Motoring | Road Tests
Jaco Van Der Merwe
Car makers like to play model ping pong, constantly either creating something new or following closely behind their competitor. A perfect example of this is the Audi RS Q8.
Over the last few decades, SUVs have become the preferred choice for car buyers the world over, with manufacturers exploring every inch of space within the body style. Whether it’s going bigger or smaller or crossing over with a hatchback or coupe, carmakers are ready to pounce at every available opportunity.
And just like in the case of any other body style, bragging rights for who can build the fastest SUV has been hotly contested. Over the last 12 months, the usual German suspects have been hard at play in this space in the local market.
In February, the BMW X5 M Competition became the fastest SUV The Citizen has ever tested by completing the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in 3.82 sec. We did not test the X6 M Competition as it features the same hardware and claimed times as its sibling.
The equally impressive Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S was fractionally slower in clocking 4.06 sec a few months later, but could have easily matched the BMW was it also equipped with launch control. The AMG GLE 63 S Coupe also features the same hardware and claimed times as its traditionally styled SUV twin.
Ingolstadt joined the local testosterone party by rolling out the hottest member of its SUV family in April, the Audi RS Q8. The coupe-styled Q8 was introduced two years ago as the head of the four rings’ SUV family and this is the first appearance of the car in it hottest form.
So how did it stack up against the beastly German duo? Unfortunately we can’t answer that question from a mathematical perspective as we could not take it for a high-performance test.
A combination of shortened test allocations, limited testing slot availability, and Road Test Editor Mark Jones being struck down by a bout of Covid-19 all played their part in us not being able to measure the Audi RS Q8 up against our Vbox equipment.
Compared to the X5 and GLE in terms of gut feel, we have a hunch that the Audi RS Q8 is not going to match Ingolstadt’s claimed 0 to 100 km/h sprint time of 3.8 sec. But whether it is capable of fellow German-killing aside, it will probably clock a time of close to four seconds which is nonetheless seriously impressive for a big SUV.
And the RS Q8’s talents aren’t limited to straight line speed either. Before making its official global debut in 2019, it shattered the record held by the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 for being the fastest SUV around the Nürburgring’s 20.8 km Nordschleife by seven seconds. A record incidentally also once held by the Lamborghini Urus, which shares a platform with the Audi RS Q8.
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Another vehicle sharing these underpinnings, the Porsche Cayenne in Turbo GT guise, last month dethroned its Audi sibling at the same Nürburgring layout by several seconds in a time of seven minutes 38.925 seconds.
Similar to the Cayenne and Urus, the Audi RS Q8 is powered by a 4.0-litre V8 turbo petrol engine, albeit slightly detuned to produce 441 kW of power and 800 Nm of torque. Similar to its cousins, the engine is mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission which sends the grunt to all four wheels.
The Audi RS Q8 is also equipped with a mild-hybrid system which is based on a 48-volt main electrical system. It allows the car to recover up to 12 kW of power during deceleration and braking, which is stored in a lithium-ion battery. In turn, this power enables the RS Q8 to coast for as long as 40 seconds without having to call on any of the combustion horses.
Also contributing to the RS Q8’s efficiency is the cylinder on demand system. This deactivates four cylinders in at lower loads and rpm in the higher, enabling the car to be more fuel efficient. Suspension-wise, a whole host of goodies comes standard to boost the Audi RS Q8’s racetrack genetics. These include adaptive air suspension sport, all-wheel steering and quattro permanent all-wheel drive.
All the driving systems combine to offer the driver eight driving modes: comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency, allroad, offroad and the crown jewels: two configurable RS modes.
On the outside, the Audi RS Q8 is instantly recognisable through its imposing octagonal singleframe grille, said to be inspired by the groundbreaking quattro rally cars of old.
The sharp athletic appearance continues around the car with HD Matrix LED head and tail lights which include dynamic turn signals strong features.
Standard 23-inch alloy wheels, hiding standard red 400 mm brake calipers in front and 370 mm at the rear, clad in 295/35 rubberware completes the package.
Despite the Audi RS Q8’s monstrous powerplant, clever suspension and mean exterior looks, it’s on the inside where it probably packs the biggest punch compared to its pedigree rivals. The Alacantra and fine Nappa leather finishing in the cabin is so plush and comfortable that we described it as a luxury lounge the first time we climbed into a Q8 in 2019. In RS guise, it’s the status quo with the added touch of sporty undertones in prominent RS logos.
Its sport seats are finished in Valcona leather with honeycomb pattern and underneath, it even got better in our test unit. Heated seats (R6 270) also equipped with massage function and ventilation (R24 260) makes the front of the cabin irresistible. Those in the rear could at least enjoy the extraordinary R81 390 3D Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Needless to say, the Audi RS Q8 features the top infotainment system MMI navigation plus as standard, exploiting Audi connect’s full potential.
At a starting price of R2 354 500, the Audi RS Q8 is only reserved for a select few. While it might not have the brand attraction of its fellow-German competitors, it does offer good value compared to the Porsche Cayenne Turbo Coupe (R2 590 000), BMW X6 M Competition (R 2 882 320) and Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S coupe (R2 970 920). And even brand loyalists from other stables will have to admit the Audi RS Q8 might just hold the slight edge in the cockpit.
For more information on the Audi RS Q8, click here.