Review: Audi Q8 50TDI

I am maybe living in the wrong circles. Audi’s Q8 is hard to miss but until this orange outrage arrived for testing I hadn’t seen one. It’s fabulous, by the way. The face is an affront, puns please, to serenity. It out-glares any other Audi or any rival SUV with a gape that overwhelms the senses.

The dragon snarl of the Q8's grill puts its SUV competitors on notice.
The dragon snarl of the Q8's grill puts its SUV competitors on notice.

It prowls at the top of the Audi Q series of SUVs, though it is slightly shorter than the seven-seater Q7 but rather more than one-up in social clout.

It is, after all, an SUV, not a people carrier…

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Five seats is what you get with the Q8, all with room to spare in a cabin which measures five feet across, matching a Rolls-Royce Phantom on my scale. Its designation, 50TDI, means plenty of power, from a 3-litre diesel V6 – part of the deal for cars like this and the BMW X6, which led the coupé SUV field some 10 years ago. You may also be looking at the Mercedes-Benz GLE and the Range Rover Velar or Porsche Cayenne.

Inside there is room to spare, although drivers may have to adjust to the Q8's girth

Or you may not be even getting your toe in the water because a Q8 will cost you at least £65,000 for the S Line seen here and £83,000 for the muchos fabuloso Vorsprung version – Audi giving some fame to the slogan Vorsprung durch Technik, which means advance through technology. Actually, it has always meant “we are as good as it gets”, and usually they have been pretty good.

Audi has never been short of go-gettem confidence. The VdT thing has accompanied its rise from wannabe to challenger to Le Mans victory to, well, the Q8. There is no connection with the Kuwait fuel oil brand Q8 – though, allow me a glib moment, you’ll need quite a lot of diesel to run your Q8.

The basics are Quattro all-wheel drive on a raised chassis with some mild hybrid Technik on the 282bhp engine, which comes with an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox. The official CO2 rating is 178g for both versions. The Vorsprung model gets the same drivetrain but lots of other kit, like all-wheel steering, which gives a tighter turning circle at low speed and more positive control when you are in a zoomy mood.

The Q8 and its ilk are vehicles that are quite unnecessary. They give you more than you need but just about all you want, such as massive performance, massive image, massive enjoyment. Where I live the air is thick with Land Rover Discovery Sport and Discovery, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar and, it goes without saying, a flotilla of Evoques.

Day One with the Q8. I was at the town’s Aldi (a more manageable car park than at the rather nicer farm shop), alongside a very dark Velar. The dragon orange Q8 was like chalk-n-cheese – bright, sharp lines, racy even. Mr and Mrs Velar returned and, I swear, never even saw the Q8. Conclusions? Search me. Maybe they were not car people? Mind you, I wouldn’t have placed them with the Velar, either.

Like the Velar, the Q8 has two large over and under information screens. You’ll soon get the hang of this VdT stuff, though I missed Audi’s very good manual selector. You may also need to adjust to the girth of the Q8. It is indeed wide, wider than I need on narrow roads, not too wide for the USA ,where I expect it is a must-have runaround for the au pair. The only English au pair I knew of was promised a convertible Beetle and ended up (in a ditch) with a pick-up.

Other than the Velar Two, the Q8 got lots of looks. I drove it through one of those country towns enhanced by the presence of A Public School, the streets a thoroughfare between playing fields and classes and dorms. Boy, the teenagers clocked it, possibly already envisaging it on the family fleet, being whisked off in it at the end of term.

Onwards into the hills, I was held up for miles behind another tourist who either never looked in the mirror or had no interest in the Q8’s need to be the car in front.

At last the Mk 3 Micra peeled off and I managed to get the Q8 moving. I stopped and took its picture.

A Jimny circled to get a better approach at a stony track into the farmstead hidden in the valley bottom. Horses for courses. The Q8 is set up for some tough work “where the paved road ends” to quote the brochure. It goes: “It’s no exaggeration to say that the Q8 redefines the SUV.” They would say that, wouldn’t they.

Verdict: Super SUV. Loved it.