Posting a record turnaround in its sales numbers, Audi is on a roll and a cursory glance at the Q8 e-Tron and Sportback siblings helps you understand why. Their designs are getting sexier, sharper and definitely more electric, in this case. The e-Tron kicked off the electrification of Audi in India, but since the range has expanded into other models, it has now been rechristened as the Q8 for 2023 and is joined by the Sportback, its Gen-Alpha cousin.
Audi Q8 eTron Sportback
First drive impressions
Minor but definitely noticeable from the front, Audi’s design language changes ever so subtly and on the Q8, it is represented by a new grille bearing the first-ever 2D incarnation of the four-rings logo. It’s polarizing for sure and it does get some accentuation via a top-lit LED light bar, but overall, it lacks the dimensionality of the old chromed logo. Especially in the black pack. Around the sides, new 20in wheels give it a purposeful stance and the reprofiled rear with new bumpers and new e-Tron branding near the rear diffuser make it just about different enough to the older-gen car to announce your new purchase.
On the insides, even less has changed, so you still get the multi-layered dashboard design swathed in interesting textures and materials to make it feel plush. As is the norm with modern Audis, the Q8 e-Tron gets multiple screens to give you control over the infotainment, climate control and the Virtual Cockpit keeps improving in resolution. Pity the rear-view camera is still stuck at 480p.
Due to its highly customizable nature, the trim and equipment will differ but on our test car, the comfort seat package really emphasised the efficacy of an EV over long-distance cruising. The Q8 e-Tron effortlessly munches miles and its adaptive air suspension perfectly adjusts itself to the surface quality. Overall there is more than 70mm of play between its highest and lowest setting, truly making it capable of soft-roading or a blast down the highway.
But the biggest difference between the outgoing e-Tron and the Q8 e-Tron family is the battery size and range. So while the battery size itself hasn’t changed, Audi now uses tech that allows them to pack in more cells in a denser array, increasing capacity. Overall range is up by more than 30%, thanks to the 114kWh battery (up from 95kWh) and Audi claims a range of up to 600kms. Even the charging speed is maxed out to 170kW on a DC charger which tops it up from 10-80% in just 31 minutes! ChargeZone had a 180kW charger installed at the premises of the drive and we did try it out. At a rate of Rs. 21 per unit, it would be a whole lot cheaper than topping up a luxury SUV with fossil fuel. On a standard 11kW home AC charger, the Q8 e-Tron will be slumbering for a leisurely 8.5 hours.
MyAudi Connect app goes beyond offering the usual mix of connected car features and also gives you a birds-eye view of the charge status, the kind of charger being used, the range left and a driving score. On a scale of 1-100, it starts deducting points the moment you start getting too playful with the throttle or the brake pedal, making you a more mindful and balanced driver.
Three levels of regen let you toggle between light or aggressive motor braking and at the highest level, you can indulge in single-pedal driving too. There are certain quirks that still belie its hefty asking price of over a crore. Missing wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, poor resolution (still!) on the rear-view cam and the wireless charging pad that clutches your phone sideways (why?) Thankfully, the brilliant 360-degree parking aid plus shows a detailed graphic of the Q8 e-Tron in relation to the surroundings, in real-time. USB-C ports handle charging much faster anyway and get you wired CarPlay which works just fine. So no love is lost in the grander scheme of things.
Not much difference can be felt from behind the wheel of the Sportback and the regular body styles, both offering seven different drive modes, but leave it in Auto mode and let it do its thing and the Q8 e-Tron impresses with refinement few others can match. Dynamically, the suspension and steering feedback have been tweaked to make for a more agile and direct driving experience and the 408bhp and 664Nm of torque make their presence felt. Not by any sound or noise, but just a brutal kick in the gut that you feel as if you’re propelled towards the ton in five and something seconds!
Audi’s famed Quattro all-wheel drive system is standard and along with the suspension raise feature, can make a decent case for some light off-roading too. But more often than not, the Quattro grip just makes it more fun to power out a long and fast corner, feeling almost like a smaller sports car!
Besides the turn of speed that is noticeable with the blurring outside the windows, it’s a serene environment enhanced by the 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system that is expansive sounding with clarity and bass punch to match the best in class. Seat ventilation and massaging on the comfort seat package totally crush long journeys into a spa session and the Q8 e-Tron, like its Stuff award-winning predecessor, remains one of the finest ways to travel. Guilt-free.
Opt for the black pack on a red paint and the Q8 e-Tron is a stunner in any body style. It looks like a stylish progression of a traditional SUV as opposed to the BMW iX, which is clearly a different design language aimed at the non-conformist. The Q8 e-Tron Sportback on the other hand is appealing to every kind of customer, millennial or not. Its mix of range, driving dynamics, refinement and above all, comfort is what makes it truly an electric force to be reckoned with.
A fine update to the e-Tron that improves on range, power and design giving it the ammo to take on the current gen of luxe-EV offerings.
|up to 600kms