There’s a new flagship in the Audi fleet, a flagship crossover.
The 2019 Q8 is a midsize, five-passenger crossover that embodies the key attributes of the Audi brand. It has a fashionable, coupe-like profile, cutting-edge tech and an elegantly appointed cabin with room for five fully grown humans.
The Q8 is a trimmed-down and dressed-up version of Audi’s three-row Q7. The 8 is smaller, sleeker and better equipped than the 7. And, thanks to an extensive list of standard features, it’s also pricier.
Inside, premium materials and first-cabin fit-and-finish underscore Q8’s luxury mission. The cabin is whisper-quiet in traffic or out on the road.
The Q8 is about three inches shorter in overall length than the Q7 and an inch shorter in height. Its width grows by an inch.
Its new dimensions and sloping roofline, trim the Q8’s cargo hold by 20 percent and rear-seat headroom loses a small amount of ground.
But by deleting the third row of seating, Audi was able to create truly spacious second row of seats.
Joins high-tone class
The 8 joins the ranks of luxury, two-row crossovers that have flourished in the wake of BMW’s success with the M6 “coupe”. Their sales are driven more by expressive styling and less by sheer practicality.
The base Premium trim stickers at $67,400, the Premium Plus at $72,395 and the Prestige at $77,545.
The Q8 has a taut and muscular stance that suggests a responsive chassis and performance-tuned suspension.
It’s not the sportiest of the new breed of luxury CUVs, but the 8 is responsive and engaging. Its all-independent suspension features adaptive shock dampers that adjust in real time to changing conditions.
We tested the Q8 on the grid-like county roads of southern Wisconsin, not an ideal spot to plumb the depths of a sophisticated suspension. Still, we found occasional opportunities to check its handling characteristics.
Driven aggressively, the Q8 exhibits little body lean. The chassis willingly sets and follows a line through a curve, aided by the Quattro AWD system which metes out the proper amount of torque to the wheels.
The lightly weighted steering system is precise and responsive but transmits little information to the driver from the road surface. It has a good on-center groove and tracks well in its lane.
The 8 is powered by a new turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission that generally makes quick, smooth shifts, although it occasionally fumbled low-speed gear changes during our test week.
The 8 runs the 0-60 sprint in 5.6 seconds and can tow up to 7,700 pounds.
New infotainment system shines
Standard gear includes leather upholstery, navigation, heated and six-way adjustable power front seats, torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive, Audi’s multi-mode Drive Select system, a panoramic moonroof and LED headlights.
A host of desirable features is available via several richly detailed options packages. The $4,000 Premium Plus package adds a Bang & Olafsen audio system, four-zone climate control, customizable interior lighting schemes and more.
The Prestige can be ordered with massaging front seats, upgraded leather and noise-killing dual-pane glass.
Audi uses the Q8 to introduce its new, two-screen MMI infotainment system. The previous system, with its knob-based control system, was one of the industry’s best. The new one is better.
MMI Touch Response comprises a 10.1-inch upper display for controlling infotainment and navigation. The 8.6-inch lower screen is used for climate controls and comfort and convenience functions.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard.
The touchscreens respond to touch with a pair of haptic signals, a small but audible click and an accompanying vibrating sensation felt by the fingertip. Aside from their primary purpose — reassuring users that their input has been registered — the haptics also add a touch of elegance and precision.
And that, more than size and power, is just what a flagship is all about these days.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at email@example.com.
2019 Audi Q8 Premium Plus
Vehicle base price: $67,400
Trim level base price: $71,400
As tested: $79,340 (includes destination and handling)
Options included Driver Assistance package; Year One package; Towing package; Cold Weather package; CD/DVD player
Tow rating: 7,700 lb
EPA rating: 19 combined/22 highway/22 highway
Premium gasoline specified