For the Audi Q8 concept, the barrier between motor show fantasy and production reality is gossamer thin – this is to all intents and purposes the car that will, next year, become the Audi brand flagship, effectively sitting above even the A8 saloon in the model hierarchy.
Closely related mechanically to the Q7 SUV, the Q8 concept ditches the third row of seating and gains far lower-slung, more aggressive and sportier styling. While the Q7 has drawn criticism for looking rather like an over-sized estate car, the Q8 brings that styling into context – this is the sporty one, although it deftly avoids the divisive chopped rooflines of rivals such as the Mercedes GLE Coupe and BMW X6.
The concept is a plug-in hybrid, powered by a combination of 333hp 3.0-litre V6 petrol TFSI turbo engine paired with a 17.9kWh battery stack and a 135hp electric motor to deliver a combined system total of 443hp and 700Nm of torque. With fully charged batteries, the electric motor can power the Q8 concept on its own for a maximum of 60km; Audi claims that the combined one-charge and full-tank range is better than 1,000km.
The powertrain as it stands is basically production ready. Performance is equally impressive, with a 0-100km/h time of 5.4 seconds and a limited top speed of 250km/h. Needless to say, it uses quattro four-wheel drive and uses ZF’s impressive eight-speed automatic gearbox.
It is also big, at 5.02-metres, it is barely any shorter than a full-size Range Rover (a car Audi very much sees as the Q8’s rival) and three metres of that is wheelbase, so the cabin (with just the four seats) is positively cavernous.
Little about the Q8 is small, come to that. The grille, lower and flatter than the Audi norm, is the biggest and most aggressive version of the Audi front end we have yet seen and should remain untouched for production. The massive 23-inch wheels hide 20-inch brake discs. Even the boot is huge, at 630 litres.
There are laser Matrix headlights with LED running lights, frameless, handle-less doors that open as if swiping an iPhone screen and a huge augmented reality heads-up display that projects vehicle data and useful information about your surroundings on to the windscreen.
"The Q8 concept is an Audi in peak form. It demonstrates the strengths of our brand in both technology and design while providing a glimpse at a future full-size, production SUV," said Dietmar Voggenreiter, member of the board of management for sales and marketing at Audi. "With its next-generation display and control solutions, we are enabling customers to experience connectivity in a whole new way."
The Q8 in production form will make its debut in early 2018 and will be built in the same plant in Slovakia as the Q7 and the next-gen VW Touareg. It will be priced above the Q7, so the range should kick off at about €90,000 when it comes to Ireland.