New Audi Q8 e-tron 2023 review
Improvements make the flagship Audi Q8 e-tron a worthy rival for the BMW iX and Mercedes EQE
The change of name doesn’t affect the Q8 e-tron’s status as a worthy electric SUV flagship within the Audi line-up. It’s a comfortable, beautifully finished and extremely refined vehicle in which to eat up long distances. So although its real-world efficiency isn’t stellar, the technical updates mean it’s still more than worthy of consideration against rivals such as the BMW iX and Mercedes EQE.
Audi’s e-tron was the car that gave the German brand a foothold in the EV market – something to tempt potential customers away from Tesla or even Jaguar’s I-Pace. Now there’s a hefty update, including not only the typical refreshed look but also a larger battery capacity and, unusually, a new name.
The fundamentals haven’t changed; the Q8 e-tron remains a jumbo-sized EV that’s based on a modified version of the same platform that underpins the conventionally powered Q7 and Porsche’s Cayenne. The exterior changes are most noticeable at the front, where you get a new single-frame grille, different badges and a light bar that stretches between the headlights. The tweaks are even more subtle inside, where there are some new materials and trims on the options list.
Under the skin, Audi has used the car’s rebranding to give it an EV jolt worthy of its status as the brand’s range-topper. There’s a fifth more energy contained in a revised battery pack which, in this 55 trim level, now has a whopping capacity of 114kWh (106kWh usable). Audi claims a range of up to 330 miles, and if you do need to top up when you’re out and about, DC charging speeds get a boost too – up from 150kW to 170kW, allowing you to get the charge level from 10 to 80 per cent in about half an hour.
Car group tests
- Audi Q8 e-tron vs Genesis Electrified GV70: 2023 twin test review
- BMW iX vs Audi e-tron Sportback: 2022 group test review
The changes don’t extend to any great leaps in performance; the 55 has a total of 402bhp and 664Nm of torque, enough for a 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds. This is the middle spec on offer, sitting between the 335bhp 50 model and the 496bhp triple-motor SQ8.
We’re driving the regular Q8 e-tron SUV here, but for those who want their 2.6-tonne SUV to have a more rakish shape, there’s always the Sportback.
We tried an S line variant of the Q8 e-tron abroad late last year, but our first taste of the car in the UK comes in the form of a Launch Edition. It takes the S line’s already-generous equipment list and adds 21-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels, extra LED interior lighting, four-zone climate control, camera-based door mirrors, a head-up display and a panoramic sunroof.
The price you pay for this extravagance is more than £95,000 – a hike of well over 10 grand when compared with the S line – and you’ll also have to accept a slight reduction in range, to 322 miles.
On the road, the Q8 e-tron continues to deliver much the same experience as before – which is to say that it’s quite un-Audi-like in its approach. It feels heavy, which it is, but as long as you don’t try to throw the mass around too much, it does a better job of being an imperious cruiser than even the A8 limousine. There’s an underlying firm set-up for body control, but the standard air suspension makes a decent fist of smoothing out all but the worst imperfections.
The result is a car which has solid shove from rest (although it never feels rocket-ship fast like a Tesla Model X) and soothing refinement at speed. This is particularly true in the Launch Edition, because its camera-based side mirrors cut down the amount of wind rush to the point where, apart from a bit of tyre roar on more open asphalt, a 70mph cruise really is close to silent. We’re still less sure that the ‘mirror screens’, mounted at the leading edges of the front doors, are as natural to use as conventional glass, mind you.
The cabin plays its part in the luxury experience; it’s still beautifully finished, with well judged materials throughout and, in general, nicely judged technology. Audi’s haptic-feedback touchscreens still require a little more of a prod with the finger than we’d like, but the system itself is slick, easy to use and clearly blessed with decent processing power.
There are, of course, two giveaways that in pure engineering terms, the Q8 e-tron remains a bit of a ‘combustion-engined bodge’. The first is the transmission tunnel between the seats; it feels a bit more ‘cocooned’ up front than a bespoke EV.
The second is efficiency; you’ll do well to get any more than two and a half miles for every kWh of energy, so you can lop 75 miles off the quoted range. And a price tag of £95k for a car that can barely manage 275 miles between charges is beginning to look a little rich.
|Model:||Audi Q8 e-tron 55 Launch Edition|
|Motor/battery:||2x e-motor, 106kWh (net)|
|Transmission:||Single-speed auto, 4WD|
|Max charging:||170kW (10-80% in 31 min)|