In the world of design, often, minimalism delivers maximum results. In architecture, interior design and, of course, automobiles, minimalist design has a certain timelessness and universal appeal. Of the three German luxury car brands, Audi has been consistent with the adoption of this design principle. Though some of Audi’s model lines have tended to look a bit too similar to each other in the past, the decision to stay with minimalism as its leading design direction is paying dividends now. The language and character of many of Audi’s current model lines are more distinctive.
Even as Audi surges in the direction of EVs, and its e-Trons are becoming increasingly popular, the German brand continues to focus heavily on ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. And one of the latest from this portfolio that will get an upgrade is the Q8, Audi’s flagship SUV. The 2024 Q8 will be launched globally by next year and will make it to our shores too. The Q8 is just about five years old and though by average life-cycle timelines, that is usually time for a significant model modification, Audi designers and engineers, have decided to keep the changes to the new facelifted model subtle and so there are no major changes to the powertrains and underpinnings of the Q8. Does the facelift give the Q8 a new character? I travelled to Cape Town in South Africa for the global media test drive of the new Q8 to find out. Here are my first impressions.
One of the first answers from the Audi engineering team to my question about why a facelift now, was about how the Q8’s design, while being inherently still fresh, needed some cleaning up to make it even more refined and in keeping with minimalist principles. There has been more attention to detail so that the flow of colours, joints, and design lines are less hindered. So, one of the first aspects of the new face for the Q8 that strikes me is the large, thin-framed bonnet grille. While the design of the frame continues to be the same as before, the honeycomb’s design has changed. The dark black frame extends to include the section where the headlamp washer housing is positioned. This is a relatively small change, but it is something that helps improve the fascia’s impact. Since there aren’t any immediate plans for bringing the new SQ8 to India (though that and/ or the RS Q8 may eventually make it here), I spent most of the time with the Q8 turbo petrol during the test drive.
The overall design of the 2024 Q8 remains mostly identical to the current model and there are no changes to the body panels. However, the special paint finish you see in these pictures called Sakhir Gold is new and is a body colour that looks a bit off at first and very khaki-like. But under direct sunlight the paint sparkles and has a completely different impact. By the end of the day, I was in love with this colour. The Q8’s design is still fresh though, and it is befitting of a flagship in terms of its exclusivity and street presence. The black finish to the exterior design elements adds more character to my test mule. Some changes to the front fender and the air intakes also help enhance the sporty profile of the new Q8. Though the housing is similar, the headlamps now get HD Matrix LED laser lights with the option of customising the light signature. The new convex kinks within the light structure add more options and continue to offer immense light coverage on the road and individual elements light up to eliminate glare for oncoming traffic.
The side profile of the new Q8 is identical to the outgoing model and the only change one can notice will be the alloy wheels. Depending on the model variant, the rims could vary from 21 to 23 inches. The ones most likely to make it here will be the 21 or 22-inchers. The rear design of the Q8 is also largely similar, except for the lighting elements. The new tail-lamps feature OLEDs with a new light signature that is also customisable. One smart addition to the tail-lamps is the sensor that activates the brake light if another vehicle is detected at the rear within two metres, when the Q8 is parked.
Changes to the 2024 Q8’s interior are also subtle, and much like the exterior changes, the focus has been on choosing new materials, used to deliver a plusher touch and feel. Much of the cabin is identical to the outgoing model and, mind you, that keeps the Q8’s cabin still very luxurious and appealing. The dashboard orientation, its layered concept and even individual elements have all been carried forward, though the materials, textures and finishes used have been altered. What is new is the choice of brushed aluminium, wood, or carbon-fibre trim panels to choose from. The centre console is where the touch and feel of the new materials is most felt. The Audi virtual cockpit with its set of screens behind the wheel and topping the centre stack is still the choice for the interface. The menu has been perfected and if the amount of info delivered is still not enough for you, there is also the heads-up display that guides one with navigation info., etc.
The amount of space available in the cabin is the same as in the current model. There has been no change structurally and so the already generous amounts of legroom and kneeroom for front and rear passengers continue. The seats are expected to be heated and ventilated, though a few of the vehicles at the test drive only had heating. The other feature missing in the Ingolstadt registered (German-spec) test mules was a sunroof, though the India-spec imports will have panoramic glass roofs. The other features in the cabin include the fantastic Bang & Olufsen music system, multi-zone climate control, a high-def rear-view camera, surround view, and, in addition to a dedicated App Store, there is also additional info on the virtual cockpit displayed in high-def for lane change, traffic light info, etc.
The 2024 Q8 carries forward the powertrain options that the current model already offers. Audi India doesn’t offer any diesel engines in this portfolio and so the new Q8 will only be offered with one engine option — the turbocharged, 3-litre, TFSI engine. This 6-cylinder, Otto engine bearing the model nomenclature Q8 55 TFSI delivers a peak power of 340PS and a maximum torque of 500Nm. There is no clarity yet about the possibility of the SQ8 or the RS Q8 making it here. During the test drive in and around Cape Town I only got to experience the 55 TFSI. The engine is mated to Audi’s 8-speed triptronic automatic transmission, with Quattro permanent four-wheel drive. With the assistance of a mild-hybrid system, and a wide power and torque band, the Q8 accelerates effortlessly. Top speed has been electronically limited to 250kmph and the 0-100kmph run takes 5.6 seconds. The engine continues to offer efficiency-focused features including the coasting function where the engine is shut off for up to 40 seconds while coasting at speeds between 55-160 kmph and when the driver has lifted off the accelerator pedal. The powertrain feels agile but not exactly sporty like the SQ8. Yet, it is refined and did not ever feel strained during the test drive.
The test mule I drove also featured four-wheel steering, so manoeuvring this behemoth wasn’t a problem at all even in city driving conditions. As for the ride quality, the adaptive air suspension with its selective damping makes sure that the new Q8 feels planted and confident both on the straights and into corners despite its size and weight. The ride quality is balanced and focused on offering a calm right with a comfort bias. The excellent tarmac on the city streets and highways around Cape Town was hardly a test for the Q8’s suspension.
The new Q8 in its 55 TFSI form is the one that will be available at the nearest Audi showroom by the second half of next year. The facelift and the minor model upgrade refresh the Audi flagship and make it feel plusher and cleaner in design. Expect prices for the 2024 Q8 to be in the region of about ₹1.25 crore, ex-showroom.