Wednesday, 03 May 2023 03:56

Audi Q8 e-tron SUV review - Electric motor, drive, performance, interior, comfort...

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Audi Q8 e-tron SUV Audi Q8 e-tron SUV

"Audi's first production electric has been updated, with a new name, plus bigger batteries for more range"

Verdict - Is the Audi Q8 e-tron a good car?

Now with the big battery and long range to back up its fantastic comfort and refinement, the updated Audi Q8 e-tron is a suitably premium-feeling family SUV. It’s not the most dynamic car in its class, nor the most efficient, but few will fault its usability and prodigious long-distance capability.

Audi Q8 e-tron models, specs and alternatives
The original Audi e-tron launched in 2019, and was among the very first pure-electric premium SUVs to reach the market. It was a quiet, comfortable and tech-laden family car, but despite its big battery, it lacked a truly competitive edge.

Sold as the brand’s flagship electric SUV, it sat somewhere in between the petrol, diesel and hybrid-powered Audi Q5, and the seven-seat Audi Q7. The e-tron has since been joined by the smaller Q4 (also pure-electric), while a Q6 e-tron is due soon.

In recent years, however, the big, electric SUV segment has exploded, with more models on offer than ever before. Rivals now include everything from the Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes EQC, to the BMW iX and upcoming Volvo EX90 and Polestar 3. But just in time, Audi has given its flagship a mid-life nip and tuck, plus a new name, bigger batteries and more electric range.

That extra range will be of particular interest to a lot of buyers; the entry-level Q8 50 e-tron now has a longer range than the old 55 e-tron, with every version now officially capable of at least 261 miles on a charge. The longest-range Q8 55 e-tron in Sport spec will do up to 330 miles – more than almost all of its rivals. Rapid 150-170kW charging means it’ll refill its batteries in double quick time too. At launch, the e-tron was offered only in regular SUV form but for buyers who want an extra dose of style, Audi also offers a sleeker coupe-style Sportback version that we’ve reviewed separately. The additional space offered by the SUV version will be welcomed by families – it might not offer the seven seats that some conventional SUVs of this size can but there's plenty of room inside for five adults and a pretty generous boot. Those less concerned by the practicalities of family life, meanwhile, might prefer to concentrate on the Q8 e-tron's superb interior design, which borrows heavily from the flagship Audi A8 saloon.

Five trims became four when the e-tron was facelifted in 2022, with the range now comprising Sport, S line, Black Edition and Vorsprung. All cars get at least 20-inch wheels, Matrix LED lights, dual screens for the infotainment system, plus Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit digital dials. Wireless phone charging and heated leather seats are also included. You get more kit the further up the range you go, with the Vorsprung trim leaving no option box unticked.

Whichever version you go for though, the Q8 isn’t short on pace. All models will do 0-62mph in six seconds or less, with the flagship triple-motor SQ8 e-tron capable of the same sprint in just 4.5 seconds – despite weighing more than 2.5 tonnes.

It’s still not the most dynamic car in its class, however. The Jaguar I-Pace remains our top choice for keen drivers, but the Q8 e-tron feels solid as a rock in day-to-day driving. Unless you absolutely want all the bells and whistles, the Audi Q8 e-tron is at its best in one of the cheaper trims; top-spec cars are very expensive.

Thankfully, the changes Audi has made to the Q8 do enough to elevate the flagship e-tron back to where it belongs. It's a very impressive all-rounder. Its approachable, familiar nature will doubtless appeal to Audi fans who are looking to make the switch to zero-emissions electric motoring. It's a capable alternative to the I-Pace that offers Audi's classy blend of technology and style in place of the Jaguar's more sporty nature, and many families will find it slots seamlessly into their daily routine. It remains an incredibly refined, cosseting SUV, that with the bigger battery, is now capable of longer journeys without stopping to charge.

 Audi Q8 e-tron SUV - Range, charging & running costs

Now with bigger batteries, the Q8 e-tron has a longer range than almost every car in this class. It’ll charge faster, too


As an electric car, the Q8 e-tron is exempt from VED (road tax) until 2025, and all models also escape the additional annual surcharge levied against cars costing more than £40,000. Other benefits include free entry to low-emission zones like the ULEZ and Congestion Charge in London – again, for the time being.

But just because it’s electric, don’t automatically assume the Audi Q8 e-tron will be cheap to run. It’s a big and heavy car, meaning it isn’t all that efficient. You’ll need a lot of electricity to fill that big battery, and with rising domestic and commercial energy costs, it’s not the financial no-brainer it once was. Audi servicing and replacement consumables like tyres and brake pads and discs also tend to be expensive.

Audi e-tron range & charging
The Q8 e-tron is available with a choice of two battery sizes – both significantly bigger than was offered when the car launched in 2019. The 50 e-tron now gets a 95kWh battery (up from 71kWh in the pre-facelift car) – offering an official range of between 261 and 283 miles depending on specification.

Step up to the 55 e-tron and the larger 114kWh battery is fitted (up from 95kWh previously), which means up to 333 miles on a charge is possible. For comparison, a Jaguar I-Pace can manage up to 292 miles, while a BMW iX is capable of between 257 and 380 miles depending on spec. Beware, however, the bigger battery commands a big premium of around £5,000. While adding such a large battery improves range, there’s also no getting away from the fact the Q8 e-tron isn’t very efficient: during our testing we found it tricky to get more than 2.5 miles/kWh, which would result in a range 75 miles shy of the official figure.

At the top of the Audi Q8 e-tron range sits the SQ8. It uses the same battery as the 55 model and can manage up to 284 miles of range – slightly less than the 55 e-tron due to the extra power and performance on offer. All models are available in the Sportback coupe-SUV bodystyle, which Audi claims is a little more efficient and can do a few more miles per charge.

Those planning to make really long journeys will be comforted by Audi's inclusion of 150kW DC fast-charge compatibility on the entry-level 50 e-tron, rising to 170kW on the higher-spec cars. It means when hooked up to a rapid charger, the Q8’s range can be charged to 80% capacity in as little as 28 minutes – or 31 minutes for cars with the bigger battery.

Further to this, the Q8’s standard fit 11kW on-board AC charger, means wallbox charging times of just over nine hours on the 50 e-tron, or 11 hours and 30 minutes on the 55 e-tron and SQ8. Audi offers the ability to charge at up to 22kW as an option, but you’re more likely to have a 7kW charger at home; expect a full charge to take around 15 hours.

Audi uses several technologies to optimise driving range, and the Q8's regenerative braking system is claimed to make a huge contribution towards energy conservation. There is no one-pedal driving, but Audi still claims the e-tron’s set-up allows over 90% of all braking manoeuvres to be handled by the energy-recuperation system alone. The car's brake control system can determine whether to slow the car using the electric motor or disc brakes, or any combination of the two.

We don’t yet have insurance groups for the updated Audi Q8 e-tron, but the pre-facelift model had some of the very highest ratings of any car on sale – some sitting in the top group 50, alongside the fastest Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

While electric cars are growing in popularity, repair costs are high, and as such, insurance costs can vary wildly between models. However, these big, expensive electric SUVs seem particularly hard hit; the Association of British Insurers (ABI), who decide on insurance group ratings in the UK, also placed the Jaguar I-Pace in group 48 out of 50.

The Q8 e-tron comes with Audi's standard three-year/60,000-mile manufacturer warranty, and there's an additional eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty – a similar policy to that provided by Jaguar for the I-Pace. Tesla, meanwhile, offers the same duration of battery warranty, but with no mileage limit. The e-tron’s battery itself is bought with the car, and Audi currently offers no battery lease option.

The e-tron comes with Audi's standard three-year/60,000-mile manufacturer warranty, and there's an additional eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty – a similar policy to that provided by Jaguar for the I-Pace. Tesla, meanwhile, offers the same duration of battery warranty, but with no mileage limit. The e-tron’s battery itself is bought with the car, and Audi currently offers no battery lease option.

Audi Q8 e-tron SUV - Electric motor, drive & performance

Very fast in a straight line, but the Audi Q8 e-tron majors in comfort and refinement rather than driver fun


The new Audi Q8 e-tron – just like its predecessor – is a car that quite obviously prioritises comfort over sporty handling. It’s a smart move, as it’s far easier to make a car quieter and more cosseting, than it is attempting to disguise its bulk through the corners.

All cars get air suspension as standard, which can lower the Q8’s ride height by up to 76mm at high speeds, with the aim of reducing energy-sapping wind resistance to improve battery range. Even on 20-inch wheels, the ride is exceptionally smooth. Refinement is first-rate, too; the Q8’s rivals are quiet, but we reckon the Audi is one of the best motorway cars available at any price, even beating the Audi A8 limousine for cruising. With camera side mirrors fitted, wind noise is cut even further to the point where tyre roar is the only audible sound. It feels stable and secure on these roads, and facelift models with the big battery now have a long range to go with that excellent high-speed composure.

Every e-tron sends power to all four wheels via what Audi refers to as a ‘new generation’ of its quattro four-wheel-drive system. It's able to vary the power that reaches each pair of driven wheels, reacting to road conditions in a fraction of a second. However, while there isn’t much body roll, it doesn’t feel particularly engaging to drive. The steering is light and doesn’t offer much in the way of feel; a Jaguar I-Pace or BMW iX is more fun.

There are different drive modes, switchable via the Audi Drive Select programme. But unless you really need to eke out every last mile of range, or require maximum power at the flick of your right foot, we’d just leave the car in its default setting. Even like this it feels quick and responsive.

The regenerative braking is unobtrusive in its operation, too. It doesn’t offer one-pedal driving like you might find in the Mercedes EQC or Jaguar I-Pace, but Audi claims its set-up is more efficient – allowing the car to coast is actually better for range than reclaiming energy via a strong regen system, apparently.

That said, the Q8 is still capable of feeding power back into the battery, and will always prioritise this setup during gentle braking. Only when you need to stop suddenly will the e-tron use its hydraulic disc brakes.

The Audi Q8 50 e-tron and 55 e-tron variants are powered by two electric motors, while the SQ8 boasts an extra motor on the rear axle. Each model is capable of rapid performance, with even the entry-level 50 e-tron doing 0-62mph in six seconds flat.

Step up to the 55 e-tron and power increases from 362bhp to 402bhp. That's enough to allow 0-62mph in just 5.6 seconds. It's not as neck-snapping as the response in a Tesla Model X but it’s less hesitant than a conventionally powered Audi SUV with an automatic gearbox. The Q8’s top speed is 124mph.

For the ultimate performance, the flagship SQ8 gets a considerable power hike to 496bhp thanks to that third electric motor. But it’s the huge 973Nm of torque that makes the flagship feel so fast – faster than its 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds would suggest, certainly. Audi has also added several upgrades to improve the handling, including a new torque vectoring system to help distribute power to the wheels. This helps with traction during hard acceleration and cornering. The quattro four-wheel drive system has also been tweaked to send more power to the rear wheels, making the e-tron S feel more like a rear-wheel-drive car and thus slightly more fun. It’s still a heavy car, though, and certainly feels it at times.

 Audi Q8 e-tron SUV - Interior & comfort

Stunning interior design combines with uncanny quietness to luxurious effect; the Q8 e-tron feels worthy of its high price


Although electric cars tend to be fairly quiet by default, we were still surprised just how silently the Q8 e-tron can move. The electric motors are almost completely quiet, and the interior is well insulated against the ruckus of road and wind noise. Even with big 21-inch alloy wheels fitted, the Q8 proved adept at soaking up bumps in the road, too – traits that are aided by its standard-fit air suspension and two-and-a-half tonne weight.

Audi claims that the Q8 e-tron's spacious, comfortable interior 'makes electric mobility a premium experience'. It's certainly well-equipped, and the interior design is full of the top-quality finishes we've come to expect from the brand. It also makes use of the dual-screen layout seen in the Audi A6, A7 and A8, along with a standard 'Virtual Cockpit' configurable digital instrument cluster.

Spec highlights include Audi's top 'MMI navigation plus' infotainment system, which has been tailored to suit EV drivers. It uses 10.1-inch upper and 8.6-inch lower full-HD screens with haptic feedback to register when a command has been input, and offers an 'e-tron route planner' feature. This calculates a route that passes charging points where necessary, taking real-time traffic levels into account. It can also facilitate automated payment via Audi's 'Plug and Charge' system, but its rollout has been slow and it still isn’t available in the UK. MMI is a neat system that’s decently responsive, but we reckon BMW's iDrive infotainment is slightly more intuitive.

Both 50 and 55 quattro versions are available in the usual Audi trims, though the introduction of the Q8 nameplate also saw consolidation of the model range. Now available in Sport, S line, Black Edition and top-of-the-line Vorsprung specs, every version comes well-equipped.

Base Sport cars come with 20-inch wheels, Matrix LED lights front and rear, plus a power-operated boot lid, adaptive air suspension and heated leather seats. The dual-screen MMI infotainment system, wireless phone charging and Virtual Cockpit digital dials are also standard.

S line ups the kit count with the sportier styling synonymous with this trim across the Audi range, plus 21-inch wheels, privacy glass and S-embossed leather sports seats. Black Edition adds black trim and different wheels, while Vorsprung ticks near enough every option box, with bigger wheels, virtual door mirrors (a gimmick, in our view), plus a panoramic roof, four-zone climate control and extra safety kit.

Although there were a raft of extras previously available, the list has been simplified, and most options have been consolidated into the different trim levels or as part of special packs. As mentioned above, Vorsprung cars get virtually everything fitted as standard, so before you add too many extras it might be worth investigating whether the top-spec trim offers better value for money.

If you do opt for the Sport, S line or Black Edition, you can add things like the Technology Pack for around £3,000, which adds the Bang & Olufsen surround sound system, a head-up display and 360-degree cameras, as well multi-colour ambient lighting. The Technology Pack Pro costs another £3,000, but brings four-zone climate control, a panoramic roof and heated rear seats, among other desirable features.

The virtual door mirrors are an extra costing over £1,500, but we think they’re a bit of a gimmick. They aren’t as easy to use as normal mirrors and actually limit your peripheral vision. The improvements to range and refinement are negligible too.

Other options include a 22kW on-board charger for faster AC charging for £1,750, or a tow bar for just under £1,000. The Q8 e-tron remains one of the few electric cars rated for serious towing.

 Audi Q8 e-tron SUV - Practicality & boot space

Audi Q8 e-tron SUV offers loads of interior space and plenty of luggage room, but there’s no seven-seat option


At just over 4.9 metres long, the Audi e-tron is a very large car, comfortably longer than the 4.7m Audi Q5 and only a little shorter than the 5m Audi Q7. Unlike the brand's largest SUV, though, the e-tron doesn’t offer seats for seven, preferring to provide lavish room for those in the second row.

Audi e-tron interior space & storage
The e-tron's 2,928mm wheelbase (the distance between its front and rear axles) is claimed to offer ample interior space for five occupants, and we found even taller second-row occupants to have plentiful headroom. The same is true for those in the front seats, where the driver is assured of a comfortable seating position and excellent visibility – even if those virtual door mirrors seem an ergonomic step backwards.

There's generous interior storage, with a large central cubby between the front seats, although items in it seem prone to falling out and getting lodged between the cubby and the seats. The redundant transmission tunnel between the seats is a reminder this platform was designed for combustion-engined versions first, however. Clean-sheet rivals like the BMW iX feel less cocooned upfront as a result of their flat floor layout.

Boot space
The Audi Q8 e-tron has one of the biggest boots in this class, even if it’s down by a few litres versus its predecessor – on paper at least.

Measuring 569 litres, the e-tron’s boot is roughly the same size as you’ll find in a Jaguar I-Pace, but quite a bit bigger than a Mercedes EQC or even a BMW iX. You can fold the Audi’s seats nice and easily to uncover a maximum 1,637-litre load bay – again, slightly down on the pre-facelift car.

As before, there is space (62 litres) under the bonnet, which is particularly handy for storing the charging cables. It means you don’t have to fret if you’ve got a boot full of belongings, as they’re always within easy reach should you need to juice up with a quick splash and dash at the local supermarket.

Audi quotes a 1,800kg towing limit for the Q8 e-tron, but that can't match the Tesla Model X and its 2,250kg figure, and falls a long way short of the diesel Audi Q5's 2,500kg maximum. Still, very few electric cars are rated for towing – the Jaguar I-Pace is one example – so it’s pleasing to know the Audi is capable of pulling a trailer should you need it.

 Audi Q8 e-tron SUV - Reliability & safety

Loads of safety tech, but the Audi doesn’t have a particularly strong reputation for owner satisfaction


​​Audi has long enjoyed a desirable and aspirational image, but this hasn't always been reflected by the brand's owner satisfaction results. There are few doubts over the e-tron's safety, though – this is a very high-tech car with a Euro NCAP safety score of five stars, and its long list of safety equipment reflects just how sophisticated it is.

Audi e-tron reliability
Despite its image as a ‘premium’ brand that builds high quality cars, Audi came a lowly 22nd out of 29 brands in our 2022 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey – not a sparkling result by any means and one that placed it firmly behind BMW (16th) and Lexus (12th), but ahead of arch rival Mercedes, which finished one place lower in 23rd. Despite the poor finishing position, Audi scored a reasonably respectable reliability rating in our survey, with 19.4% of owners reporting a fault in the first year.

None of the Audi models that featured in our 2022 Driver Power model survey bear direct comparison to the Q8 e-tron but the brand's Audi Q3 SUV was its highest-rated model. It finished 43rd out of 75 cars in the survey – not perfect, but hopefully a step in the right direction.

The e-tron was awarded a five-star rating by Euro NCAP after it was safety tested in the spring of 2019. Category scores included 91% for adult occupant and 85% for child occupant, with 76% for safety assist. NCAP hasn’t tested the newer Q8, but given it is based on the same platform and shares almost all of the same technology, it is unlikely to perform too differently in the event of an accident.

Safety systems fitted include autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, active cruise control and a speed limiter, so the e-tron has an array of gadgets that should prevent a crash occurring in the first place – as well as being tough and strong if the worst does happen.


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