A different beast. The 2021 Audi Q8 may share its platform with the Audi Q7, but don’t let that fool you. The Q8 bears the same large trapezoidal grille, but it’s lower and sleeker than its full-size sibling.
Most notably, the Q8 loses the third row that's found in the Q7. That may rule it out for family duty, but it makes the best of the space by allocating more room for second-row passengers. Cargo space gets cut as a result. The Q8 holds 30.5 cubic feet behind the seats, which is about 5 fewer than the Q7.
For 2021, the Q8 gets more standard features in lower trims. It was already a luxurious package, but the addition of extra safety tech on the base trim is welcome.
The Q8 raises one big question: for a car that holds less and carries fewer people, how does Audi charge more than the Q7? This is an eternal mystery of crossover SUV coupes, but part of the answer lies in …
Speed, speed, and more speed. The Audi Q8 gets a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine, which is optional on the Q7. A smooth eight-speed automatic transmission helps the Q8 scoot from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds, which is impressive given a weight of about 2.5 tons.
But more impressive than the power is the handling. Steering is accurate and composed, and upper trims get an adaptive air suspension that masks road imperfections. The RS Q8 lapped the Nürburgring in less than eight minutes, setting a new record for SUVs.
Unsurprisingly, all that performance yields poor fuel economy. The EPA hasn’t released official 2021 numbers, but last year’s Q8 achieved 18 miles per gallon combined.
Flagship luxury. Don’t tell the A8 sedan, but the 2021 Audi Q8 may be Audi’s new flagship. Standard equipment is comprehensive even on the base Premium trim, with soft leather upholstery and more than 40 inches of rear leg room.
Screens are everywhere – the driver gets a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, while dual central touchscreens control infotainment and vehicle functions. All of them are excellent, and a standard panoramic moonroof ensures that you won’t forget about nature either.
The midrange Premium Plus is our Goldilocks of the lineup. Four-zone climate control, upgraded headlights, and a premium audio system justify the price, and the air suspension is available as a recommended upgrade.
Still an Audi. The Audi Q8 has only been in production for a few years, but it’s an Audi through and through. That starts with safety, which was impressive enough to earn both an IIHS Top Safety Pick award and five stars from the NHTSA last model year.
Farther up the tech ladder, Audi’s optional driver assistance system controls steering and speed on long highway stretches and slow commutes. It works well.
Also typical for Audi is a relatively conservative exterior. The Q8 is easily identifiable, but it won’t draw double takes the way competitors from Porsche or BMW might.
And of course, the Q8 is typically expensive. Prices start just shy of $70,000, but expect to spend a good deal more after diving into the options list. For some buyers, that may be a tough sell on a crossover that can’t seat seven. If the kids have flown the nest, however, the Q8 is a worthwhile luxury experience.
Final thoughts. There’s no way around it – the 2021 Audi Q8 isn’t as practical as the Q7. Instead, it makes a case for itself based on performance, luxury, and technology, all of which are among the best on the market. The RS Q8 offers shocking performance for a crossover, but even a base Q8 feels special. For a luxury flagship, that’s the most important part.