MARMITE: one of the great dividers of opinion. And in a close second place is, arguably, the coupé-styled luxury SUV.
Indeed, no-one has ever been heard to mutter the words, “You know, I really like the look of the BMW X6,” yet, walk around an affluent town and you’re almost certainly going to see one or two wafting past the local gourmet deli or fouling a pavement near a private school.
The all-new Q8 is Audi’s attempt to capitalise on this paradox. It has a high-tech interior, a range of powerful engines and imposing styling to help it stand out from the likes of the Mercedes GLE Coupe and aforementioned X6.
Although it’s based on Audi’s huge Q7, the Q8 looks even more titanic on the road thanks to a gaping octagonal grille, aggressive headlights and a set of hefty 21in wheels.
The Q8’s engines are designed to make it a relaxing motorway cruiser, with plenty of shove for blasting past slow-moving traffic. For crossing continents, you’ll want the 282bhp 3-litre V6 diesel, in 50 TDI models, which makes light work of crossing continents, while the 55 TFSI, with its 335bhp V6 petrol engine, is endowed with a more purposeful feel, largely thanks to its vocal exhaust.
Both models come with an automatic gearbox as standard and cushioning air suspension to iron out bumps in the road. Four-wheel steering can be added to make the Q8 more maneuverable at low speeds and Audi has made the Q8 a little stiffer than the Q7 so ultimately feels more agile, but you’ll hardly notice the difference unless you’re driving on a race track – not something the Q8 is designed to do.
The Q8 is also pretty hushed at all speeds, the only frustration some wind noise around its door mirrors at motorway speeds.
Step inside and you’ll notice the coupé-like Q8’s roof is lower than in the Q7, but there’s still more than enough headroom for you to get comfy – even if you’re over six-foot tall. The dashboard looks almost identical to that of Audi’s luxurious A8 limo, so you get three giant infotainment screens, lashings of brushed aluminium trim and a huge slab of glossy plastic.
It’s perhaps on the conservative side but there’s no denying the quality, and for interior ambience, rivals from BMW and Mercedes can’t quite match the Audi.
It’s comfy, too — you’ll be adjusting the standard sports seats along infinite variations of recline and lumbar support for months, as you search for your perfect driving position. For those who like to be held in a little tighter, there are optional Super Sports seats.
That all being said, Audi’s latest infotainment system isn’t quite so impressive. It’s the same you’ll find in Audi’s A8 and similar to that in its recently revised A6, consisting of two stacked touchscreens. The top 10.1in screen focuses on infotainment, the bottom 8.6in one on climate control, but while there’s haptic feedback to help guide you about the reality is that the menu structure and small buttons are difficult to find and hit while also concentrating on driving.
And of course, where the Q8 makes compromises over the Q7 is in the back — there’s not as much room to stretch out — but this is an enormous car, don’t forget, so there’s still space for two six-footers to get comfortable, and the Q8 manages to feel less claustrophobic than the BMW X6, thanks to surprisingly generous side windows and a taller roof.
The boot is more spacious than its chief rival’s, too, which will please parents of young children who needed to cart around buggies, etc.
On that front, also standard is a boatload of safety kit, including an advanced cruise control system that’ll accelerate, brake and even steer for you on well-marked roads. This should help it to score very highly when Euro NCAP eventually publishes its crash test results.
So, like most coupé variants of SUVs, you’ll need to bear in mind that the Q8 is less spacious and practical than the Q7 on which it’s based, and that having seven seats isn’t an option. But, if you’ve decided that doesn’t matter, the Q8 manages to be comfortable, quick and refined, and more rounded than a BMW X6 or Mercedes GLE Coupé.
It’s likely to cost slightly more than its rivals once on sale, but in many ways it feels worth the premium.
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Audi Q8 rivals
Price: £61,105 – £66,410 but see how much you can save at save at carwow
Mercedes GLE Coupe
Price: £64,380 – £104,145 but see how much you can save at save at carwow
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Mercedes GLC Coupé
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