A Luxury Pioneer Gets a Makeover
Audi was one of the first premium car brands to embrace the age of electrification in 2018 with the launch of its e-tron – a luxurious, sweet-driving SUV. Since then, the e-tron, and its sleeker e-tron sportback cousin, have been a success story for the German brand, introducing electric driving to thousands of Audi drivers around the world. Now, it’s had a major makeover with more tech, more range, a new look, and a new name: Q8 e-tron.
The new Q8 e-tron is positioned at the top of Audi’s electric crossover range, and sits alongside the gasoline-powered Q8, which will continue to be sold for a couple of years. Compared to the e-tron that it replaces, the Q8 e-tron has an upgraded drivetrain, improved aerodynamics, better charging performance, and an expanded battery capacity, which should result in increased range. On the European WLTP testing cycle, the new Q8 e-tron models claim up to 372 miles of range – expect the more realistic EPA estimates to be quite a bit lower.
Two Stylish Shapes
The new Q8 e-tron is once again available in two different body styles – a classically-styled SUV and a dynamic Sportback with an aggressive, tapered rear end. Both models now sit slightly lower than before, and are about an inch wider, contributing to a sportier stance.
A long wheelbase, unchanged from the previous e-tron, means that the Q8 e-tron models have plenty of space in the rear – even under the Sportback’s sloping roof. Luggage space in the rear is impressive, and both models also have a decently-sized front luggage compartment that can accommodate an overnight bag, or the vehicle charger.
The biggest change to the design comes at the front of both models. The Q8 e-trons build on Audi’s electric design language with a grille and Audi four-rings logo that are attractively 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.
Like every Audi, the new Q8 e-tron models are truly impressive inside, and have seen major upgrades in line with their positioning at the top of the range. Both feature a large panoramic glass roof, which can be open and closed electrically to make the interior feel brighter and more spacious. Two-zone climate control is standard, with the option of a four-zone system that also has an ionizer and selectable fragrances. The seats have three heat and three cooling settings, as well as the option of a massage function that uses ten inflatable cushions and seven different programs to relax driver and passengers’ back muscles.
Trim options include a variety of open-pore wood veneers, aluminum, or carbon fiber. Plus, in addition to luxurious leather, owners can now choose a sustainable technical fabric made from recycled bottles, which comes with red stitching and seatbelts.
The Q8 e-tron’s MMI Touch Response operating system has been upgraded as well. There are two large high-resolution touch screens that come with 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.
Three All-Wheel Drive Variants
Three versions of the Q8 e-tron will be available, all with electric all-wheel drive, and available with both body styles.
The entry point to the Q8 e-tron is the Q8 50, which has an power output of 335 horsepower and 489 lb-ft of torque and a 95-kWh battery. Range of the Q8 50 on the European WLTP driving cycle is up to 313 miles, according to Audi.
One step up from the Q8 50 is the Q8 55, which ups battery capacity to 114 kWh and boosts power to 402 hp (though torque remains the same at 489 lb-ft). The larger battery delivers a claimed 373 miles of range on the European WLTP cycle, according to Audi. Top speed is 124 mph.
At the top of the range is a new SQ8 e-tron model. S in this case stands for “sport.” Range drops slightly to a claimed 318 miles on the WLTP cycle, according to Audi. However, power output rises to an impressive 496 hp and a staggering 717 lb-ft of torque. That’s thanks to a new three-motor setup, which combines an electric motor on the front axle, with two electric motors at the rear – one per wheel. In addition to sports-car acceleration, the two rear motors also improve handling on winding roads. The two rear motors can vary drive torque between the rear wheels in a fraction of a second, improving handling and increasing traction on slick roads.
The two different batteries in the Q8 e-tron models both feature improved technology, resulting in up to 20 percent higher energy density in the same space. The battery management system has been updated, too. Maximum charging speed for the Q8 50 e-tron is 150 kW, while the Q8 55 and SQ8 e-tron models will charge at a faster 170 kW. For both batteries, this means that under ideal conditions, the battery can charge from 10 to 80 percent in about half an hour. Audi also claims that the Q8 e-tron models’ charging curve is better than competing models, and can charge at max capacity for longer.
When charging at home, all three Q8 e-tron models can charge at up to 22 kW on a Level 2 AC charger – significantly faster than most luxury EVs, although 22-kW AC chargers are uncommon as they require very robust infrastructure.
First U.S. Sales in April
The Q8 e-tron and Q8 e-tron Sportback will go on sale in February 2023 in Europe, with the first vehicles destined for American shores arriving at the end of April. A U.S. starting MSRP has not yet been announced, and the EPA has yet to weigh in on its range estimates, which will undoubtedly be lower than the European ratings. Watch this space!