Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: The best of both worlds with Audi RS Q8
That the Audi RS Q8 would be fast, blisteringly fast, was something I expected. It’s already gained a reputation for not just being the fastest Audi SUV but the ‘fastest production SUV around the Nürburgring’. Any enthusiast will know that setting the fastest lap time at the fabled ‘Nordschleife’ race circuit tucked away in the Eifel mountains in Germany is the ultimate badge of honour for any performance car. But that’s only part of the RS Q8’s impressive resume.
The headline figures on the RS Q8’s specification sheet is a colossal 600hp and 800Nm of torque. And then there’s the pedigree. Its not-so-distant cousin is the outrageous Lamborghini Urus with which it shares a platform and the same 4.0 litre, twin-turbo V8 (albeit the Urus has a more powerful version of it).
The burble from the RS Q8’s exhaust hints at the fire power under the hood but the engine isn’t as loud or explosive as the Urus’s. And there’s a reason for that. The RS Q8 can genuinely double as an everyday SUV that’s good enough to be chauffeured calmly to work. And funnily enough, it’s how good the RS Q8 is when driven normally that impressed me the most.
Ultra-high performance SUVs like the RS Q8 tend to be high strung and edgy, because they’ve primarily been designed to go fast, not slow. A suspension designed for 300kph feels brittle and hard at 30kph. A gearbox designed for fast, full bore gearshifts feels clunky and jerky at low speeds. But not in the RS Q8, which feels equally happy breaking the speed limit twice over on the Mumbai-Pune expressway as tackling Saat Rasta junction in central Mumbai in rush hour traffic.
Within the first 100 metres of exiting the office with the adaptive air suspension dialled into ‘Comfort’ mode, I am hugely impressed with unexpectedly comfy ride. Riding on ultra-low profile tyres wrapped around gigantic 23-inch rims, you expect to feel every pimple on the road, but the RS Q8 soaks up Mumbai’s potholes without disturbing the passengers. Small prods of the nicely sprung accelerator make the RS Q8 leap like a scalded cat, leaving me in no doubt about the potency of the V8 that’s waiting to be unleashed.
Mumbai has been gradually unlocking itself and there’s a fair bit of traffic I have to thread past while leaving the city, which gives me time to have a look around the high-quality cabin, which is fundamentally that of the regular Q8. It’s also very Audi, which means the clean and uncluttered dashboard, built to a very high standard, is dominated by touchscreens. The graphics are brilliant and the ‘haptic’ feedback, which mimics the press of a button, feels good, but you still have to take your eyes off the road and aim your finger at one of the icons on the screen. That’s a bit distracting on the move and certainly so when you’re hustling this ultra-rapid SUV at the speeds it’s capable of.
What’s nice are the ‘RS’ touches, like the flat-bottomed steering, special RS seats that hug you tightly and the RS badges on the steering wheel and door sills. The infotainment system has RS-specific functions, which give you performance-related info including a lap timer, should you choose to attempt setting a lap record yourself!
The zoom that matters
I’m finally on the Mumbai-Pune expressway and select ‘RS2’ mode on the steering wheel, configured to the most extreme setting, and sink my right foot into the carpet. The way the RS Q8 accelerates is staggering. From a cruise of 60kph it takes just three odd seconds to break the 120kph speed limit. But I have to keep reigning myself in to avoid falling foul of the multiple speed cameras that dot this stretch. I also have to keep reminding myself that this is an SUV and not a sports car.
Grip from those chunky tyres is astonishing and the way this high-riding SUV clings to the road is physics defying. In fact, the overall dynamics, the responsiveness of the brilliant V8 engine and the ease with which you can extract the most of out the RS Q8 won’t leave you hankering for a sports car. And priced at Rs 2.07 crore, yes, it is expensive but nothing at this price delivers the mix of sheer speed and practicality in such a well curated (and intoxicating) dose.
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, September 21, 2020
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