Sunday drive with Hormazd Sorabjee: Audi Q8 comes to India
Audi’s new flagship SUV is big on show and the company hopes it will be appeal to those who like to be seen in a swish set of wheels. It says a lot that the Audi Q8 holds its own even at the porch of the Palace Hotel in Downtown Dubai, which regularly sees some of the most exotic cars in the world.
Compared to the Q7, the Q8 is marginally shorter and lower, though it’s slightly wider – the latter adds to the SUV’s squat, muscular stance that’s accentuated by the flared fenders. The front gets the latest evolution of Audi’s grille, along with sharp-looking Matrix LED headlights. The Q8’s rear styling is quite sharp too, with the gloss-black applique near the tail-light units and a light band across the tailgate, adding flair.
Room with a view
There’ll be two rim sizes on offer with the Q8 when it comes to India – standard 21-inch alloys and optional 22-inchers – along with a variety of wheel designs. As Audi wants to emphasise the SUV’s exclusivity with the idea that no two Q8s should look the same, there will be 50 exterior colour options, along with a number of interior themes.
Step inside and there’s a sense of familiarity as the overall look of the dashboard is similar to the A6. This is no bad thing as the dual-touchscreen infotainment system set-up and Virtual Cockpit digital dials make the cabin look cutting-edge. However, the infotainment system’s interface does take some getting used to.
Besides this quibble, there isn’t much to fault the Q8’s interior as overall quality is excellent. The highly adjustable front seats are finished in rich trimming, while the adjustable ambient lighting, a panoramic sunroof and doors with frameless windows, all add to the experience.
Despite the raked roofline, rear seat passengers won’t complain about headroom and will laud legroom – there’s an optional reclining backrest that makes the experience even better for the chauffeur-driven. While the Q7, which offers the flexibility of a third row of seats, is a more practical option, the absence of a third-row frees up extra luggage space.
A fine balance
When it arrives in India, the Q8 will come in 55 TFSI form. The 340hp/500Nm, 3.0-litre, turbo-petrol V6 engine – aided by a 48V mild-hybrid system – is a very refined unit. Power is readily accessible, getting up to triple digit speeds is effortless and the 8-speed automatic quickly adjusts to one’s driving style. The V6 has a nice snarl and the build of speed is strong, but acceleration isn’t rabid like a super SUV. Floor the throttle and instead of a kick in the kidneys, you get a shove that gently presses you into your seat. The 55 TFSI is quick (0-100kph takes 5.7 sec) but it’s clearly no brute and doesn’t have the grunt of a strong diesel. Before you ask, there won’t be a diesel Q8 in India. And that’s a shame.
Despite being large and heavy, the Q8 is impressively poised and balanced. The drive modes alter powertrain, steering and air suspension setting so you can tailor the way the Q8 drives to some degree. Dubai’s billiard table-smooth roads aren’t exactly what we have back home so it’s hard to judge the ride quality. The sense one gets though is that the standard air suspension is nicely damped and the 21-inch rims, which wear low profile tyres, don’t hurt the ride. But we will reserve our final judgement until we introduce the Q8 to the potholes of Mumbai.
Cost of exclusivity
As the Q8 will come to India as an import, high taxes mean it will be a costly proposition. Those who see the Q8 merely as a better-looking version of the Q7 will find the estimated ₹1.5 crore price tag too steep. However, it isn’t intended to sell in big numbers in India; Audi is banking on the exclusivity factor to entice buyers. Thanks to the high level of customisation options and the ample goodies it will come with, this is an SUV intended for those who want to stand out, and are willing to pay a premium in order to do so.
While the original Q7 made its mark as the preferred SUV of India’s celebs, it might have to give up that mantle to the Q8.
Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is editor of Autocar India
Sunday Drive appears every fortnight
From HT Brunch, January 12, 2020
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