Eight things you need to know about driving the new Audi RS Q8
Audi's flagship SUV does everything you could possibly want it to do, but will leave you feeling a little funny
Alex Goy is a freelance motoring journalist who writes for the likes of Motor1, Carfection, CNET and DriveTribe.
Who doesn’t love a niche car? The car built seemingly for just a handful of people that turns out to be appealing to more than a merry few. Audi's RS Q8 is certainly peak niche – a massive SUV coupé with a massive V8 that would make most blush. A recent trip to Tenerife showed what Audi’s flagship SUV was all about. It’s… odd. Here's everything you need to know.
1) Holy hell the V8 is quick
Punching out 592bhp and 590lb ft, its 4.0-litr turbocharged V8 is a serious bit of kit. With 48V mild hybrid assistance, the RS Q8 will allegedly crack 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds, and head up to 189mph (with the optional dynamic pack fitted).
It’s about as quick as they come, then. Which is… excellent, frankly. Though if you’re worried about how much it’ll drain you at the pumps you won’t like its 20.5mpg. That said, if you’re paying nearly £104,000 before options, you probably won’t worry about things like fuel bills…
2) Car goes up… car goes down
The RS Q8 rides on some trick air springs. This means that when you’re in the car’s ‘dynamic’ or RS modes it can lower itself for a more… sporting ride. Alternatively, when you’re in its off-road settings it’ll raise itself up to give you, and your expensive undercarriage, a little more clearance.
3) High speed cornering toys are good toys
Grab yourself a Vorsprung model and you’ll find that all four wheels will steer for you. Under 60kph they’ll turn up to five degrees in the opposite direction as the fronts, giving you a tighter turning circle and better manoeuvrability in town.
Over that speed, say when you’re taking advantage of its power on some fun roads, they’ll turn 1.5 degrees in the same direction as the fronts.
Tick the right options box and you’ll end up with Electromechanical Active Roll Stabilisation (EAWS), which uses motors mounted in the anti-roll bars to tune the ride to the situation – stiff for cornering, squidgy for straight line work.
4) It looks mean
It wouldn’t be a modern Audi RS without being covered in a moderate amount of jewellery, would it?
There’s an RS-exclusive spoiler, a number of trims to choose from (avoid the carbon if you want to be even the slightest bit subtle), RS badging, the lot. Inside it’s all very swish, and feels as solidly built as we’ve come to expect from Audi.
There’s plenty of space in the boot (605-litres seats up, 1775-litres seats down) and despite the ‘coupé’ roofline average-size humans won’t be uncomfortable in the back seats.
5) Choice is a powerful thing
The RS Q8 is a modern car, which means there’s no one way to have it set up. Some days you’ll want it set to ‘comfort’ which is smooth, quiet, and doesn’t let the full RS mentalism out of the bag unless you press it to.
Other days you’ll want the car in ‘auto’ which’ll detect how you’re driving and adjust itself to match. Maybe, if you think your 4.0-litre V8 is a bit much, ‘efficiency’ is your jam. There are a couple of modes to flick to if you find yourself perilously close to a muddy field as well.
However, the two you should keep an eye on are RS 1 and RS 2 – the configurable modes. You can choose how loud you want the exhausts, how aggressive you want the powertrain, how slippery you want the traction control…
6) It does the day to day stuff well
If you want to use the RS Q8 as ‘a car’, you can with ease. Its power isn’t hard to manage at all, and in comfort it’ll only get rorty when you really stab it.
Ok, it’s massive so may cause some clenched buttocks driving down narrow lanes, but that’s really the only reason to have any worries.
7) Is… is the world going backwards?
See that point over there? Point the RS Q8 at it and show the throttle your foot. You’ll be there in a matter of moments. The RS Q8 is fast. Properly, stupidly, wonderfully fast. Take a moment to glance at the dial when you’re flooring it and you’ll see numbers keep adding themselves to the total. It’s ridiculous. It’s… an RS Audi.
It hides its 2.3 tonnes well in the bends as well (though the EAWS will have something to do with that), and though its steering isn’t Caterham sharp by any means it’s communicative enough for most to enjoy. It’s no sports car, but it can hustle.
8) It doesn’t feel fast, though
And herein lies its biggest weakness – you see the numbers adding up, the trees go blurry, the fuel gauge empty itself, but you don’t feel the full effect. Yeah, you’re pushed back in your seat, and you get that big ‘ol slug of turbo torque throwing you forward, but you feel as though you’re wrapped in cotton wool for the whole experience. It’s most disquieting.
Here’s the rub about the RS Q8. It’s a niche version of Audi’s biggest (for now) SUV. It’s the quickest SUV round the ‘Ring, which means some people will want to brag about it, and it is bloody fast on the road.
If you really like ‘style’, need an SUV, and only have one parking space at home – this is the right motor for you. Otherwise… maybe get something with a smaller engine for the family stuff, and a used 911 for the sports car kicks?