The new Audi Q8 five-seat SUV will go on sale in 2018 as a rival to BMW X6, Mercedes-Benz GLE and Range Rover Sport.
Audi boss Rupert Stadler has described it as the firm’s “flagship SUV” saying it will sit alongside the A8 at the top of the firm’s range. “I could imagine an executive being driven to work every day in their A8 and then spending the weekend driving themselves in their Q8,” he said. “The Q8 will have global appeal in all of the major markets – Europe, China, America, Russia and more – and so we are very excited about it.”
The Q8 will have a starting price of around £55,000 for the most affordable model, a Q8 3.0 TDI, in the UK.
The Q8 is one of seven new SUV models currently under development at Audi and scheduled for launch before the end of the decade. It joins the all-new Q2, successor models to today’s Q3 and Q5, a new Q1 and Q4, and the all-electric Q6, which has already been previewed by the Audi e-tron quattro concept at last year’s Frankfurt motor show.
The intensive focus on SUV models in Ingolstadt comes after recent worldwide sales figures revealed that every third car sold by Audi hails from its existing line-up of Q models.
The Q8 will be a sister model to the Q7and share its mechanical package. The new flagship SUV is set to go on sale during the second half of 2018 with an extended range of petrol, diesel and hybrid powertrains.
These include a secret new plug-in petrolelectric system that is being developed in partnership with Porsche and is claimed to give the Q8 an all-electric range of up to 31 miles.
Among the new Audi’s arsenal of options will be many of the advanced systems being developed for the upcoming fourth-generation A8, such as a 48-volt electric system, OLED high-definition digital displays and the very latest in autonomous driving functions.
Stylistically, the Q8 departs quite radically from the current Q7. It eschews the upright stance of its sibling for a much more rakish shape developed by Audi design boss Marc Lichte, who has recently outlined his plans dramatically more sporty design at Audi.
Among the new model’s more distinguishing design features is a broad eight-corner single-frame grille that houses a series of vertical chrome strips — an element that will become a strong design signature on many future Audi models, Lichte has previously told Autocar.
As with the upcoming Q4 and Q6, the Q8 adopts a five-door layout, with four conventional front-hinged doors for entry to the cabin and a large liftbackstyle tailgate for access to its luggage compartment.
Sources privy to an early design model that was revealed to Audi officials in January confirm the Q8 is close to the Q7 in both length and width, at 5050mm and 1970mm respectively.
However, a more sporting roofline reduces the Q8’s height by some 50mm over its more practical sibling, at around 1690mm. However Lichte believes the boot space of the Q8 will still eclipse rivals because the roof line drops dramatically around the C-pillar, meaning space is reduced only at the end of the car’s length.
By comparison, the Mercedes GLE is 4900mm long, 2000mm wide and 1700mm tall, while the Range Rover Sport has respective dimensions of 4850mm, 1985mm and 1780mm.
Development of the fourwheel-drive Q8 originally kicked off early last year under the watch of Audi’s former R&D boss, Ulrich Hackenberg. Following his resignation in the wake of the Dieselgate emissions scandal that has engulfed parent company Volkswagen, the project has since been taken under the wing of Audi’s new R&D chief, Stefan Knirsch.
As with the Q7, the Q8 is based around the latest evolution of Audi’s MLB platform, complete with a 2990mm wheelbase.
Reflecting the Q8’s more sporting brief, Ingolstadt insiders say it is also in line to receive track widths that extend beyond the Q7’s, which are 1680mm at the front and 1690mm at the rear.
As with the Q7, the body structure of the Q8 is set to make extensive use of aluminium in a bid to push lower-end models below the 2000kg mark.
Further weightsaving measures include the selected used of carbonfibre in non-load-bearing structures, as seen on the R8. Among the engines destined for the Q8 will be a new range of V6 and V8 petrol units.
These are currently in the final stages of development in a joint venture between Audi and Porsche that carries the internal codename KoVoMo (derived from the German words ‘Konzern Vee Otto Motoren’). They are also set to be used by Bentley and Volkswagen.
The new V6 and V8 are based around a shared 90deg architecture and will feature a common 500cc individual cylinder capacity, suggesting sizes of 3.0 litres and 4.0 litres.
Due to replace Audi’s and Porsche’s current V6 and V8 petrol units, the new engines will feature gasdriven turbochargers in the first stage of production.
However, insiders have hinted that electric turbocharging, supported by the Q8’s 48V electrical system, may be introduced at a later date.
The KoVoMo engine is claimed to be at the centre of a secret new plug-in petrolelectric hybrid system tipped for introduction on the Q8 and the third-generation Porsche Cayenne.
It is likely to be one of two hybrid systems offered on the new Audi, joining the diesel-electric system already announced for the Q7.Of greater importance to the UK market will be the diesel engine range.
Included among the launch line-up will be at least two variants of Audi’s familiar 3.0-litre V6 oil-burner.
Also planned is a sporting SQ8 model with the advanced triple-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 diesel recently revealed in the SQ7. Inside, the Q8 is set to receive a reworked version of the Q7’s excellent cockpit, featuring a more driverorientated middle console.
Unlike the seven-seat Q7, though, the Q8 will be available with a five-seat layout only.
As part of a comprehensive connectivity package, Audi is working on providing overthe-air updates for future incarnations of its MMI (Multi Media Interface) system.
These include real-time navigation updates via the ‘Here’ system being developed in a joint venture with BMW and Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler.
The Q8 is scheduled to be built at Volkswagen’s Bratislava plant in Slovakia alongside the current Q7 and the successor models to the existing second-generation Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg, due out next year.
Additional reporting Jim Holder
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