Upgrading the Premium EV SUV: The Audi Q8 e-tron
Outside of Tesla, Audi has been the most aggressive of the premium car brands to embrace mainstream electrification. While BMW dabbled with electric power with its i3 city car and plug-in hybrid i8 sports car, it was Audi that was first to market with a mainstream electric SUV, 2018’s e-tron. Since then, the e-tron and its sleeker e-tron sportback sibling have proven to be successful for the company, introducing thousands of Audi customers to electric power. But, five years is a long time in the world of electric cars – the tech is moving fast, and Audi’s own less-expensive Q4 e-tron has range and features that the more-expensive e-tron lacked.
Enter the Q8 e-tron, which is not an entirely new vehicle, but instead a major update of the luxurious, sweet-driving original. Now clearly positioned at the top of Audi’s electric crossover range (the sleek e-tron GT sedan remains the company’s flagship), the Q8 e-tron features significant upgrades to its drivetrain, performance, and tech. While in some ways it looks quite similar to the original e-tron, it is a much better, and much more well-rounded package, than before, highly competitive with other EV SUVs.
Audi Q8 e-tron Power and Range
Outside of its updated styling, the most notable upgrade to the new Q8 e-tron model is an improved powertrain. The standard Q8 e-tron now produces 402 hp, a slight bump over the previous model, and 489 lb-ft of torque. More importantly, thanks to new, higher-density cells, the battery has been enlarged to 106 kWh, which has increased the EPA’s estimated range to 285 miles.
However, in several days of real-world driving on city streets and freeways, the new Q8 e-tron significantly outperformed that range estimate. Without resorting to shutting off features such as the air conditioning or audio system, I regularly saw range above 330 miles – which puts the model’s real-world range on par with vehicles like the high-end Tesla Model Y and Mercedes-Benz EQE.
As you would expect from an electric car, the Q8 e-tron is fast, too. It will dash from 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds, but thanks to that instantaneous torque and excellent traction, it feels faster than that, all the way up to its 124 mph top speed. More impressive is how well this model manages regenerative braking. Like all EVs, the Audi will recuperate electrical energy while braking to increase the vehicle’s range. But, it also uses its adaptive cruise control’s sensors to maintain a safe following distance at freeway speeds while charging the battery. In practice, the process works truly seamlessly – keeping you safer while giving you a few more free miles at the same time.
On the charging front, the Q8 e-tron features an improved battery management system that allows it to charge faster than before, at up to 170 kW – not class-leading, but still enough to go from 10 to 80 percent in about a half-hour on the right Level 3 fast-charger. Audi also claims that the Q8 e-tron models’ charging curve is better than competing models, and can charge at max speed for longer than before, improving driver convenience. When charging at home, the Q8 e-tron can charge at up to 22 kW on a Level 2 AC charger – significantly faster than most luxury EVs, although 22-kW chargers are uncommon as they require a very robust electrical panel at home.
Space and Luxury in Two Available Models
The new Q8 e-tron, which has a starting MSRP of $74,400, is once again available in two different body styles – a sleek, practical SUV and a more dynamic Sportback with an aggressive, tapered rear end; that has a starting MSRP of $77,800; thanks to its sleeker body, it has a slightly higher EPA range estimate of 300 miles. Both models now sit slightly lower than before, and are about an inch wider, contributing to a sportier stance. Standard height-adjustable air suspension not only allows for easier loading and unloading (and the ability to raise the vehicle for rough roads and trails), but also drops the car at highway speeds for a sleeker profile and greater efficiency.
Both models build on Audi’s electric design language with a grille and Audi four-rings logo that are lit from above to create a distinctive, and very high-end look. The model names are laser-etched on the vehicles’ B-pillars, and out back, there’s a full-width light bar and animated LEDs. A very long wheelbase, unchanged from the previous model, means that the Q8 e-tron has plenty of space in the rear for family members to stretch out. Luggage space is impressive, with a flat loading floor, and there is a small front luggage compartment that can also accommodate an overnight bag or the vehicle charger.
Like any Audi, this new model is luxurious and filled with tech, and there have been upgrades made in line with its positioning at the top of the range. There is a large panoramic glass roof, which makes the interior feel brighter and more spacious, and a four-zone climate control system is available. The seats have three heat and three cooling settings, as well as a massage function that uses ten inflatable cushions and seven different programs to relax driver and passengers’ back muscles.
The Q8 e-tron’s MMI Touch Response operating system has also been updated. There are two high-resolution screens that have both haptic and acoustic feedback; in addition, many functions can be operated by voice. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless charging, and an integrated wi-fi hotspot are also on the list of features.
Conclusion: Is the Audi Q8 e-tron Right for You?
As nice as it is to look at and sit in, the best thing about the Q8 e-tron is the way that it drives. The ride quality on the air suspension is excellent, and the twin motors deliver a seamless rush of acceleration; the slickly-styled body cuts cleanly through the air without any wind or road noise. Select one of the sportier suspension settings and it is surprisingly fun and sure-footed on a winding road, easy and predictable to drive and concealing its substantial weight very well.
In short, the new Q8 e-tron feels like an Audi, which is maybe the best compliment we can pay it. It’s not cheap, but it combines distinctive styling, a spacious interior, and an undeniable feeling of luxury alongside a substantially upgraded drivetrain with range and performance that keep it up to date in an increasingly competitive segment.