Meet the SUV that thinks it’s a supercar. We get behind the wheel of the stonking 2021 Audi RS Q8 to find out if it’s better than the RS6…
2021 Audi RS Q8 Specifications
Price From $208,500 plus on-road costs Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Engine 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 petrol engine Power 441kW at 6000rpm Torque 800Nm at 2200-4500rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic transmission Dimensions 5012mm long; 1998mm wide; 1751mm high; 2998mm wheelbase Boot Space Up to 1755 litres Thirst 9.2L/100km
So, the other week we drove the Audi RS6 which is otherwise known as the family car that thinks it’s a supercar. And, now we’ve just spent a week with its sibling, the Audi RS Q8…which you could say is the SUV that thinks it’s a supercar.
Similarly, we drove the turbo-diesel toting SQ8 and found that to be a marvellous machine. So, the question the RSQ8 has to answer is, is it a better buy than the SQ8, if you’re after a swoopy, fast SUV, and then, is it a better RS vehicle than the similarly priced and same engined, RS6?
Off we go then. Not quite, if you’re not keen on reading, then just watch the video below…it’ll answer all the same questions.
The RS Q8 thundered Down Under late last year (October to be precise) bearing the certificate that it was the fastest production SUV around the Nurburgring Nordschleife with a speedy-fast time of 7:42.253 which had been set back in 2019. Impressive.
Key to this aggression is the borrowed 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 from the RS6 which thumps out an identical 441kW and 800Nm of torque, allowing it to race from rest to 100km/h in less than four seconds (3.8 seconds). This gets to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission but it could be a DSG it’s so rapid and clean in its shifts.
But the thing that most got me about the RS Q8, as far as performance is concerned, is that it doesn’t ever feel like it’s straining at the leash. Dare I say it, it’s actually very easy to drive around town and even feels quite docile. That’s mostly down to the incredibly progressive and feelsome throttle but also to the volcanic amount of torque which means you only really have to flex your toe to get the thing moving.
In fact, drive it around town and you could start wondering what all the fuss is about…give the throttle a good hard prod though and keep it pinned into the carpet and everything changes. Of course, you’ll only be able to pin the throttle for the blink of an eye but what a blink.
There’s no instantaneous explosion as you get with the RS6, blame a couple hundred extra kilograms for that, but after a momentary pause for the thing to get its breath, it’ll launch towards the horizon with all the ferocity of a bull that’s been poked in the behind with a stick. The RS Q8 will get to 200km/h in just 13.7 seconds before running into its limited top speed of 250km/h.
To go with that weapon’s grade oomph is a host of gadgetry to keep you from picking bits of tree from your teeth. Take the four-wheel steering, for instance, it’s excellent on the SQ8 and it’s just as good on the RS Q8. See, it helps to make the turning circle at low speeds smaller than it should be for something this large (up to one metre smaller), and helps it slice its way around corners (cliche warning) as if it were on rails.
Then there is the adaptive air suspension which is genius and can be fiddled with should you want to make the ride soft and squishy when you’re driving around town, or hard-as when you’re on a track. Oh, and if you want to pretend this is an off-roader, you can adjust the height by up to 90mm, but on blinged-out 22-inch alloys you won’t be going too far away from the bitumen.
And helping this thing to further two-finger salute the laws of physics, the active roll stabilisation all but eliminates body roll. It’s absolutely unbelievable.
It’s worth touching on the quattro all-wheel drive system which is a rear-drive biased setup (40:60) with up to 85% of engine torque able to be sent to the rear wheels if you really want to get jiggy with it. All of this means the RS Q8 is all about grip… I mean, you’ll never run out of it on a public road no matter the conditions. I tried this week…throwing it around on a favourite stretch of road that was streaming wet thanks to the pouring rain. And, no matter how butter fingered I tried to be, the RS Q8 had none of it, keeping its claws stuck into the tarmac.
But speed is only good if you can stop, and the RSQ8 has whopper brakes with 10-piston calipers and 420mm discs at the front and 370mm at the rear. Honestly, the discs are as big as some car wheels. Push the boat out and you can buy ceramic brakes that grow the size of the front discs to 440mm.
Where this starts to fall apart is the lack of feel through the steering wheel and body as a whole but then that’s largely down to the active roll stabilisation. So, maybe I shouldn’t be complaining… and the throttle pedal and brakes are nice and progressive.
Like almost every other Audi we’ve driven in recent memory, the interior of the RS Q8 is swathed in gloss finishes. And I’m talking about a mirror finish. This is great when the car is clean…but touch anything inside the thing and you’ll leave fingerprints all over the place. The only solution is to drive with those gloves that still allow you to use touchscreens…
Speaking of touch screens, there are two big, hi-res screens that control most of the car’s doings. The upper for infotainment and vehicle settings, and the lower one for climate control. It’s all haptic touch and wireless phone connectivity. And Audi’s MMI system is one of the best, if not the best. And the same goes for its digital instrument display which does away with the need for analogue dials, allowing you to customise your instrument display down to the ability to show a hi-res map display.
The design is simple and elegant with the quality of materials used in-line with the price tag and so too is the fit and finish. Honestly, few other premium brands can match Audi for its harmonious design and material choice. It all just looks and feels nice.
The front seats are nice and comfortable and both heated and cooled. But as big and roomy as the RS Q8 is it doesn’t feel boofy from behind the wheel. While I won’t say that the car shrinks around you, I will say that from behind the wheel it feels sportier and more driver oriented than you might have expected. But that’s the same with the SQ8.
Over in the back and there’s plenty of room too with excellent head, shoulder and leg room, and plenty of foot wiggle room too. These rear seats are 40:20:40 split fold and can be slid fore and aft to make even more legroom. And it gets better…the back seats are heated and you get four zone climate control, meaning four people can set the temperature to suit them. The boot is massive and offers up to 1755 litres if you fold down the back seats.
There’s a bunch of active safety too, like autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and correction, cyclist warning (which will stop you opening your door into a bike rider), and much more. And then there are the standard-fit HD Matrix LED headlights which are just amazing. Leave the lights on Auto and they’ll automatically flick on the high-beam at night, blanking out oncoming traffic and whoever you’re following. It’s crazy.
There’s no mistake that the RS Q8 is an impressive machine and if fast, swoopy SUVs are your thing then this is probably the best on the market right now. But, would you be disappointed if you went for the SQ8 instead? No, you wouldn’t.
Yes, the RS Q8 is ridiculous but it’s not massively better than the SQ8. If it was me, I’d stick with the SQ8.
So then the next question is, whether it’s a better RS vehicle than the RS6? I’m gonna say, yes. For me, it’s just a little too big and boofy, it’s heavier and, well, I’m a sucker for a fast station wagon. Add that the RS6 feels sharper and more involving, seats the same amount of people and has a boot that’s just about as big and it’s an easy choice for me. Well, easy if I had $250k to drop on a four wheeled Audi.
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