PRETORIA - It’s big, it’s bold, it’s luxurious, it’s comfortable, it’s diesel and it’s German so you know what you’re getting.
Fitting in near the top of Audi’s Q range (now that a limited number of SQ8 TDI models have arrived) the Q8 45 TDI quattro is a very compelling alternative to the 3.0 V6 turbo-charged petrol model. And while you pay a premium for the diesel, I reckon it’s well worth it.
The 3.0 litre V6 turbo-diesel engine seems to have no end in its power when you decide to use all of its 183kW and 600Nm of torque and as with all of Audi’s gearboxes, the eight-speed Tiptronic fitted here combines perfectly to push the heavy SUV along effortlessly.
It provides a relaxed drive that isn’t too hard on the pocket when it comes to fuel consumption and with that amount of torque towing anything large like a fully loaded horsebox wouldn’t provide much of a challenge.
The styling people at Ingolstadt have also managed to get it right for what they classify as a SUV coupe, the fact that it has four doors notwithstanding, that nomenclature indicating two doors having long been discarded by manufacturers.
It’s visually striking to be sure and won’t ever be considered a wallflower. With the optional S-Line Platinum package fitted to the test car that has 22-inch alloys, red brake calipers, adaptive air suspension and some nice to haves on the exterior, the Q8 drew many curious glances.
It gets even better inside where you feel like you’re in the Starship Enterprise including the comfortable seats and driving position. It’s quite confusing at first with two screens and the Virtual Cockpit facing you with a mirriad of menus and options to choose from but once you get the hang of it it’s easy enough and as an owner you’ll have plenty of time to explore it.
The two touchscreens in the centre have haptic feedback so when you select an option it gives a “click” like you’ve pressed a button. The top screen houses most of the functions while the second screen takes care of climate control and ventilation. As you would expect Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is supported.
The black and brushed-metal surfaces and outstanding finishes give it an air of proper sophistication.
We took it on a lengthy drive around the Cradle of HumanKind that included some dirt tracks, highway driving and twisty sections.
Sure it’s not exceptionally fleet-footed and it’s not intended to be but for a car this size in Dynamic mode it handles itself exceptionally well and it never waivered while the steering is direct and reassuring.
On the dirt you can raise the ride height to 254mm so it will take on some difficult tracks but if you intend to do regular visits to game parks I would suggest staying with the standard 20-inch higher profile tyre.
Its bread and butter though is highway cruising or long stretches of tar.
Curfew was a lot earlier than it was now and a friend and I had to be back after we had helped a mate with some repairs to his car.
The roads were almost deserted and while there may be a slight turbo lag on take-off once the big Q8 gets up to speed the engine feels like it’s never going to run out of torque while it hunkers down and willingly gobbles up the kilometres in extreme comfort.
We averaged just under 10km/L during our time with it and considering the size and weight of the car, that’s very impressive.
As you would expect in a car that’s priced at over R1.5-million there’s every safety feature you can imagine if things go awry as well as Matrix LED headlights that shine into tomorrow while adjusting themselves to avoid blinding oncoming traffic. Sound is courtesy of a 3D Bang & Olufsen set-up and many of the options are easily controlled from its well-fitting steering wheel.
The Q8 45 TDI quattro isn’t cheap by any means, and it doesn’t have the option of fitting seven seats but it’s an incredibly smooth operator and as the halo product in the Q range it wears the crown proudly.