Audi Q8 e-tron 55 quattro test: lesson learned?

Unveiled in 2018, the Audi e-tron was Ingolstadt’s first foray into the now fiercely competitive 100% electric market. Criticized for its somewhat tight autonomy and generally long recharge time, however, no fewer than 175,000 copies of the SUV have been sold worldwide since then. In the first quarter of 2023, Audi took advantage of a slightly poor period in novelties to refresh its first electric baby and in the process changed its name to become the Q8 e-tron. Will changing the name be enough to erase some of the model’s weaknesses? article.

Audi announced this loud and clear at the start of the press conference marking these tests: We are going to start the process of streamlining the range. No more specific categories for electric models, they will now gradually fall into the line, such as Q4 e-tron. Thus, like all SUVs flanked by the four rings in the center of the grille, the e-tron becomes the “Q8 e-tron”. What bothers some newbies is that the Q8 e-tron is smaller than the…..Q7. Even better, the Q8 e-tron and the “simple” Q8 aren’t based on the same platform, so their dimensions and construction are different. However, we had to manage, all of the “Q”s from Q2 through 8 are already taken (except for the announced Q6 in concept form, which should lead to a production version in the coming months).

Aside from the name, what changes?

Well, not much, at least in terms of feathers. The grille, more perforated, is now illuminated from the rear, as is the current one, while the front bumper accommodates two massive front nostrils. New models of rims are available, we find the name “Q8 e-tron” present on the door pillars, and finally, the lower part of the rear bumper has been modified slightly below the reflectors. And the …. That’s it. Very light to restyle, though on the looks side, I’m kind of convinced. The package is huge and pleasing to the eye, especially in our configurations which immediately caught my eye: the body color ‘Chronos Gray’, the 21-inch Audi Sport Aero black rims, the red calipers, all accompanied by a black aesthetic package. High vulgarity for some, a score that works well for me. Note, however, that all the “plastic” changes have lowered the CX of the Q8 e-tron and Q8 e-tron quattro by 0.02 each, reaching degrees of 0.27 and 0 respectively, 24, all this in favor of autonomy clearly .

The generous dimensions remain unchanged at 4.91m in length, 1.93m in width and 1.63m in height and 1.61m in height for the Q8 e-tron and Q8 e-tron Sportback respectively. Likewise, we find the main trunk of 569 liters and the famous “frunk” (combination of the English words “front” and “trunk”) providing an additional 62 liters under the front bonnet, allowing among other things to accommodate charging cables. . result with all these numbers? First-class spaciousness with a completely flat floor for rear passengers due to the lack of a central tunnel to house a mechanical differential (the e-quattro transmission is managed entirely electronically via electric motors positioned on each axle).

The materials on board are of excellent workmanship and the modifications suffer no criticism, they are serious and the whole seems made to last. For the rest, the dashboard, the center console, the seats and the door jambs, everything has been exactly the same since 2018 aboard the still very old-fashioned Q8 e-tron in the face of modernity. The Mercedes EQE edge for example. The delay compared to the competition or the supposed choice on Audi’s part not to disturb its loyal customers? No, we won’t know more. A note to self: In addition to being well integrated as the central digital dual panel, I still had great difficulty having to use the touch buttons to adjust the seat heating or air conditioning.

Still in terms of streamlining, only two finishes remain: S-Line and Avus. Likewise, only two engines are available: the 50 (250 kW, or 340 hp) with the 89 kWh battery and the 55 quattro (300 kW, or 408 hp) with the 106 kWh battery. Autonomy varies by version and according to the figures announced (WLTP standard) between 468 and 552 kilometers. Note that the S version as in the previous e-tron will follow in the coming months (370 kW, or 503 hp, 106 kWh battery, 513 km autonomy announced). The range starts at €86,700 for the Q8 e-tron 50 S-Line while our Q8 e-tron 55 quattro S-Line configuration was offered at just under €120,000, options include (find component) here).

On the Wheel: Do you know the story of Hippo Ballerina?

The first laps aboard the Audi Q8 e-tron hardly surprise me: the machine is operated with one finger despite its size and the instantly available power allows you to extricate yourself from any situation with dexterity. Comfort is also royal, the air suspension plays its part nicely and the size of the rims (21 inches, let’s remember) doesn’t tarnish the picture in any way on this aspect. As testing progresses, we leave the areas around Lisbon to head towards the Comporta region, south of the Portuguese capital. We then pass a few kilometers of circuit, a chance to prove to ourselves (was it really necessary?) that comfort remains unchanged, even at reasonable speeds.

On the secondary grid and at the crossing of agglomerates we can test the famous geolocation predictive driving theme which allows, with a bit of flexibility and anticipation, to dispense with the brake pedal almost completely. A warning light appears on the instrument cluster that lets us ease up, the Q8 e-tron slows down when approaching a turn or roundabout and resumes moving freely once the right speed is reached, after which you just have to pull on the gas again as you do so. he wishes. You can also reproduce the handling manually by turning the left paddle to engage the engine brake, which disappears at the slightest pressure on the accelerator pedal. There is no memory function to permanently stay at a higher or lower level of braking, which is too bad. Let’s quickly move on to the camera mirrors (option at €1,910), anything but uncomfortable in my humble opinion. The definition of poor remote screens, low viewing angle, the screen design is too low and the size of the latter is grossly insufficient (you will understand, I would hardly advise you to check the option).

The coastal road between Sesimbra and Setubal gives us a clean, winding strip of asphalt. No traffic, sunny weather and above all, with 408 hp under the pedal, the temptation is strong to pick up the pace even slightly. The observation is clear, if the Q8 e-tron seems more reassuring with the aggravating filtering of the sensations, the reckoning is not there. One wonders at first, where did the cavalry go? Acceleration is blunt but we can’t say we’re really glued to the seat. 5.6 seconds from 0 to 100 km/h we are 4.1 seconds away from the e-tron GT in the same exercise (replay test here). And for good reason, our Q8 e-tron is nearly empty at 2.6 tons on the scale, that’s just it. And this number is the cause of all his illnesses. The Q8 e-tron suffers under hard braking, showing a strong tendency to beat with throttle recovery, and the few body movements once the machine scrambles into its folds exposes its dynamic weaknesses. Of course, no customer should come to that, but at €120,000 per animal I would have expected dynamic, faultless behaviour, but that is not the case.

The icing on the cake (it must have fallen at the time of conception). Audi has proudly told us many times that the Q8 e-tron has the 5 largest batteries on the market. Yes, but here, what’s the point of not having autonomy and charging speed? The advertised 552 km seems completely unattainable. If our average consumption is close to 30 kWh / 100 km at the end of this test, be aware that between 25 and 27 kWh while driving quietly is not sufficient, which is not enough at best. And the outcome is likely to be much worse during a highway trip at 100%. Maximum charging power is now 170 kW with an improved charging curve compared to the previous e-tron (far from the promised 239 kW noted on board Ionic 6 For example), it is enough to recharge 20-> 80% in 26 minutes according to the manufacturer, on a suitable station of course.

I love you too

I really wanted to like this Q8 e-tron. Attractive appearance, attractive configuration and clear belonging to the Audi group. Only here, its many weaknesses in the face of better competition on many levels do not allow me to make arguments in its favor. It must be admitted that Audi made progress on the improvement points identified by the press about the e-tron quickly, but clearly the lesson was not fully retained.

Image credits: Maurice Cernay

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