– After more than 150,000 units sold worldwide since 2018, Audi is retiring the e-tron SUV
, the company’s first fully electric car.
In its place, is the forthcoming Audi Q8 e-tron, which goes on sale in Canada next summer. While the Q8 carries a new name, a bigger battery, and has some interesting styling changes, what’s new here is more in line with a mid-cycle refresh rather than an all-new model. Also, just to be clear, the Q8 e-tron is not related the gas-powered Q8.
Anyway, Audi is positioning the Q8 e-tron as its flagship EV SUV, and some of its styling changes are brand firsts that will filter across the rest of the lineup in the coming years.
I’ll dive into that further down, but first some Q8 e-tron basics. There are two models, Q8 and SQ8 that will be sold in two body styles, SUV and Sportback. One battery pack, a 114-kWh lithium-ion unit with a 106-kWh useable storage rating, powers them all. Of note, a smaller 95-kWh battery 50 series Q8 e-tron is being sold in Europe and other world markets but is not coming to North America.
For the Q8 55 series and SQ8 models we will be receiving, power output is as follows: 402 hp / 490 lb-ft. for the Q8 and 496 hp / 717 lb-ft. for the SQ8. For reference, the Q8 figures are the same as those of the outgoing e-tron.
The SQ8 achieves higher output thanks to a three-motor setup with one 124 kW electric motor powering the front axle, while two 98 kW units drive each rear wheel. The Q8, on the other hand, utilizes one motor located at each axle.
Improved charging was a primary focus for the Q8 e-tron during development, which Audi achieved through improvements made to battery cell technology. The result is Q8 and SQ8 batteries can charge at a maximum speed of 170 kW, which means they can charge from 10 to 80 percent capacity in about 31 minutes, according to Audi. Put another way, these batteries can recharge to about 123 kilometres of range in 10 minutes with a DC fast charger for the Q8, and to about 104 kilometres for the SQ8.
As for range, European (WLTP) testing puts the Q8 at approximately 582 km for the SUV and up to 600 km for the Sportback, while the SQ8 posts a 494 km / 513 km split. North American figures, which are usually less generous than those produced by WLTP weren’t available as of this writing, but Audi says testing is ongoing. For reference, the outgoing e-tron SUV has a range of up to 364 km.
On the chassis front, the Q8 e-tron has a low centre of gravity and near equal front / rear weight distribution due to the location of the battery. Air suspension, which can vary the car’s ride height by 76 mm with automatic lowering at highway speeds, is standard as are controlled dampers which can adjust the Q8’s handling from comfort to sporty. All Q8s have a standard ground clearance of 176 mm (6.9 inches). Other chassis enhancements include a new steering system that has been modified for greater response and agility with less input.
Dimensionally, the Q8 e-tron is roughly the same size as the outgoing e-tron but has slightly more maximum cargo volume than the car it will be replacing. For example, with the SUV body style, the Q8 has 1,637 litres to offer, while the e-tron has 1,596 litres. Externally, the SQ8 is slightly wider than the Q8 (+39 mm) with a lower roofline (-2 mm), but both models are 4,915 mm long (14 mm longer than the e-tron).
As noted above, the Audi Q8 e-tron introduces some design changes that will filter out across the brand. These “corporate identity” changes, as Audi calls them, includes a new Singleframe mask and inverted grille insert, which will be front end signifiers for the company’s EVs, while a flatter, two-dimensional rings design, located on the front and rear of the Q8, will find its way onto all new and refreshed models. The Q8 also features a new font for model badging on the rear liftgate and laser-etched model naming on its B pillars. Another notable design element is a new projection light located behind the Singleframe grille that not only backlights the grille, but also serves as a visual connection between the Digital Matrix LED headlights.
Design highlights in the cabin include Audi staples such as a configurable 12.3-inch HD virtual cockpit display, plus two digital touchscreens that govern multimedia (10.1-inch) and climate (8.6-inch) functions. Other cabin amenities include a cell phone charge slot, USB-C charge ports and an available head-up display.
The Q8 e-tron features a mix of materials, including a decorative inlay above the multimedia display that is made from tech fabrics that are 60 percent recycled plastic bottles. Leather seating comes standard, but Dinamica microfibre sport seating is also available. Dinamica has the appearance and feel of suede, but it contains roughly 45 percent polyester fibres that are sourced from recycled materials including plastic bottles, old textiles, and residual fibres.
For the global launch of the Q8 e-tron, Audi invited groups of journalists to Lanzarote, one of the Spanish Canary Islands located off the coast of North Africa. Truly one of the most fascinating geographical settings for a press drive this writer has ever experienced, Lanzarote’s wide variety of challenging terrain proved to be an excellent test bed for this new Audi EV.
Lanzarote’s roads are generally quite narrow, with higher traffic volumes than one might expect for a tiny island in the Atlantic Ocean. These roads twist, turn and undulate across a landscape that is both desolate and stunningly beautiful at the same time.
The Q8 SUV and SQ8 Sportback models I drove over the better part of two days are impressive. Both are quite fast and responsive in any driving mode, with steering and handling that bely their size and weight. The SQ8, with its extra motor, feels particularly seat-pressing, but both models are quick, with precise steering, sharp SUV handling and whisper-quiet EV cabin dynamics.
The Q8 e-tron isn’t a one-pedal drive car, but the two levels of regenerative braking (three, including the default mode) are easily adjustable through steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters, and offer enough recuperation to modulate performance, especially in heavier traffic situations.
As for the Q8’s aesthetics, I’m a fan of the new design details like the flatter rings, grille backlighting and B-pillar name etching. That said, I wish Audi designers would jazz up the interior somewhat. Don’t get me wrong, the digital screens (four, counting the head-up displays in my testers) are beautiful and the seating (which includes a massage function), and trim materials are first rate, but the overall ambiance is a bit dull.
For a flagship car, I think the Q8 e-tron should offer more interior contrast colours, or maybe some more ambient lighting options, rather than a sea of black trim panels everywhere one looks. The red stitching is great, but more is needed. That said, I love some of its other details, which include spinning centre wheel hubs that always keep the rings logo level and virtual exterior mirrors that are still banned in North America.
To be clear, these are minor quibbles, not deal-breakers, and I suspect most intenders will agree. Because, with a bigger battery, faster charging, and a slew of other impressive tech features, along with a refreshed design, the Q8 e-tron appears to be a worthy successor to Audi’s pioneering EV.
The 2024 Audi Q8 e-tron arrives in Canada next summer. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.
2024 Audi Q8 e-tron
premium mid-size SUV
dual-motor / tri-motor (SQ8 e-tron), all-wheel drive
114 kWh battery (402 hp / 490 lb-ft. – Q8), (496 hp / 717 lb-ft. – SQ8)
1,637 / 569 litres (57.8 / 20.1 cu ft.) (behind first / second row – SUV)