Audi was very early to the full-size EV SUV game when it launched the original e-tron back in 2018. But EVs have come a long way in just five years, and the e-tron was looking a bit long in the tooth (and short in range). It’s fine timing, then, for Audi to refresh its offering with the 2024 Q8 e-tron, an EV powertrain version of its Q8 two-row luxury SUV.
Though the new model is on the same overall platform as the original, and shares many aspects with the gas-powered Q8, Audi was able to find improvements in performance, range, and driving dynamics — plus, a thoroughly refreshed design — to get competitive.
The biggest change is visual, though it may be a bit less striking if you’ve already seen a gas-powered Q8. Coming from the original e-tron, the new Q8 has a completely redesigned front end with a sleeker grille (including sleeker 2D Audi rings) and new functional ducting in the corners to help channel air around the front tires for better efficiency. New aerodynamic wheel designs, plus a few nips and tucks elsewhere are icing on the cake — and I appreciate the new laser-etched model designation on the b-pillar and black model badging on the back.
It’s simple and handsome, with just a little flair thrown in. So … it looks like an Audi. And the design is a whole heck of a lot better than the Mercedes EQE SUV, which is a direct competitor in price, size, and range. Though neither company is taking anything approaching a risk with colors — hope you like shades of grey.
Something I didn’t even think about until reviewing my photos later is that “e-tron” isn’t found on the rear, just “Q8” — you have to look to the fender charge door to know it’s an EV. As I discussed after driving the Q4 e-tron last year, this is a good thing. Not everyone needs their EV to shout “I’m a new electric car, look at me!” — and that’s likely even more the case with the typical Audi buyer. They care that they’re getting an Audi first and foremost; the fact that it’s an EV is more of a side note.
It was heartening to hear that the sloped “Sportback” version is historically around 15% of sales because the standard SUV just downright looks better. And for the huge size of this thing, it seems silly to chop the rear seat headroom and cargo space. Even if you don’t care about that extra space, the Sportback also has atrocious rearview and blind spot visibility, which is annoying on the road where the (admittedly great) surround cameras aren’t in use. And for all that, the Sportback has a higher starting price, too.
A full day behind the wheel in Northern California let me see how the Q8 e-tron handles a variety of roads and driving situations: casually navigating rural roads through vineyards, taking on the twisty coastline on Highway 1, and setting cruise control on inevitable freeway stretches to get between them.
The Q8 e-tron lives up to its billing providing an extremely smooth and quiet ride. Whether I was on cruise control at 80 mph on the 101 or moving along cracked and uneven side roads, there was very little cabin noise. That wasn’t always the case in my time driving a model with larger-than-standard wheels, though — there was a noticeable increase in road noise hitting the cabin. Though it may not look as cool, I’d recommend going for the smaller 20-inch wheels to get more tire between you and the road. This is a luxury SUV, after all.
The Q8 e-tron is built to be quiet, smooth, and effortless. Mission accomplished.
The adaptive air suspension definitely deserves some credit for the ride quality, which can be adjusted for both height and firmness depending on the drive mode you select. Though “dynamic” mode is available for the sharpest performance, keeping it in “comfort” I still felt like there was far less side-to-side body movement than to be expected — and of course, it was far less harsh. Paired with a new tighter steering ratio, the Q8 e-tron felt more nimble than I expected for a 5800-pound SUV.
With 402 horsepower available flowing through dual electric motors, the Q8 e-tron is plenty fast. As I remarked at a lunch break halfway through our drive, “This thing hustles more than anyone would ever expect a big SUV to.” The 5.4-second 0-60 time is subtly faster than the gas-powered Q8 and is absolutely “enough” for any normal driver. Like all EVs the power is available instantly, all the time — and the dual motors will provide peace of mind in inclement weather.
Audi’s drivetrain programming is great, too. Power is delivered smoothly at all speeds, though there’s a wide variation in pedal responsiveness between “efficiency,” “comfort,” and “dynamic” mode. In the latter you unlock an extra portion of “boost” power, bringing a little extra shove. In regular driving, I appreciated the intelligent transition between coasting at high speeds to regenerative breaking at lower speeds and in corners. Though you always have the option of flipping the wheel-mounted paddles for on-demand energy regeneration.
For a big SUV that starts near $75,000 — and most models will come in north of $80,000 — you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s a very comfortable place to spend time. Despite my 6-foot-4-inch frame, I had tons of headroom and shoulder room, and there’s an incredible amount of adjustability in the seat and steering wheel to get the right fit. I made regular use of the ventilated seats as well. New for this model are open-pore wood inlay options, which complemented the copious ambient lighting and soft black leather in my test cars nicely.
And though most central stack controls are now touch rather than physical buttons, Audi’s force-feedback tech in the screens gives you a better idea of when you’re engaging the screen. It isn’t as good as just having physical buttons and is often more distracting since you still have to look down to find where you’re touching, it’s better than most. I’m perhaps more upset with the shiny piano black plastic around the controls, which is a dust and fingerprint smudge magnet.
Inside, new packaging for the battery cells brings more capacity in the same physical size, bumping the Q8 e-tron to a 114 kWh pack. That’s a big battery, but this is also a big SUV — and now it has the range you’d expect. The Q8 e-tron steps up to a 285-mile range, substantially higher than the outgoing model and well within the range of most peoples’ driving needs — particularly Audi owners, which often have more than one car.
The teardrop shape of the Sportback model brings one advantage here: It ekes out 296 miles on a charge, and the optional “ultra package” gets you to 300 miles. That difference may not be as important as extra cargo space, but hey, at least there’s something good coming from that chopped roof.
Those cell changes also lead to an increased charging speed, now 170 kW, good for a 10% to 80% charge in 31 minutes — provided you can find a capable DC Fast charger. In my one day driving the car I wasn’t able to experience the charging speeds, unfortunately, but it was nice to see that charging location information is baked right into the car’s navigation system to help ease range anxiety.
With serious range and fresh styling, the Q8 e-tron gets competitive.
Audi knows that this is a potential sticking point for buyers and has three great programs to help alleviate concerns. You get two years of free Electrify America charging — yes, completely free. You can build the cost of a home charger right into your lease or financing plan. And when you’re truly going somewhere charging isn’t feasible, you get a week of free “Audi on demand” rental credit to road-trip in a gas-powered car. The company recognizes that while it’s been making EVs for several years, a vast majority of people are still looking to buy their first EV and these concerns are top of mind.
The Q8 e-tron starts at a hefty $74,400, or $77,800 if you’d prefer the Sportback. The entry point is $1,600 more than the 20mpg gas-powered Q8, which makes this interesting if you’re actually still on the fence about an EV. The gas-powered model is nearly identical, with similar horsepower and performance … and no battery concerns. There’s a good argument that someone spending $85,000 on an SUV doesn’t really care about the cost of gasoline; but for anyone who is set on moving to an EV, Audi has an otherwise no-compromise luxury barge that’ll effortlessly take on your daily driving in silence and comfort.
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