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Although it may have taken its time to arrive in Audi showrooms, the Q8 is looking to compete with the BMW X6 - has it got what it takes?
21in alloy wheels, sat-nav, reversing camera, electric tailgate, air suspension
Diesel : 3.0-litre, 282hp
S Line, Vorsprung
Eight-speed automatic, tiptronic
While the original arrival of the BMW X6 in 2008, arguably the world's first SUV-coupe, might have initially seemed like an odd concept, there has been no arguing with the numbers.
A decade on, more than 400,000 X6s have been sold worldwide, so it's hardly surprising that Audi wanted a piece of the sales action with this new Q8. What is perhaps a surprise though, is just how long this car has taken to arrive in Audi showrooms. Audi's engineers admit this car has been five years in development, which kind of makes you wonder what they were doing for the other five years before that when the X6 had already been on sale.
Although this new Q8 is based on the larger Q7, the Q8 is lower and wider but also shorter, giving it a squat, hunkered-down stance on the road. We like the look of it, especially with the dominant front grille and narrow lights. Audi expects around 40% of all Q8s sold to be driven by company drivers, slightly below that of the Q7 and Q5 (at 45 and 43% respectively), but on a par with the likes of the X6.
While this new Q8 is on sale from this summer, Audi is remaining tight-lipped on pricing, but don't be surprised to see this 50 TDI with its 3.0-litre, 282hp diesel start from around £65,000. It also has a 48V mild-hybrid system on board that helps to boost fuel economy, although Audi has yet to produce any official statistics. The Q7 with the same engine returns 44.1mpg and 168g/km, so don't expect it to be far off that.
A less powerful 231hp diesel and a 3.0-litre TFSI petrol with 335hp (badged as 45 TDI and 55 TFSI) will join the Q8 range early next year and don't be surprised to see a plug-in hybrid version during 2019 either.
This Q8 is certainly no short-straw however, with a 0-60mph time of just 6.3 seconds and a 144mph top speed. It certainly feels fast enough and is well matched to the eight-speed tiptronic automatic on the road. Refinement is excellent with road and wind noise kept to a minimum (even with frameless windows on all four doors) and although the engine noise can sometimes encroach onto the cabin, it's never intrusive.
The ride quality is excellent and despite the Q8 being a big car, it remains pretty flat when cornering and turns in well. Although we'd like some more feedback about what the car is doing through the steering wheel, it's highly unlikely that owners will throw this car around that often, simply to test its slightly imposing width. Obviously this also gives Audi some room to manoeuvre with any future S or RS models, but there is an optional four-wheel steering system for a more dynamic feel on the pricier Vorsprung trim level.
Inside, the interior is dominated by two main touchscreens, Audi's designers say they prefer this option to a larger Tesla-style version and it's hard not to agree with them. The lower screen deals with the car controls and ventilation, while the upper one boasts the infotainment system and sat-nav among other controls. Both screens have haptic and acoustic feedback, and are pretty intuitive and easy to operate on the move.
The build quality, as you might expect from Audi, is exceptional and there's a huge amount of space inside, front and rear. One 6ft adult can easily sit behind another with legroom to spare and while 40mm lower than a Q7, headroom isn't sparse either. Adding to that practicality is a decent 605-litre boot (1,755 litres with the rear seats down) and sliding rear seats are an option. The SUV-coupe market is an open goal as far as critics are concerned, but it's hard to argue with the X6's historic sales success and the same is true for the potential fortunes of this Q8.
When combined with the Q7, Audi expects the Q8 to account for a third of sales. With about 6,000 Q7s leaving UK showrooms each year, that gives a rough sales expectation of 3,000 units a year, which at £65,000 each is no small change. And, odd concept or not, as a better-looking, sportier and better-driving alternative to the Q7, there's a lot to this talented Q8 to like.