What is it?
Audi is ramping up the level of electrification it offers across its entire line-up, offering plug-in setups in cars ranging from the A3 right up to the car we’re looking at today – the range-topping Q8. Badged Q8 TFSI e, it has the usual combination of petrol and electric power to deliver invigorating performance with a far better economy than you’d get from a traditional SUV.
But can this setup deliver the kind of refined and relaxed driving experience you’d expect from a premium four-wheel-drive? We’ve been behind the wheel to find out.
From the exterior at least there’s little to let you know that this is a plug-in hybrid. It’s something we’re seeing across the Audi line-up, in truth; its plug-in hybrids really don’t shout about their electrified powertrains. These setups are shared with the wider Volkswagen Group, too, so you’ll find the same V6-based configuration that you get in this Q8 as Volkswagen’s Touareg R and the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, too.
It’s all tied together within the same striking coupe-inspired bodystyle that you get from the regular Q8. So despite being a car that doesn’t shout about its hybridisation, it’s far from undercover.
What’s under the bonnet?
As we’ve already hinted at, the Q8 TFSIe uses a combination of a petrol V6 engine and electric power. Combined, you get a heady 456bhp and 700Nm in this top-rung Competition, eclipsing the 375bhp and 600Nm you get from the regular Q8 TFSI e. As a result, you get a 0-60mph time of 5.2 seconds and a flat-out top speed of 149mph.
When it comes to electric-only running, you’ve got around 28 miles to play with, while a full charge via a regular 7.5kW home charger will take around two and a half hours. Keep the battery fully charged and Audi claims you should see up to 97.4mpg, while CO2 emissions are impressively low at 66g/km.
What’s it like to drive?
You get a pretty traditional premium SUV experience from the Q8 TFSI e. It’s quiet and refined – particularly around town where the electric motors handle all of the propulsion – while despite its large proportions it’s not difficult to pilot down narrow streets. At higher speeds it’s comfortable, but this, of course, does zap your battery levels down quickly. During mixed driving, we were seeing around 35mpg – someway off the claimed figure.
If you do need performance, then there’s plenty on offer. But as we’ve found with other large hybrids, the quiet and efficient nature of a plug-in setup means that you’re rarely tempted into driving in a more spirited manner; you take a more relaxed approach instead. Once the battery charge has completely gone, it is good to have a silky smooth V6 to rely upon, however.
How does it look?
The Q8 is big, bold and definitely hard to miss. It’s packed with futuristic touches, like the full-width light bar at the rear which looks particularly striking at night. The LED lights up front are just as sharp and appear almost razor-thin in their design. Of course, you can still argue that the swept-back look of the Q8 goes against the practicality ethos that usually accompanies an SUV, but for many people, the striking look of the Q8 will be hard to beat.
Our car was also finished in a bright metallic orange shade, which only made it stand out even further.
What’s it like inside?
Audi seems to be on a roll with its interiors of late. The Q8 is a case in point; it’s a great blend of high-quality materials and sharp screens, while the level of fit-and-finish is great too – though you’d expect that from a car costing just over £92,000 in our test car’s case. The rear-seat legroom is good, though that sloping roofline will impact taller passengers.
At 505 litres, the hybrid’s boot is 100 litres smaller than the one you’ll find in the regular Q8. If you’re after outright practicality, then the non-hybrid is likely to be your best bet. At 1,625 litres, there’s a decent amount of space with the rear seats folded down, mind you.
What’s the spec like?
You get plenty of kit aboard the Q8 hybrid. This Competition-spec model, as well as a boost in power, receives a full black exterior styling package as standard, alongside 22-inch wheels and red brake calipers for a sportier look. Audi’s full MMI navigation system is included too, with the twin-screen central setup remaining one of the best in the business. It’s great to look at, but most importantly, is intuitive and easy to use on the move.
A full ‘Virtual Cockpit’ system is fitted too, bringing all of the usual readouts like speed and media, alongside more hybrid-focused ones like range and battery status.
The Q8 TFSI e is an interesting proposition. Its hybrid powertrain means that it’ll likely be a hit with those who conduct more inner-city and low-speed journeys, but this contrasts the usable and practical SUV bodystyle which is usually the go-to of people who are travelling further afield.
But its relatively limited electric-only range ensures that it won’t be able to head out for longer journeys on zero-emissions power and that means that, for many people, a conventional petrol or diesel Q8 may still be the best all-rounder instead.