It’s just so predictable, isn’t it? Take your biggest SUV and stuff it with the biggest motor you can squeeze under the hood. In the case of Audi’s new RS Q8, that means a twin-turbo V8 with nearly 600 horsepower. Slap on some gigantic wheels, fat exhaust pipes and watch as these monsters speed off dealer lots.
Yes, they’re predictable, and probably not on the right side of history, but these speedy sport utes are also a riot, which is why people just can’t seem to get enough of them. It’s why Lamborghini, Jeep, BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar and Land Rover are making them.
There has never been an RS Q8 before. It is the biggest, fastest, widest, loudest thing Audi has ever made. It accelerates with shocking force that seems to defy the normal bounds of time and space. Roll into the throttle and there’s a moment of anticipation, a barely audible low-frequency rumble that starts to get louder while not much else happens. Then, mid-way through the rev range, all hell breaks loose. The car explodes forward and the rate of acceleration doesn’t let up. Such a big thing moving so fast creates a kind of gravitation pull, the world outside the front window seems to bend as you warp past.
The experience is made stranger on account of how enormous the RS Q8 feels from the driver’s seat. It’s wide like a Hummer. Imagine an oil tanker that moves like a speed boat and you’ll have the right idea.
The RS Q8 is essentially a poor man’s Lamborghini Urus SUV. It and other Volkswagen Group models including the Bentley Bentayga, Porsche Cayenne and Audi Q7 are all based on the same basic architecture. To my eyes, the RS Q8 is the best-looking SUV of the bunch.
It’s an important model for Audi Sport, the go-fast division behind all the RS models. The company needs to make more crowd-pleasers like the RS Q8 if it to become a household name like its key rivals. BMW M is among the most-searched-for cars on autoTrader.ca in Canada. Meanwhile, AMG has been busy making AMG versions of every model in Mercedes’ lineup.
“Between AMG and Audi, there’s a higher visibility of AMG,” says Julius Seebach, co-managing director of Audi Sport. He’ll need to fix that visibility problem if Audi Sport is to meet its target of doubling sales by 2023.
“I think we’re going in a good direction …. There’s high demand from the US market and hopefully in the coming years we will overtake [our rivals] in terms of sales, coolness, et cetera.”
Audi Sport’s plan is to make RS versions of more Audi models, especially SUVs, and put them on sale in North America. In 2019, the company launched the RS 7 (a mid-size fastback luxury sedan) and, for the first time in Canada, the RS 6 (quite possibly the world’s speediest station wagon). There’s likely a new RS Q5 SUV in the works and a good chance the compact RS Q3 SUV will join the RS Q8 in showrooms.
The “Sport” Utility Vehicle is not the oxymoron it once was. Understand that, in the not-too-distant past, fast SUVs handled like a soggy sack of potatoes: heavy and unwieldy and hard to stop once they built up any momentum. Today, thanks to the miracles of all-wheel steering, carbon-ceramic brakes, 48-volt-powered active anti-roll bars, adaptive dampers and modern air suspension, the gap between sports cars and fast SUVs has shrunk dramatically.
The RS Q8 is quick to turn at low speed (shout out to the all-wheel steering system) and resists rolling and wallowing in corners. The active anti-roll bars, which aren’t needed on the RS 6 or RS 7 due their lower centres of gravity, do an excellent job keeping this SUV flat through corners while still allowing the air suspension to soak up impacts.
Audi Sport seems to prioritize comfort over razor-sharp response and feedback. In a coupe like the RS 5, that is arguably detrimental, but in a large SUV it’s the right choice. You can forgive the RS Q8 for feeling a bit remote, like the driver is one step removed from the action, because it is also practical, luxurious, and wickedly quick.
If you are under the impression that everyone is woke to climate change and the associated shame that therefore comes, you would imagine, with piloting a mega-fast SUV like this, well, you are mistaken. There’s an enormous appetite for speedy family-haulers as evidenced by all the new models on sale and, despite my own climate-related guilt, I get it. The RS Q8 does it all; it’s every type of vehicle mashed into one.
The downsides are price and what I imagine will be a rather high CO2 output. Well, that, plus the fact the equally rapid and practical RS 6 wagon also exists. It’s cooler, because it’s a wagon, obviously, and much less predictable than yet another big, fast SUV.
- Base Price: TBD ($110,000 estimate)
- Engine: 4.0-litre V-8 with 48v mild hybrid system
- Transmissions: 8-speed automatic
- Fuel economy (l/100 km): 12.1 combined (European testing)
- Drive: All-wheel drive
- Alternatives: Porsche Cayenne, Audi RS 7 Sportback, RS 6 wagon, e-tron, Range Rover Velar SVO, Mercedes-AMG GLE 63, BMW X5M, Tesla Model X, Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, Volvo XC90 T8
The Q8 is the best-looking SUV Audi has ever made. The RS version is only an improvement if you like aggressive go-fast details like 23-inch wheels, angry-looking headlights and wider front and rear bodywork.
Audi’s dual-screen infotainment system with haptic feedback still has a wow-factor you don’t get from other German luxury cars. The system can be distracting at times though.
It does 0-100 km/h in 3.8 seconds. The drivetrain is lifted from the RS 6/7. Audi made sure to point out the RS Q8 outran the Mercedes-AMG GLC around Germany’s Nordschleife circuit to take the lap record for production SUVs.
Audi put every bit of chassis technology it has in this car, which is why a big SUV like is not overwhelmed by the mighty V-8 motor’s 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque.
Front and rear passengers are spoiled for space. Towing capacity is a useful 3,500 kg.
Looks great, drives well, but I’d still rather have the RS 6
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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