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2021 Audi Q8 Review

LIKES
  • Great space
  • Superlative performance versions
  • Good tech
  • Handsome interior
  • Good safety scorecard
DISLIKES
  • Conservative style
  • Eye-watering price tag on top trims
  • Not very fuel-efficient
  • Some extras are headscratchers
BUYING TIP
  • If your budget allows, the 2021 RS Q8 is a world-beater. If your budget doesn’t, consider moonlighting?
The 2021 Audi Q8 is an expansive–and expensive–full-size luxury crossover that doesn’t cut corners, it carves them.

The 2021 Audi Q8 stands alone as the most expensive crossover in its showroom, the most comfortable for four adults, and the quickest, too. Audi may not agree with us that it’s the Audi that all other Audis aspire to be, but we know a duck when we see/hear/drive one.

This year, the Q8 adds to its impressive bill a smattering of standard features that were optional last year and Audi brings back the mouthwatering SQ8 and RS Q8 in all their V-8 glories.

The Q8 earns a drool-worthy 7.0 TCC Rating that reflects the base version; SQ8 and RS Q8 models would score higher thanks to more performance.

Like last year, the Q8 is available in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trims and costs at least $69,195. The SQ8 skips the Premium trim level and costs at least $90,000; the RS Q8 skips Premium and Premium Plus and costs at least $113,000.

At any price, buyers get a handsome body that’s not too adventurous outside but calm on the inside. There’s enough room for five bona fide grownups, although a new executive package makes the confines sublime for four.

The base Q8 makes do with a 3.0-liter turbo-6 that makes 335 horsepower and drives all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic. The SQ8 and RS Q8 sub in a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 with 500 and 591 hp respectively, and 0-60 mph times predictably tumble to less than four seconds.
Every Q8 is well equipped with leather upholstery, at least 20-inch wheels, beautiful interior appointments, a 12.3-inch instrument cluster, a 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, an 8.6 touchscreen for vehicle functions, and great space. Active safety features such as automatic emergency braking are standard on all Q8s, though active driving assistants are available and recommended.

Other worthwhile extras include an air suspension (standard on Q8 Prestige, SQ8, and RS Q8) and selected interiors that range from wild to sublime.

The pinnacle of Audi luxury and performance may be other models across the showroom for now, but with the Q8’s tech and potential for speed we’ll just assume that those ones are lame ducks for the Q8’s eventual rise. 

Styling
The outside of the 2021 Q8 is a sleeper, but the interior isn’t one we’d sleep on.

The “SUV coupe” trend is becoming played, but Audi’s version is hardly playful. It’s more conservative than the bunch—except, perhaps, the spicy SQ8 and RS Q8—but the Q8 looks good.

Starting from an average score, the Q8 gets one point for its interior. It’s a 6 for style.

The Q8’s wider nose and sculpted haunches have already filtered to Audi’s crossovers with smaller numbers. The Q8 subs in wide intakes up front, enormagantic wheels (up to 23 inches), and a sexy roofline, but that’s as far as its adventure goes.
Inside, the Q8 is more elegant and tranquil. Interior ambient lights bathe passengers in any number of shades from a color wheel, and the touchscreen fades into piano black trim that may scratch, but also looks a lot better than most other applications.

The Q8 Prestige can be ordered in special color combinations from designers that we couldn’t miss: brown leather, silver headliner, gray leather dashboard—magnifique.

Performance
Something as big as the 2021 Audi Q8 should not go as fast as the 2021 Q8. And yet, here we are.

No 2021 Audi Q8 is a slouch on the blacktop, and top versions remind us of Shaquille O’Neal in the early days: big, fast, and impossible to miss.

Starting from an average score the Q8 gets points above average for brisk acceleration and tidy handling. The SQ8 and RS Q8 would rate higher if we broke them out but we don’t; they break out just fine on their own.

The Q8 starts with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 that churns 335 hp and drives all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic. Audi estimates that the chubby 2.5-ton SUV accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and we believe them. Triple-digit speeds come as easy as the sun rises, too.
All Q8s use a full-time all-wheel-drive system that’s surefooted, but thirsty. It’s biased towards the rear, which means passengers not used to the Q8’s brisk acceleration will get shoved in the back with all of the torque, not pulled from the front.

The 8-speed in every Q8 is seamless and smooth; it only knows rapid shifts.

The SQ8 and RS Q8 rely on a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 that makes 500 horsepower or 591 horsepower, respectively, to drive all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. Audi says the SQ8 runs up to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, the RS Q8 needs only 3.6. We haven’t yet driven the SQ8, but we have driven the RS Q8 and can report that it’s blisteringly quick for a brute ‘ute.

The top SQ8 and RS Q8 get an air suspension that smothers road imperfections like a rib-sticking gravy; Q8 models can get their own in Premium Plus (optional) or Prestige (standard) trims.

Every Q8 steers confidently and accurately, although the RS Q8’s electronic anti-roll bars keep the hulking utility vehicle alarmingly flat and confident. It lapped the Nürburgring-Nordschleife in less than eight minutes, which is not only a record for an SUV but also flies in the face of physics.

Comfort & Quality
There may be nicer places to sit than the 2021 Audi Q8, but we can’t remember what those places are right now.

Kids are off to college and you just got a raise. Congrats. The 2021 Audi Q8 is here for you.

That’s because the Q8, which is based on the three-row Q7 but skips the third row that’s only suitable for children and adults who act like children, is comfortable and spacious in nearly any position. Starting from an average score, the Q8 gets points above the norm for comfortable first and second rows, a spacious cargo hold, great people-carrying confines, and a fit and finish that would make Savile Row swoon. It’s a 9.

By the numbers, the Q8 stretches 196.6 inches from tip to tail and 117.9 inches from axle to axle. That affords great interior space to passengers, and five adults will fit comfortably. (A new executive package this year fits four adults in supreme comfort.)
The Q8’s standard leather interior is pristine and soft, with available in-seat heaters, coolers, and massagers. (Sportier SQ8 and RS Q8 models skip the massagers with their standard sport buckets.)

Rear seat riders get more than 40 inches of leg room, which is plenty of stretch out space. The chunky roof pillars cut out light from most of the cabin with the sunroof closed, which can make the rear feel a little too dark. Lighter shades of leather help.

Behind the rear seats, the Q8 swallows more than 30 cubic feet of cargo. With those seats folded forward, more than 60 cubes are available.

Audi renders every Q8 with lavish details such as real wood and brushed aluminum. Top trims and sporty versions go further.

Safety
The 2021 Audi Q8 is a safe pick, according to safety officials.

Unlike other high-dollar SUVs, the 2021 Audi Q8 has been comprehensively tested by both of the major U.S. safety rating organizations.

The Q8 was an IIHS Top Safety Pick last year and it netted a five-star overall rating from the feds. Combined with standard automatic emergency braking and great safety extras (some of which we wished were standard equipment), it gets a 9 for safety.

The IIHS said the Q8’s standard automatic emergency braking system was “Superior” at avoiding forward crashes with pedestrians and other cars at 12 mph and 25 mph, but said the headlights were either “Poor” or “Acceptable,” depending on trim level. (Only the HD matrix headlights that cost extra on Q8 Premium Plus and are standard on Q8 Prestige rated “Acceptable.”)
Other safety extras include blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, and rear side-impact airbags (that should be standard anyway).

The optional driver-assistance suite combines active lane control and adaptive cruise control to reduce fatigue on long highway slogs, whether in boring stop-and-go traffic or super boring Wyoming. It works well and we recommend it.

Features
Every 2021 Q8 is well-equipped, but we’d take ours even further.

As Audi’s most expensive crossover on sale yet, the 2021 Q8 is alone on Mount Flagship. Luckily, it’s a comfortable place to be.

This year, not much changes for the Q8. It’s still loaded with tech and conveniences, and performance versions heap on all of the above, smothered in extra horsepower.

It’s an 8 for features thanks to good standard equipment, a good touchscreen, and gee-whiz features to woo buyers.
Like last year, the Q8 is available in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels and starts at $69,195, including destination. Top trims command more than $80,000 when loaded with options, and the higher-horsepower SQ8 starts at more than $90,000 for Premium Plus models—it runs to six figures almost as quickly as it runs to 60 mph. The even higher-horsepower RS Q8 starts at more than $113,000 and doesn’t look back.

The Q8 Premium wants for little and is equipped with 20-inch wheels, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, 10.1-inch touchscreen, 8.6-inch touchscreen for vehicle functions and climate controls, wireless Apple CarPlay compatibility, Bluetooth, a panoramic sunroof, active safety features, leather upholstery, wood trim, and navigation.

There’s little else we could ask for, but there’s a little white space between Premium and Prestige models that we’d sidle into comfortably. We recommend the Q8 Premium Plus models 21-inch wheels (c’mon, you’re not going off road anyway), four-zone climate control, uprated headlights, premium audio, a surround-view camera system, and available driver assistance features that can reduce fatigue on long drives or stupendously boring commutes. Included in a new executive package that includes those driver-assist features are rear seat heaters and leather upholstered armrests; count us in. An optional air suspension is available on Q8 Premium Plus models (standard on SQ8 and RS Q8), and we recommend it, too. That puts our recommended Q8 at more than $75,000 because we know how to treat ourselves.

Audi’s standard 4-year/50,000-mile warranty is relatively generous but doesn’t include complimentary maintenance. Shucks.

Fuel Economy
The 2021 Audi Q8 nails “mgp,” which is not a typo—more gas please.

The 2021 Audi Q8’s fuel economy starts off poorly, and it doesn’t get much better.

Final figures from the EPA aren’t yet in, but we can make some specific guesses based on last year’s results.

The Q8 manages 17 mpg city, 21 highway, 18 combined, according to the EPA. That’s 3 on our scale.
As horsepower goes up, mileage predictably goes down. The SQ8 rates 15/21/17 mpg, according to the EPA. The high-power RS Q8 earns 13/19/15 mpg and so what.

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