Audi will be launching a new upmarket crossover SUV, the company has confirmed. The new model is slated to be christened the Q8 and will rival the likes of BMW X6, Range Rover Sport and the upcoming Mercedes-Benz MLC, Rupert Stadler, company chief has revealed.
Audi has granted official production approval to the new SUV and is planning to bring the crossover SUV to the market in the next three years.
Stadler, at the recent Beijing motor show, revealed that the upmarket crossover will form a crucial part of Audi’s growth strategy, and that it will see it extend its line-up by no fewer than 11 new models by 2020. Five of these stated eleven models have been identified as additional SUVs in the form of the Q1, Q2, Q4, Q6 and Q8.
Following this, Audi’s range will reach a 60-strong model line-up, with the company banking 40 percent of its annual sales – around 800,000 units – on SUVs. Stadler also admitted that more investment would be diverted to SUVs as a result.
"We see a great deal of potential, particularly in the SUV segment and in the especially prestigious full-size category," he said.
The Q8 has been conceived to extend Audi’s reach at the top of its line-up and to provide the company with added sales in potentially crucial markets such as China, the Middle East and the United States.
In terms of performance and technology, the Q8 is described as being on a par with Audi’s A8 flagship saloon, albeit with the added ability to head off road thanks to its raised ride height and, adjustable air suspension on top-end models.
The Q8 is set to crown Audi’s Q line-up, while a four-door coupé version of the A8, called A9, is still on the cards to top Audi’s range of A-badged cars.
A range of V6 and V8 petrol and diesel engines will be offered, alongside plug-in hybrids and possibly an all-electric version to rival the upcoming Tesla Model X SUV.
The Q8 is set to receive its own, unique five-door body styled under the stewardship of new Audi design boss Marc Lichte. Among the various elements expected to set it apart from the more practical second-generation Q7, due later this year, is a racier front end with a more sporting grille, more obvious tapering around each corner, shallower side glass, a generously sloping roofline and a more heavily angled rear window.
In the same way that BMW has spun the X6 off the X5, the Q8 is set to share its mechanical package with the forthcoming new Q7.
The basis for the Q8 is the second-generation MLB (modular longitudinal architecture) platform. The structure forms part of a family of platforms, the development of which is being led by Audi. It is set to underpin a wide range of upmarket SUVs, including the new Q7, the third-generation Porsche Cayenne, a secret new Cayenne coupé, the third-gen Volkswagen Touareg, the recently confirmed Bentley SUVand the spectacular Lamborghini Urus.
The Q8 and Bentley will be the plushest and most premium of the SUVs, but Stadler believes the pair won’t clash, as "Bentley can’t fill the gap" of less than £100,000 (approximately Rs 1,01,64,200) into which the range-topping Q8 will be pitched.
Insiders say the MLB structure has far greater flexibility than that used today, with added scope for variability within the wheelbase and track widths in a move that, it is suggested, will lead to a wider differentiation between the models planned by the VW Group’s various brands.
The key development, however, is the adoption of aluminium, thinner-gauge high-strength steel and carbonfibre-reinforced plastic, which together promise to bring a significant reduction in weight of up to 300kg in the Q7 and a kerb weight below 2000kg for the base Q8.