2019 Audi Q8 essentials: Style in spades

What is it: The Audi Q8 is the new flagship from Ingolstadt, and though it’s a little smaller than the Q7 — two rows as opposed to three — it’s the most expensive in the base Q line of cars. Thankfully it’s not a slopey, “coupe-like” SUV with a funky, jelly bean shape like competition from BMW and Mercedes. Like the rest of the Audi range, it’s offered in three trims, premium, premium plus and prestige and prices range from about $68,000 to near 90 grand.

Key Competitors: Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe, Lincoln Nautilus, BMW X6, Porsche Cayenne Coupe

Base Price: $68,395 As-Tested Price: $79,340

Full review: 2019 Audi Q8 first drive

Highlights: The Q8 is new for 2019 and comes exclusively with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 making 335 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. That power goes through an eight-speed transmission and to all four quattro-enabled wheels. The torque split is 60/40, rear to front. There’s no high-performance SQ8 in the cards yet, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if that came eventually. We’re driving the Premium Plus version today, which adds $4,000 in options, as you can see below.

Our Opinion: My only problem with this car is the name. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a Q8 should be bigger than a Q7, regardless of the context. Thankfully the roof is flat, not like the Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupe and the even-numbered BMW X vehicles. The Porsche Cayenne Coupe, with which it shares a platform, is similarly handsome with a nearly flat roof and steeply raked rear glass.

If other automakers can put a four-cylinder in a three-row SUV, there’s no reason this turbo-six wouldn’t work in the Q8. And lo, it’s just right. Barring a flat-out drag race with a Trackhawk Grand Cherokee or an AMG Mercedes, this car is plenty quick for anything a normal person would need to do on a daily basis. There’s no real lag in the rev range, power delivery is smooth and the growl is understated but pleasing. My notepad says “quintessential Audi engine,” and I agree with me. The eight-speed auto is one of the quickest non-dual-clutch transmissions around, and it always seemed to be in the right gear, especially when in dynamic driving mode. Like the A6 and A7 I recently drove, the brakes are tuned just right for me, meaning a short stroke and a bit of effort, which makes modulation easier.

The interior of the Q8 is also nearly identical to those sedans. There are two central screens, both touchable, with the lower usually displaying the climate control. They look precise and colorful when on, and when off deliver a sea of piano black in this trim. Apple CarPlay worked fine, and there’s a standard knob for volume control, which is necessary. But adjusting the temperature was a pain in the ass, because you have to jab at the plus and minus buttons on the screen. I suppose if you were just going a few degrees it would be fine, but if you’re driving a hot car and want to go from 83 degrees to low, it takes about 20 jabs while trying to keep your eyes on the road. It’s also haptic, which means it sort of clicks when you touch it, and you can’t just brush it either, you have to stab, with force. 

The ride is super cushy, and I could immediately tell why the Bentley Bentayga also shares this platform. And I was even more impressed it could be so cush with the 22-inch wheels. Most carmakers have trouble balancing that out.

The electromechanical steering setup has a better feel than most; it’s quick, but not as analog as Audis a generation ago. This Q8 did not have the optional rear-wheel steer, which would probably sharpen things up even more. Still, no complaints for a mid/full size SUV.

The sales charts call this a midsize premium CUV, which sounds about right. In those rankings it competes with the top-selling Lexus RX, Cadillac XT5, BMW’s X5 and Audi’s own Q5. The AWD Lexus RX starts at $46K, the BMW starts at $61K, so it’s a little more expensive than those. It IS the best out of those four, but with the actual price included in my decision (the Merc GLE with a four-cylinder starts at $57K), I’d probably go with the BMW.

–Jake Lingeman, road test editor

Options: Premium Plus Package including 21-inch wheels, premium audio, illuminated door sills, interior lighting package plus, four-zone climate control, top view camera, ventilated front seats with four-way power lumbar, high-beam assist, Audi phone box with wireless charging, Audi side assists, rear cross traffic assist, vehicle exit warning Audi pre-sense rear, heated, auto-dimming folding sideview mirrors ($4,000); Driver Assistance Package including adaptive cruise with traffic jam assist, Audi active lane assist with emergency assist, intersection assistant, traffic sign recognition ($2,750); Year One Package with 22-inch wheels, black optic exterior, black roof rails, single-frame grille, red brake calipers ($2,250); Towing Package ($650); Cold Weather Package including heated steering wheel, heated front seats ($600); CD/DVD player ($100)

Base Price: $68,395

As-Tested Price: $79,340

Drivetrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged V6, eight-speed automatic, AWD

Output: 335 hp @ 6,400 rpm; 369 lb-ft @ 1,370 rpm

Curb Weight: 5,152 lb

Fuel Economy: 17/22/19 mpg

Pros: The best looking of Audi’s SUVs

Cons: The Q8 should be bigger than the Q7!

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