The 2021 Audi Q8 has one less row of seats and a lot more style than the three-row Q7 SUV that it is based on. With a coupe-like profile and bolder bodywork, the two-row Q8 kicks off the company’s line of ultimate crossovers, which also includes the separately reviewed SQ8 and RS Q8. Although the regular Q8 is less powerful than those sportier counterparts, it still boasts a potent 335-hp turbo V-6 and standard Quattro all-wheel drive. The Q8 also provides a carlike driving experience that is both athletic and refined. Its cabin is beautifully appointed and solidly put together in typical Audi fashion. While it holds fewer people and has less cargo space than its three-row sibling, the 2021 Q8 is best suited for those who prioritize sportiness, luxuriousness, and style.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Audi provides every Q8 with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. It pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive. A 48-volt hybrid-assist system aids stop-start operation, which was smooth and quiet during our experience. While the Audi had deliberate passing power on the highway, it felt hesitant around town unless we crushed the gas pedal. The transmission had mostly dutiful reactions, but it and the engine best cooperated in Dynamic mode, which provoked snappier responses. We only wish the engine and exhaust made gutsier sounds. The Q8 can also tow up to 7700 pounds when properly equipped. Following the guidelines established by other crossover “coupes,” the Q8 provides high-riding capability with sporty driving responses. While it swiftly changes directions and obediently hustles around corners, it’s less engaging than Audi sedans, such as the sleek A7. The Q8’s steering has light effort and linear feedback, which was relaxing on long trips but boring on switchback roads. Our test vehicle had the optional air suspension and wore 22-inch wheels—20-inchers are standard. These large rollers were mostly quiet even on uneven surfaces. With adjustable ride heights and four-wheel steering (included with the Adaptive Chassis package), our Q8 was agile in tight spaces and capable of tackling choppy terrain. Its brake pedal was easy to modulate at highway speed but suffered from inconsistent reactions in traffic. Still, it hauled the hefty crossover from 70 mph to zero in a competitive 170 feet during our emergency-braking test.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Q8 has mediocre EPA estimates that are lower than some all-wheel-drive rivals. The government estimates the Audi gets 17 mpg city and 21 highway, which is identical to the six-cylinder Q7. The Q8 we took on our highway fuel-economy route also greatly exceeded expectations. It earned 28 mpg over 200 miles, while the last Q7 we tested saw 24 mpg in the same test. A similarly equipped BMW X6 returned 25 mpg.
Interior, Comfort , and Cargo
In typical fashion, Audi has crafted a sophisticated and sturdy environment inside the Q8. The materials are premium, and the panels are expertly aligned. While the base model misses out on upscale features such as four-zone climate control and a leather dashboard with contrast stitching, it has standard heated front seats and a panoramic sunroof. Only the top-of-the-line model offers massaging front seats, upgraded leather surfaces, and quieter dual-pane glass. Our test vehicle had all that plus a head-up display and customizable ambient interior lighting. Not only is the Q8 visually impressive, it has more than enough passenger space. The driving position remains sporty despite its elevated height, and two adults can leisurely stretch out in the back. Although the two-row Q8 has less cargo volume than the three-row Q7, we managed to squeeze eight carry-on bags behind its back seat. That number increased to 23 (two less than in the Q7) with the split-folding rear bench folded nearly flat. Our test vehicle had the optional air suspension, which can lower the rear end to help with lifting luggage in and out. Inside, the Q8 has limited cubby storage. Its shallow center-console bin and narrow door pockets left us with few spots to store small items.
Infotainment and Connectivity
With a pair of vivid touchscreens integrated into the dashboard and center console, every Q8 boasts a cutting-edge infotainment system. Instead of the intuitive rotary controller found on other Audi models, the displays respond to touch inputs with haptic feedback. We quickly assimilated to its logical menus and large icons, but distractions were unavoidable. Thankfully, receptive voice commands and handy steering-wheel controls provide alternate operation. Standard features include a Wi-Fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless charging and two different Bang & Olufsen audio systems are optional. We’re particularly fond of the standard digital gauge cluster (called Virtual Cockpit), with its configurable settings and superb navigation.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 Q8 earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the last version that was evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was named a Top Safety Pick. While the base model is available with several driver assists, more advanced options, such as adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology and night vision with pedestrian detection, are reserved for higher trims. Our test vehicle had the optional 360-degree camera system that helped us navigate narrow drive-throughs and avoid scratching the massive rims.