GERMAN giant Audi AG introduced what will become its new flagship sport-utility vehicle, the 333-horsepower hybrid Q8 concept, last week at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit.
The big luxury SUV is a clear move by Audi to carve out a strong spot in the robust American market, where the segment made up more than half of new car sales last year. Audi’s successful Q5 SUV, with a price tag of $40,000, accounted for a quarter of the automaker’s North American sales in 2016.
“The Q8 concept is an Audi in peak form,” said Audi AG’s Dietmar Voggenreiter at the car’s unveiling. “It demonstrates the strengths of our brand in both technology and design while providing a glimpse at a future full-size, production SUV.”
The Q8, which is intended to compete with vehicles like the BMW X6 and the Porsche Cayenne when the first production examples roll out for the 2018 model year, is based on the Q7 SUV, but has had the number of seats reduced from seven to four.
New hybrid package
The Q8’s 333-hp internal combustion engine is combined with a 100-kW electric motor and mated to an eight-speed transmission offering three driving modes, Audi AG said. The package has a total output of 330 kW, with a top speed of 155 mph (248 kph).
Initial testing showed a battery-only range of just under 60 kilometers, with a total range with the gas engine of about 992 kilometers. The battery can be fully-charged in less than three hours, Audi said.
The concept model Q8 is also equipped with high-end driving technology such as wheel-selective torque control (which allows for individual wheel braking), adaptive air sport suspension and high-density ceramic brakes (mounted under monstrous 23-inch wheels). Audi did not indicate which, if any, of these high-tech features would make it to the production version.
Several body styling changes have been worked into the Q8’s design, giving the car a deceptively low, aggressive look that somewhat disguises the Q8’s five-meter length and three-meter wheelbase. The large grill sets off a honeycomb design with six vertical bars, and is framed by body-integrated headlights that are clusters of individual lamp units rather than a single glassed-in unit.
Rear lamps are integrated into a single strip unit Audi calls an “e-tron light signature,” which functions as tail, brake and turn indicator light.
Inside, the concept version features pastel gray leather, accentuated with soft white LED lights in the interior trim. The shift console, including touch controls for the eight-speed shifter, dominates the large center console. Audi also pointed out that the Q8 is equipped with a new version of the Audi virtual cockpit with heads-up display, and manages most cabin functions through large touchscreens in the instrument panel.