Audi will take on the BMW X6 with a plush, high-tech five-seater that will top an eight-model SUV line-up
Audi is putting the finishing touches to its Q8 SUV before it goes on sale this May as a rival to the BMW X6, as shown by new pictures of an almost completely undisguised pre-production prototype.
The look of Audi’s future flagship SUV has stayed true to that of the Q8 concept, with an SUV-coupé roofline, LED headlights and tail-lights and a broad, eight-corner, single-frame grille all remaining in largely unchanged forms.
Audi Q8 Sport Concept previews range-topping large SUV
Much of the Q8’s mechanical package will be shared with the smaller Q7. The difference in size between the two models is best illustrated in pictures (see gallery) of the cars testing alongside one another. The Q8 appears near identical in width and length, but its more swept-back roofline makes it slightly lower.
Due to arrive with an entry-level price of around £55,000, the Q8 will sit alongside the A8 at the top of the firm’s range and therefore offer similar levels of luxury.
“I could imagine an executive being driven to work every day in their A8 and then spending the weekend driving themselves in their Q8,” Audi boss Rupert Stadler previously told Autocar. “The Q8 will have global appeal in all of the major markets – Europe, China, the US, Russia and more, so we are very excited about it.”
The Q8 is one of seven new SUV models currently under development at Audi and scheduled for launch before the end of the decade. It joins the Q2 and renewed Q3 and Q5, plus a new Q1 and Q4, as well as the electric E-tron, which has been spotted testing recently ahead of its summer 2018 launch.
Audi’s intensive focus on SUVs follows worldwide sales figures that revealed every third car sold by the brand hails from its line-up of ‘Q’ models.
The new flagship Q8 will come with an extended range of petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains. At the entry level will be a 3.0-litre TDI. The bulk of the range is made up of new V6 and V8 petrol and diesels, while at the top of the range will be a secret new petrol-electric plug-in hybrid system. The electrified powertrain is being developed in partnership with Porsche and is claimed to give the Q8 an electric-only range of up to 31 miles.
Among the new Audi’s arsenal of options will be many of the advanced systems developed for the upcoming fourth-generation A8, such as a 48V electric system, OLED high-definition digital displays and the very latest in autonomous driving functions.
Audi design boss Marc Lichte has championed the Q8’s sportier design, having revealed plans for a dramatically more dramatic design as early as 2016. He recently told Autocar that the Q8 would be a new example of Audi’s departure from ‘Russian Doll’ design, although it is still instantly recognisable as an Audi.
As with the upcoming Q4 and Q6, the Q8 has a five-door layout, with four conventional front-hinged doors and a large liftback-style tailgate for access to its boot.
Although it features a more rakish rear than the Q7 that cuts into boots pace, Lichte believes the storage capacity of the Q8 will still eclipse rivals because the roof line drops dramatically around the C-pillar, meaning space is reduced only at the very end of the car.
The Q8 is said to be 5050mm long and 1970mm wide. By comparison, the Mercedes-Benz GLE is 4900mm long, 2000mm wide and 1700mm tall, while the Range Rover Sport has respective dimensions of 4850mm, 1985mm and 1780mm – and the sportier Range Rover Velar is even smaller than that.
As with the Q7, the Q8 is based on the latest version of Audi’s MLB platform, here with a 2990mm wheelbase.
Reflecting the Q8’s more sporting brief, Audi insiders said it is also in line to receive track widths that extend beyond the Q7’s, which are 1680mm at the front and 1690mm at the rear.
As with the Q7, the body structure of the Q8 is set to make extensive use of aluminium in a bid to push lower-end models below the 2000kg mark.
Further weight-saving measures include the selected used of carbonfibre in non-load-bearing structures, as seen on the R8 supercar.
The Q8’s new V6 and V8 engines come from a joint venture between Audi and Porsche that carries the internal codename KoVoMo. They are also to be used by Bentley and Volkswagen.
The units are based around a shared 90deg architecture and will feature a common 500cc individual cylinder capacity, making for capacities of 3.0 and 4.0-litres. The new engines feature gas-driven turbochargers in the first stage of production.
Audi insiders have hinted that electric turbocharging, supported by the Q8’s 48V electrical system, may also be introduced at a later date.
The KoVoMo engine is claimed to be at the centre of a secret new plug-in petrol-electric hybrid system tipped for introduction on the Q8 and the third-generation Porsche Cayenne, which is due in showrooms this April.
It is likely to be one of two hybrid systems offered on the new Audi, joining the diesel-electric system already announced for the Q7.
Of greater importance to the UK market will be the diesel engine range. Included among the launch line-up will be at least two variants of Audi’s familiar 3.0-litre V6 unit.
A potent SQ8 model with the advanced triple-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 diesel recently revealed in the SQ7 is also expected.
Inside, the Q8 will receive a reworked version of the Q7’s excellent cockpit, featuring a more driver-oriented centre console. Unlike the seven-seat Q7, though, the Q8 will be available with a five-seat layout only.
As part of a comprehensive connectivity package, Audi is working on providing over-the-air updates for future incarnations of its MMI (Multi Media Interface) infotainment system.
These include real-time sat-nav updates via the Here system being developed in a joint venture with BMW and Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, Daimler.
The Q8 is scheduled to be built at Volkswagen’s Bratislava plant in Slovakia alongside the current Q7, new Porsche Cayenne and new Volkswagen Touareg, which is also due on sale this April.
Additional reporting by Jim Holder