFORT

Three adults will find ample space across the rear bench seat, with reasonable leg, head and shoulder room.

Materials touched most feature refined finishes, and the soft leather is among the best available.

Despite the absence of knobs and buttons the controls are easy to navigate. Audi has maintained its text entry set-up which enables the user to write letters and numbers on the bottom screen. Good in theory, not great in practice. If you have an Apple or Android phone, it's far easier to dictate messages and numbers.

There are 605 litres of boot space (the seven-seat Q7 has 770 with the third row flat) and 1755 seats folded. With the air suspension, a button in the boot drops the ride height to allow for loading heavy items.

The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV.
The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV. chris benny

DRIVING

Defying its brawn, the Q8 has the proportions of a front-rower with the agility of a winger.

The punchy 3.0-litre V6 turbo sends power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic, transmission and official figures claim a 0-100km/h sprint in 5.9 seconds.

Feeling quick, but not quite as fast as those figures dictate perhaps due to the near silent operation courtesy of a well-insulated cabin. The air suspension does a fine job of ironing out most bumps and lumps, but those low-profile 22-inch tyres can struggle to cosset the cabin over nasty ruts and poor quality bitumen.

Under the bonnet is a sophisticated mild-hybrid set-up. Under heavy acceleration an extra 6kW and 60Nm can be injected into the performance mix for five seconds.

The engine can also switch off and decouple from the transmission in "coasting” mode when the driver lifts off the accelerator between 55-160km/h. It restarts when you press the pedal...most drivers won't notice the interruption. Those features are designed to reduce fuel consumption, and the Q8 needs all the help it can get - we averaged more than 11 litres for every 100km.

A 210kW V6 diesel option will be available later this year.

The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV.
The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV. chris benny

HEART SAYS

Look at me, I can have it all. Good looks and performance. Jealous much?

HEAD SAYS

The kids have grown and there really is no need for seven seats. Sex appeal trumps sensible.

ALTERNATIVES

PORSCHE CAYENNE, FROM $115,900 PLUS ON-ROADS

The SUV which helped save Porsche, this is a driver-focused machine powered by a closely related 250kW/450Nm V6 all-wheel drive. It doesn't have the mild-hybrid set-up, but has the approval of the enthusiasts.

RANGE ROVER VELAR HSE P300, FROM $116,922 PLUS ON-ROADS

Spectacularly stylish, and powered by a supercharged V6 (221kW/400Nm). Set some time aside to analyse the options list, and prepare for that price to sky-rocket.

The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV.
The Audi Q8 is the marque's flagship SUV.

AT A GLANCE

AUDI Q8 55TFSI QUATTRO

PRICE $128,900 (big investment)

WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 years/unlimited km (average), $1900 for 3 years prepaid (OK)

ENGINE 3.0-litre V6 turbo, 48V mild hybrid, 250kW/500Nm (quick)

SAFETY Not yet ANCAP rated, 8 airbags, AEB, blind spot monitoring, 360 degree virtual imaging (impressive)

THIRST 9.2L/100km (11.1l on test)

SPARE Liquorice strip space-saver (expected)

CARGO 605 litres, 1755 litres seats down (good)



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