Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Diesel has its detractors, but the 50 TDI 286 is the best engine for the Audi Q8 when you factor in purchase price, performance and running costs. With 282bhp, this formidable 3.0-litre V6 diesel pulls effortlessly from low revs and always feels like it has some power in reserve. Put your foot down hard and it will dispatch the benchmark 0-62mph sprint in just 6.1sec.
The 55 TFSI 340 is a smidge quicker. That’s because its 3.0-litre turbocharged petrol makes more power (335bhp) that fires you from 0-62mph in 5.9sec, but you have to rev it harder in everyday use. Why? It doesn't have as much low and mid-range oomph as the diesel.
In fact, the Q8 is generally very quiet. There’s not much to disturb your peace, with very little wind noise at 70mph, and road noise is better contained than it is in the Mercedes GLE Coupé. Just avoid the massive wheel options to maximise the tranquillity.
Our only significant complaint concerns the eight-speed automatic gearbox that all the engines are paired with. It can be painfully slow to kick down and, if you go to overtake, for example, it hesitates for a second or so before finally delivering some go. It's frustrating and, sadly, even selecting Sport mode does little to improve things. Manual mode, using the paddles behind the steering wheel, is more obedient, thankfully.
The Q8's handling is very reassuring. It suffers from minimal body lean through corners, while quattro four-wheel drive ensures there's no shortage of traction. The sharp steering has a reassuring heftiness to it, and on the Vorsprung trim you get all-wheel steering. That means the rear wheels turn a little to give you a tighter turning circle in town and greater stability at high speed.
As confidence-inspiring as it is, the Q8 doesn’t feel that much fun. The BMW X6 is a bit livelier to drive, but if you’ve got the money, the Porsche Cayenne Coupé is the SUV to buy for handling thrills and spills. The smaller, cheaper Porsche Macan is a hoot, too.
Adaptive air suspension is standard on the Q8 and the smallest wheels that are available are 21in. As a result, even in the slackest suspension setting, there's a firmer edge to the Q8’s low-speed ride than you get in an Audi Q7 with smaller diameter alloys. That said, it’s still not uncomfortable by any means, and it's more cosseting than the X6 and GLE Coupe that thump harder over potholes.