After a few minutes rolling through town, the Audi RS Q8’s navigation system directed us to turn onto a long motorway on-ramp. With 591 horses underfoot, we couldn’t resist matting the accelerator. The RS Q8 thundered down the on-ramp, merging onto the freeway already going much faster than the smattering of local traffic. After another moment or two, we lifted off the accelerator, triggering an abrupt multi-gear upshift. In that brief maneuver we experienced the dynamic high and low of Audi’s new ultra-high-performance SUV.
The Audi Q8, the two-row “coupe” sibling of the three-row Q7, already sits at the top of the brand’s SUV lineup. But some buyers want more power, more performance, more swagger. With BMW offering M and M Competition versions of its competing X6, and Mercedes-AMG having given the GLE Coupe the same treatment,
As in the regular Q8, dual center screens blend seamlessly into the gloss-black face of the dashboard. The central display is a crisp 10.1-incher, and below it is an 8.6-inch screen. Both use haptic feedback, responding to your touch with a reassuring click like physical Audi buttons have for years. The upper screen handles the typical areas of audio, phone, and navigation, the latter enhanced with Google Earth maps.
As in the other RS models, the V8 is hooked to an eight-speed automatic and Quattro all-wheel drive with a 60% default rear torque bias. A 48-volt mild hybrid system also is on hand, but instead of adding torque to the powertrain it merely expands the stop/start capability and powers the active anti-roll bars. (In other markets, it also allows for engine-off coasting, but that feature is disabled in the States.)
Tererife’s roads also are extremely narrow, with sharp drop-offs everywhere and guardrails only sometimes, which gave us an appreciation for the gobs of grip from the massive 295/40-series tires. The RS Q8’s steering benefits from stiffer front suspension bushings than the standard Q8 and is precise and decently weighted, although it’s not quite a tactile as a Cayenne’s.
We previously have said, “the Q8 isn’t a sports car and is never going to drive like one.” Even in RS form, the Q8 still doesn’t. But it becomes part of a club whose cornering abilities manage to bend the laws of physics, and it excels at inhaling stretches of tarmac in great gulps. Those qualities, along with its amped-up appearance, earn the RS Q8 a place at the table — even if, all things considered, it fits in better than it stands out.