Wednesday, 24 May 2023 05:49

2024 Audi Q8 e-tron and Q8 e-tron Sportback Go Farther, Quietly

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Gimmick-free and more subtle than competitors from BMW, Genesis, and Tesla, the Audi Q8 e-tron offers improved range and a serene driving experience.

The Audi Q8 e-tron and its smooth-backed sibling, the Q8 e-tron Sportback, enter 2024 with a new name, more range, more efficient batteries, better aerodynamics, and faster charging. The mechanical changes address customer concerns about range and performance, while the name change—from just-plain e-tron to Q8 e-tron—is to give buyers a better sense of where the big two-row SUV sits in the brand's lineup of EV and ICE offerings. Like the gas-powered Q8, the Q8 e-tron sits at the top of the range, a roomy cruiser ready for glamorous day trips or making day-to-day errands feel glamorous. The base model starts at $75,595, and the Sportback Launch Edition we drove, with the dark-chrome S line trim and orange-piped leather interior, rings in at $95,395 with options.

Q8 e-tron Range and Charging Times

The dark chrome and orange details are hints that the Q8 e-tron is a luxury SUV with a touch of sporty flair. It gets a bit more flair for 2024 with both a redesigned grille and headlights that highlight its slightly wider body. The styling changes also reduce drag, achieved through new wheel designs, shutters in the nose that can open for cooling and close for smooth sailing, and bodywork around the wheel wells that channels the wind. The wind-cheating helps the 2024 Q8 e-tron get better range than the 2023 e-tron: an EPA-estimated 285 miles for the standard version and 296 miles for the Sportback (300 miles with the optional Ultra package), up from 225–226 miles before. The improved aerodynamics also let the air also pass by with barely a whisper of wind noise, even on the highway.

The Audi's improved efficiency isn't just from the aero updates. The Q8 uses two motors, and for 2024, the rear motor gets extra windings that allow it to create a stronger magnetic field from the same incoming electricity. The result is more torque and reduced energy consumption. Couple that with a higher-capacity battery (106.0 kWh compared to the outgoing 86.5-kWh pack), and you get more range.

Recharging times have also improved. The 2024 Q8 can now take in 170 kilowatts (up from 150 kilowatts) at a DC faster-charger and should be able to go from an almost-empty 10 percent battery to a back-in-action 80 percent in around 31 minutes, according to Audi. For Level 2 home charging, the standard 9.6-kW charger will refill the battery overnight (in about 13 hours), while an optional 19.2-kW setup (an $1850 upgrade) can do it in half that time.

Driving the Q8 e-tron

We have to admit we weren't doing charging math while behind the wheel of the Q8 e-tron. In fact, we were somewhat startled to look down after a glorious run through the dappled light of a Northern California redwood forest and realize we had about 40 miles of range left. It's easy to lose track of how far you've gone because the Q8 is so pleasant to drive. It's quick, with a combined 402 horses from its two motors, but not neck-snappingly so. From a stoplight, a foot to the floor would get you to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds (according to Audi), which is middling acceleration by EV standards. And yet it strikes us as just the right amount of power for an SUV of this size—not so fast that you're backing off in a panic if you get a little heavy-shoed, but plenty torquey enough to power out of curves and confidently merge into fast-moving traffic.

Changes to the Q8 e-tron's steering and suspension improve the driving experience. A quicker ratio of 14.6:1 instead of the previous 15.8:1 results in a more responsive wheel. The front suspension gets a stiffer bushings, and the adaptive air springs, which offer 3.0 inches of height adjustment, soak up bumps and ruts with aplomb. Along with the suspension settings, the Q8 offers seven different drive modes, which alter ride height, accelerator response, steering feel, stability control programming, and power delivery. Brake-energy regen can be adjusted via paddles on the steering wheel, and the most aggressive setting will just about bring the car to a complete stop. The brake feel is fantastic, with no grabby spots in the pedal travel as the Q8 transitions from regen to friction braking.

As is often the case on California's Highway 1, we had to stop several times due to road construction. In the Q8 e-tron Prestige, with its massaging seats, the delay afforded the opportunity to kick back and admire the drifting coastal fog as it floated gently over the panoramic glass roof. Well, during the second stop, we were able to do this. The first one was spent delving through the extensive menus in the 10.1-inch upper display screen to figure out how to turn off the various lane-keeping beeps. For the record, it's in both the settings menu and on the end of the turn-signal stalk.

The Q8 is screen-heavy, with a second display for climate controls below the main infotainment screen. There's also screen-based instrumentation, and in the Prestige trim we drove, a head-up display. The Q8's interior is much like the exterior, with a design that could be more radical but certainly won't upset anyone. The center console layout doesn't make the best use of space for storage, with cupholders crammed up against the shifter and the vertical phone slot, but there is a left-side drawer in the dash that's perfect for parking-garage tickets and secret snacks. Human space is excellent; the seats are comfortable both front and rear—even in the sloped-roof Sportback.

Electric vehicles and SUVs lend themselves to comfort and luxury. Audi was wise to recognize that and not attempt to make the Q8 too focused on handling or acceleration. The improved range means less worry about recharging, allowing drivers to relax and enjoy the smooth, quiet ride.

Source: caranddriver.com

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