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Test drive: Audi RS Q8, the firm’s fastest and most aggressive SUV ever

LLM motoring editor Lisa Curtiss reviews the Audi RS Q8, a monster of performance, with its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 producing 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque.

By Lisa Curtiss  |  March 31, 2022
Audi RS Q8

Few SUVs are as handsome and imposing as the RS Q8 from Audi. With its near on matchless blend of sports car pace and SUV space, this 600ps, 800 Nm, 0-62mph in 3.8 secs barnstormer isn’t for the faint-hearted – or financially challenged. Our TSFI Carbon Black model tested with RS Styling Pack, City Assist Pack and panoramic sunroof was just shy of £119,000.

Is it worth it? Well, as one of our wealthy, luxury appreciating readers, it has to be a resounding yes. There is so much to appreciate. From its stunning looks, luxury materials, build quality, acres of space and versatility to how fantastically dynamic and engaging it is to drive and the raft of advanced tech at your disposal, the RS Q8 excels.

Exterior style

Audi RS Q8 side view

Viewed in the metal this is a sizable car – even as large SUVs go. Despite weighing in at around the 2.4 tonne mark and almost wide enough to completely fill between both lines of your average parking space, it’s sleek and sporty looking and a refreshing change from the numerous large SUVs which favour a more boxy look.

The sloping roofline flows into the forward-canted D-pillars and rests against the quattro blisters above the wheel arches. RS-specific trim strips in the body colour widen the body by 10mm up front and 5mm in the rear, providing space for the more generous track. The RS sills come standard in Manhattan grey, which makes the body appear even more athletic.

An RS roof edge spoiler provides a striking finish at the top; design highlights closer to the road are the RS-specific rear skirt with a diffuser clip in high gloss black and the RS-typical oval tailpipes. The RS roof edge spoiler provides downforce on the rear axle for even balance at high speeds.

This stylish new Audi RS Q8 is available in a choice of nine colours: one solid paint finish and eight metallic or pearl effect shades, plus the Audi exclusive programme offers numerous additional exterior colour options. The exterior mirror housings come standard in aluminium, with carbon or black fitted to Carbon Black and Vorsprung models respectively. The black (on Vorsprung) and carbon (for Carbon Black models) styling packages set precise accents at the radiator grille, blades, diffuser clip and rear light strip (carbon only). In combination with these styling packages, the Audi rings and RS logos at the front and rear are also black.

The tinted RS HD Matrix LED headlights have a three-dimensional daytime running lights signature with a digital character, similar to the LED tail lights. A light strip backed by a high-gloss black surface joins the rear lights, further emphasizing the wide stance. The RS Matrix LED headlights and the rear lights include dynamic turn signals and are showcased by an expressive RS-specific animation when the car is locked or unlocked.

Interior delights

Audi RS Q8 interior

The interior of the new RS Q8 features a deliberately clean design. All elements beneath the black cloth headlining have a logical connection and harmonise with one another. The headlining is black Alcantara for Carbon Black and Vorsprung specifications. The slim instrument panel and the strongly horizontal lines convey a feeling of spaciousness. The central element in the cockpit is the top MMI touch response display. With its black-panel look, it almost dissolves into a large, black surface when switched off.

Another primary design element is the wide, symmetrical console of the centre tunnel. Framing it are design elements in aluminium spectrum, which underscore the athletic character of the large SUV coupe.

Special RS displays in the Audi virtual cockpit and MMI display provide information on such things as tyre pressure, torque, output, temperature, lap times and g-forces. The shift light display prompts the driver to upshift when the rev limit is reached. The head-up display, exclusively available on Vorsprung versions, also offers several RS-specific graphics.

Luxurious RS sport seats in Valcona leather with a honeycomb pattern and RS embossing are fitted as standard. Ventilation and a massage function are also added to the Vorsprung specification.

The RS design package – standard on Carbon Black and Vorsprung, and available in red or grey – include red or grey contrasting stitching on the knee pads, steering wheel rim, floor mats, gear selector lever and the edges of the seat belts. With both packages, the centre console, selector lever and steering wheel are covered in Alcantara.

There is an RS logo on the steering wheel. The illuminated front door sill trims sport an RS Q8 logo. The fully perforated RS sport leather steering wheel flattened at the bottom with shift paddles also includes multifunction buttons. The driver can directly select the new Audi drive select modes RS1 and RS2 via the RS-Mode button. RS-specific displays then open automatically in the Audi virtual cockpit.

The RS Q8 also demonstrates its uncompromised everyday usability in the rear. A sliding three-seat rear bench is standard. With the seat backrests folded down, the luggage compartment under the power rear hatch holds up to 1,755 litres.

Performance

Audi RS Q8 on road front view

Despite its hefty weight and size, the RS Q8’s performance trounces that of many acclaimed sports cars. The 4.0-litre V8 TFSI engine with 600 PS and maximum torque of 800 Nm combines with the quattro all-wheel drive and the eight-speed automatic Tiptronic to deliver pure dynamism. The 0 to 62 mph sprint is delivered in a in 3.8 seconds. While the Electromechanical active roll stabilisation and RS-specific Adaptive Air Suspension provide excellent agility, precision and comfort. The dual exhaust system delivers a delicious roar too.

The power of the V8 TFSI flows to the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system via the standard eight-speed Tiptronic. Configured as a planetary gear, the purely mechanical centre differential typically distributes the drive power in a 40:60 ratio to the front and rear axles. In the event of slip, more drive torque automatically goes to the axle with the better traction. Up to 70 percent can be directed to the front wheels and up to 85 percent to the rear wheels.

Wheel-selective torque control perfects the safe and agile handling of the new RS Q8. During dynamic cornering, the quattro sport differential fitted as standard distributes drive torque between the rear wheels as required. This active torque vectoring improves traction, stability and dynamics.

The standard RS-specific adaptive air suspension sport with controlled damping means the new RS Q8 is equally at home on the racetrack or an off-road trail. Its RS-specific damper tuning allows for a particularly broad spread between a setup biased toward comfort and an extremely sporty setup. Depending on driving situation and the driver’s wishes, the body’s ride height varies by up to 90 millimetres.

The optional electromechanical active roll stabilisation (EAWS) minimise body roll during fast cornering. There is a compact electric motor between the two halves of the stabilizer on each of the two axles. When driving straight ahead, the two halves of the stabilizer are decoupled, which reduces body movement on uneven roads and also increases ride comfort.

Audi RS Q8 on road rear view

All-wheel steering, also standard, moves the rear wheels via a high-torque electric spindle drive and two track rods. At low speeds, the rear wheels turn up to 5 degrees opposite the direction of the front wheels for greater agility. At high speeds, they turn up to 1.5 degrees in the same direction as the front wheels to improve stability during fast lane changes.

With variable ground clearance, short overhangs, quattro permanent all-wheel drive and hill descent control, the new Audi RS Q8 can carry on calmly and confidently when paved roads end.

The driver can precisely influence the character of the RS Q8 via the Audi drive select dynamic handling system. There are eight profiles from which to choose: comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency, all road, off-road and the individually configurable RS-specific modes RS1 and RS2, which can be activated directly via the RS-MODE button on the steering wheel. Audi drive select affects such things as engine and transmission management, steering boost, the air suspension, all-wheel steering, engine sound and the characteristic of the automatic air conditioning.

The new RS Q8 comes standard with 22-inch aluminium wheels in a 10-spoke star design with 295/40-series tyres – the largest ever factory-installed on an Audi production model. Optional 23-inch cast aluminium wheels in a five Y-spoke rotor design are available exclusively for the RS Q8. Carbon Black editions are fitted with the 23-inch five Y-spoke wheels in gloss black, while an anthracite black with diamond turned finish is applied to the Vorsprung.

Behind the large wheels is an RS brake system with internally vented composite discs (420 mm) up front, 370 mm at the rear. Their 10-inch piston calipers are painted black as standard, but are available in red as an option.

For more information, visit audi.co.uk.