Audi Q8 e-Tron: Hefty SUV is smooth and powerful but short on range

Rebadged Q8 e-Tron Quattro gets more range, but it’s not as efficient as it should be

Audi Q8 EV

It struck me on a drive across town. In theory, I was the saintly one, trundling silently along on zero-local-emissions power from my massive 106kWh battery and my two electric motors. And yet . . . and yet the person in front of me, waiting at the traffic lights, was driving an Audi A2. Remember the all-aluminium A2? Back from when Audi was daring, as opposed to now, when it just seems to make a succession of identikit SUVs, like everyone else? I couldn’t help but think that this Q8 e-Tron would be so much a better car with a little dash of the A2′s alloy-authoritarianism.

If you’re looking at this new electric Q8 and thinking: “That’s not the Q8 I remember . . .”, well you’d be right. If you’re, supplementarily, thinking: “That looks an awful lot like the old e-Tron Quattro . . .” well, you’d be right again. Audi has been busy shuffling its model ranges and its badges, and so although the old, rather sexy, diesel-and-or-petrol Q8 remains in production, and actually gets an update soon, that badge also migrates to the all-electric rump of what was the e-Tron Quattro.

In doing so, the new Q8 also gets some technical upgrades, chief among them is a much bigger battery. The old e-Tron made do with a 90kWh battery pack, but this Q8 55 model is packing 114kWh (gross) capacity and 106kWh (useable).

That adds up, in theory, to a much-improved range of as much as 581km on a single charge, according to Audi’s official WLTP figures. However, the daily-driving truth of that matter is somewhat different.


From the outside, you’d be hard-pressed to tell what’s different about the Q8 compared with the old e-Tron. The grille (not that it’s actually a grille at all) has been lightly altered, and there’s a new, flatter, Audi four-rings badge. There is also some subtle model badging, in a plain, unadorned font, on the door pillar while at the rear there is the new Q8 badge.

Inside, it’s even more similar. There are some new open-pore wood veneers for the dash, and a lightly altered steering wheel, and that’s about it. To be fair, there was not much wrong with the e-Tron’s cabin, and that remains the case here in the Q8.

The hefty quality is palpable, and there’s plenty of space both for people and whatever they’re bringing with them. Downsides? The haptic feedback of the twin touchscreens remains weird and makes them slightly more awkward to use than is ideal. There’s also a sense – one we’ve noted in other Audi interiors – that the cabin is slightly dark and while not unwelcoming, is perhaps a touch cold and industrial compared with the cabins of rival Mercedes, BMW and especially Lexus products.

Audi Q8 EV

Never mind that, though, because this Q8 55 quattro is packing power. With 300kW split between its twin electric motors, it has 408hp to play with, backed up by 664Nm of torque. Those new motors are clever too, using an “asynchronous” technique which creates a magnetic field around the axis of the rotor, pulling it along. Why is that good? Because apparently it means that if there is no flow of current, the motors do not produce any electrical drag losses and are therefore highly efficient.

Performance feels strong, at least initially. Thanks to all that torque, you can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 6.5 seconds. Not good enough for you? Well, that’s okay because flick the switch to Dynamic mode, and there’s a “Boost” function which briefly over-stretches the electric moto to deliver a 5.9sec 0-100km/h time – quicker than a Golf GTI.

There’s a major but coming, and it’s weight. EVs, thanks to the simple, ineluctable maths of battery weight per energy capacity, weigh a lot more than their petrol and diesel colleagues. With a 2.5-tonne kerb weight, this relatively compact Q8 matches the mass of the towering BMW X7 diesel. While the steer grunt of those electric motors can move the Q8 with no little venom, there is always a price to be paid.

Some of that price is physical. While the Q8′s adjustable air suspension, for the most part, delivers a serene ride quality, occasionally – especially at lower speeds – it will drop one of those massive alloy wheels into a rut or a pothole, and then you will most certainly feel the sheer weight of this car.

For a half-second or so, the suspension seems unsure of quite what to do with it all, rather like those agonising seconds when you realise that you’re about to drop a heavy box on your foot. Equally, the Q8 isn’t much fun to drive. The steering is nicely weighted and balanced, and there’s endless grip and traction, thanks to the Quattro four-wheel drive, but the weight just kills any sense of agility or dynamism. The Q8 is wonderfully comfy and refined on a long journey, but don’t bother taking it to twisty roads.

Can it actually cope with a long journey, though? Well, with that claimed 583km range, you’d think it could. But the Q8 just can’t seem to reach that kind or range, nor anything like it. With a full battery, on a clement and mild day, I could squeeze no more than 410km out of it.

Now, in fairness, the Q8 will deliver the range that it says on the dash, which is more than can be said for some of its competition (cough-Tesla-cough) but a hair over 400km seems like poor recompense for the bigger battery, and this model’s €100,000+ price tag (although there’s a less powerful version for €86,000).

Audi Q8 EV

There are some extenuations to this. The Q8 charges quickly, which at least helps you regain that range when you need it. From a DC fast-charging point, assuming you can find one that’s putting out enough power, it will charge at up to 170kW, enough to add 123km of extra range in just 10 minutes’ charging, assuming ideal conditions.

Better still, you can optionally have the Q8 upgraded from 11kW AC charging to 22kW, which makes for much better use of kerb-side charging points, and which allowed us to do a 50 per cent to full charge in less than three hours. Not bad at all, and bless you Audi for fitting dual charging ports – one on each side of the car, behind the front wheelarches — which makes things much easier.

I can’t help but keep coming back to that A2, though. Back in 1999, Audi designed the little A2 with an all-aluminium structure and a ruthless attitude to weight that would have delighted a Slimming World instructor. The result was a car with a kern weight of as little as 895kg, almost a third of this Q8. Okay, so it’s a very different car – smaller, based on a Polo chassis – but imagine a Q8 built with the same rigorous approach to light materials, aerodynamic efficiency and the excision of waste. I can’t help but think that the person in front of me at the traffic lights, driving the 20-year old car, was doing a generally better job for the environment than I was in my brand new, 2.5-tonne, electric SUV.

Audi can do better than this, and it already does – you can, for half the cost of this Q8 e-Tron, get the Q4 e-Tron, which shares a chassis and electric set-up with the Volkswagen ID.4 and which can, with the 77kWh battery, deliver a reliable 450km, and an occasional 500km, between charges. And it’s about as roomy as the Q8. Why spend more just to gain weight?

Audi Q8 e-Tron quattro S-Line: the lowdown

Power: 300kW twin-e-motors developing 408hp and 664Nm of torque, powering all-four wheels via a single-speed automatic transmission.

CO2 emissions (annual motor tax) 0g/km (€120).

Electric consumption: 20.6-24.4 kWh/100km (WLTP).

Electric range: 582km (WLTP).

0-100km/h: 5.9sec.

Price: €106,395 as tested, Q8 e-Tron starts from €86,400.

Verdict: Impressive in many ways, but weight blunts the fun and the range.

* Article amended on August 24th, 2023 to correct a detail on Audi future model plans

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring