What is it?
What is an Audi RS Q8 and why should you be interested? Here goes. The family tree tells you it’s the range-topping, high-performance version of the Audi Q8. A DNA test will reveal its brother from another mother as the Lamborghini Urus with which it shares it platform, engine, and tech. And its resume will be headlined “‘fastest production SUV around the Nurburgring”. How’s that for an executive briefing?
Headlining the package is a 600hp, 800Nm, 4.0-litre, twin-turbo petrol engine, while all the other mechanicals – suspension, brakes and steering – have also been fettled to make the large Audi drive in a manner you wouldn’t expect a 2.3 tonne SUV to.
What’s it like on the outside?
The broad-shouldered Audi Q8 is perhaps the best interpretation of the idea of a large SUV-coupe. The RS Q8? It’s more attractive still. Distinguishable by its larger intakes, flared wheel arches and RS trademark oval exhausts, the RS Q8 looks properly menacing. The ginormous 23-inch rims (more on them later) you see here are standard for India, but you can opt for smaller 21- and 22-inchers too. There is actually a whole menu card of options so you can spec the RS Q8 to your liking. The Black Package that brings in blacked-out details (and even logos) is an option I’d definitely tick, thank you very much.
What’s it like on the inside?
In basic look and layout, the RS Q8’s cabin is, unsurprisingly, very similar to the standard Q8’s, which is to say it’s very business-like. Quality levels are impeccable, and the twin-touchscreen infotainment system makes the cabin look cutting-edge too, even if the setup takes some getting used to. When you’re driving with gusto, however, you’ll get all the info you need on the brilliant Virtual Cockpit digital dials that also features a dedicated RS mode.
Of course, there’s much you can change inside the cabin too. From seats and steering design to colours and equipment, your wish is Audi’s command…for a cost. On a performance SUV, it’d be rude to pass on the option of carbon-fibre addenda.
The seat of power is the one behind the steering but your passengers at the back will be more than content too. There’s lots of room to stretch out and the backrest angle is also adjustable.
What’s it like to drive?
Like all fast Audis, the 600hp RS Q8 is surprisingly easy to work a rhythm with. It feels exploitable from the get-go, and even on damp roads, it’s easy to trust the SUV. The encompassing feeling is that Quattro all-wheel drive always has your back.
It’s a pity we couldn’t time the RS Q8 because it sure as hell feels as fast as Audi claims it is – 0-100kph is said to take 3.8sec! Launch control-aided starts, possible in no-holds-barred RS 2 mode, are properly dramatic. To visualise it, imagine The Big Show pulling off an Usain Bolt. There’s absolutely no let-up in thrust, should you choose to press on, and even kickdown acceleration is hilarious. The roar of the V8 and the pops and bangs on the overrun only give the proceedings a fitting soundtrack.
As quick as the RS Q8 is, the performance isn’t even the most remarkable thing about it. Handling is. Making an SUV go fast in a straight line is one thing. Making an SUV go fast around corners requires a whole different level of sorcery. In the RS Q8’s box of tricks is standard-fit all-wheel steering and Quattro all-wheel drive that can send up to 85 percent of torque to the rear wheel. But for the full effect, you need to add in active roll stabilisation and the sport rear differential, as equipped on this test car. The combined effect of all the tech is just surreal.
The first few corners taken at speed are disorienting because you just expect the 1.7m-tall SUV to go all Leaning Tower of Pisa on you, but it doesn’t. The RS Q8 stays so eerily flat, you’ll suspect the calibration of your internal gyroscope is off. And since weight transfer is kept in check so effectively, mechanical grip is just at another level. Pushing harder only has the large Audi dig ever deeper into its seemingly endless reserves of traction. The RS Q8 doesn’t run wide, it doesn’t slip into understeer and it doesn’t lose poise in hard braking either. It’s a 2.3-tonne SUV that thinks it’s a supercar.
What’s also remarkable is how docile the RS Q8 can become when you need it to. At its relaxed best, the RS Q8 doesn’t feel all too different to a standard Q8 out on a quiet cruise. Adding to the calm is the mild-hybrid system whose electric motor, given enough charge in the lithium-ion battery, can relieve the engine of propulsion duties altogether for up to 40 seconds at steady speeds. Who’d have thought the SUV champ of the green hell would have some green credentials too?
The other revelation is the RS Q8’s unexpectedly comfy ride. The 295/35 ZR23 tyres have enough sidewall to take the initial impact, and the air suspension only softens the blow further. Still, you can’t be reckless on bad roads. When the asphalt vanishes altogether, it’s handy to have the option to switch to Off-road mode that has the ride height increase by 3.5 inches.
Should you buy one?
Sadly, big performance costs big money. RS Q8 prices start at Rs 2.07 crore (ex-showroom) and those who can stomach the price are sure to add a few lakhs of options to the final tally. The RS Q8 is expensive, no doubt, but then its sibling from Sant Agata Bolognese, the Lamborghini Urus, starts at Rs 3.15 crore. But let’s not get lost in numbers….
The RS Q8 has all the trappings of an Audi luxury car, it’s as entertaining to drive as a supercar and by virtue of being an SUV, it also fits into the India scheme of things like few other performance models can. Drive one and you just won’t be able to forget it.
The term ‘super SUV’ sounds about right.