Edgy, yet conservative. Though it sits atop Audi’s nomenclature numerically, the 2019 Audi Q8 isn't the brand’s largest SUV. It’s one of a growing new breed: the SUV-coupe. If that sounds like a paradox, to some extent it is – the usual recipe is to take an SUV, chop off cargo space, and add to the price. But the success of cars like the BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, and Land Rover Range Rover Evoque has shown that the genre is here to stay.
The Q8 doesn’t take the look quite as far as its German counterparts. The roofline is more rakish than the Q7’s, but it’s a gentler and less confusing look than the polarizing X6. As a bonus, it cuts into head room and cargo space less. That’s not to say the Q8 isn’t attractive. A smooth hood, an imposing face, and thoughtful creases add up to a look that’s unusual but not off-putting. The Q8 manages to be both sporty and restrained, which aligns nicely with Audi’s ethos.
Comfort, not speed. On paper, the Q8 looks like a stormer. A 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 will send the car from zero to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds. But lower down the page is the number that really matters: 5,004 pounds, the Q8’s weight. This means it's more inertia than agility.
But what the Q8 lacks in finesse it makes up for in comfort. Smooth steering is matched by a buttery ride, which only improves with the optional air suspension. Add it along with acoustic glass for a level of serenity unmatched in the competition. Just steer clear of the huge rims, which stiffen the ride.
Less family, more friends. The biggest difference between the Q7 and the Q8 is the Q8’s lack of a third row. The lower roofline would cut into head room. The upside is that the Q8 takes its luxury mission seriously for the two remaining rows. The Q8 gains two inches of leg room on the Q7, and it’s up nearly five on the X6. Cargo room leads the class as well, with 30.5 cubic feet behind the rear seats.
All the seats are supportive enough for road trips and large enough for your tallest friends. Leather upholstery is standard, and top trims get heated, cooled, and massage-capable front seats. This may not be as capable a family hauler, but as a luxury adventurer, it’s well suited.
Modern in all but mileage. As the top-dog crossover for a brand that prides itself on technology, the Q8 is appropriately futuristic. The driver gets info from a gorgeous 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. The dash has two touchscreens, one running Audi’s crisp and responsive MMI infotainment system, the other controlling vehicle functions like temperature and safety. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can run through a sophisticated wireless system.
Speaking of safety, the Q8 gets standard automatic emergency braking. Spend-up options include the rest of the safety features you’d expect, plus some you don’t – like an automatic call to first responders after an accident. Our one gripe here is that rear side impact airbags remain optional.
But the only real anachronism on the Q8 is its fuel economy. The EPA estimates that the V6 engine will do just 17 miles per gallon city, 22 mpg highway, and 19 combined. Both the X6 and the GLE-Class will do better, albeit not by much. Even the Q7, with its 21 mpg combined, is thriftier than the Q8.
Final thoughts. Like it’s mongo-coupe brethren, the 2019 Audi Q8 remains a lifestyle choice as much as a utility vehicle. This is a vehicle that lets everyone know you have the money to buy an Audi SUV without worrying about practicality.
But unlike the likes of the X6, the Audi makes a more sensible argument. It’s less polarizing and offers more room to stretch out in the second row. It’s attractive, but it’s less about look-at-me styling than it is comfort and curation. And comfort it has in spades, along with enough tech for the most modern of drivers. The Q8 is exactly what you’d expect of Audi’s take on the SUV-coupe – and that’s not a bad thing.