Home / Home / Audi Q8 e-tron Sportback Review – Unassuming Audi Flagship

 

The Audi Q8 Sportback 55 e-tron is a well-equipped car that is expected to represent Audi India’s electric line-up. We put its capabilities to the test in demanding urban conditions.

Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

Our first drive experience with the Audi Q8 Sportback e-tron in Bengaluru was positive. It promised improvements on the e-tron it was replacing and lived up to expectations in all departments. Back then, I drove it mostly over smooth, quiet roads and impeccable highways. Barely got any time to understand what it would be like to live with every day. Here follows an experience of what the Audi electric car flagship was like to use in Pune.

Audi are offering the Q8 e-tron in two body styles; there is an SUV and a Sportback. Personally, I prefer the smooth lines and curvy shape of the Sportback and, as you can make out from the pictures, it looks smashing in red. The rate of electric vehicle (EV) adoption is slowly gaining momentum in India and the public have come to associate certain design cues with an electric car. Audi have broken those stereotypes with the Sportback. Without the green registration plate, it would be difficult to tell this one is powered by a battery pack. The chrome emblem has been replaced by a dark, two-dimensional version of the four rings which goes well with this car’s styling. LED lighting all around offers good illumination/visibility and Audi have thrown in a party trick in the form of a dynamic start-up sequence. However, the crowd favourite were the self-righting wheel centres with the Audi emblem.

Inside the cabin of the Sportback, things are quintessentially Audi. Not a panel, button or seat looks out of place. Nothing seems unnecessary. Overall, it is a nice space to be in but between the two rows, I would pick the one in the front. Those seats are significantly better equipped in terms of features and comfort. Who would not like cooled seats and a massage on a hot day? Furthermore, their contours hold the driver and passenger firmly in place through the corners. There is no compromise on comfort in the second row either but they are not as well-equipped. The seats are plush and one could spend all day there looking out of the window while enjoying the clarity and range of the Bang and Olufsen 3D surround sound system. Dedicated air-conditioning for the second row further improves the ambience but does it befit a flagship product? Yes and no. It is a safe and sound cocoon that is among the best in its class. The materials used are top-notch, as is the fit-and-finish but it lacks exclusivity. Is that not necessary for a flagship product?

The touchscreen may look like a conventional set-up but it offers haptic feedback which made it easier to operate without taking my eyes off the road. It supports wired smartphone connectivity which is seamless and easy to use but I have grown familiar with the convenience offered by modern wireless systems.

We topped off the 114-kWh battery to 100 per cent capacity on a regular charger (22 kW) and the charging times were consistent with what the manufacturer claimed. It must be said that there was a notable improvement in the rate of charging over its predecessor. Following a full charge on Thursday afternoon with an indicated range of more than 500 km, we were able to use the car over the weekend and well into Monday.

One motor on each axle form the quattro system of the Sportback. They develop a combined output of 408 hp and 664 Nm of torque. On the road, it means acceleration that belies this car’s size and weight. Audi’s claimed 0-100 km/h figure of 5.6 seconds felt like an easy target to achieve when the throttle was floored.

That may sound intimidating but Audi’s choice of driving modes makes life a lot easier in most conditions. In town, I always used either Efficiency or Comfort mode. Various parameters, including throttle response, steering response, and ride height, are optimized for ease of use. It allows one to drive without any stress over poor roads and speed-breakers. For anything worse than that, choose the off-road or allroad mode. In these modes, the car increases its ground clearance up to 176 mm and that allows it to tackle the most daunting patches without having the driver sweating bullets behind the wheel. Once free of the congestion of town, most would appreciate the urgency offered by Dynamic mode. At times, I felt like its ferocity would overcome the Sportback’s stability when going around a curve at speed but until the end of my time with the car, it remained as a feeling only. For something that weighs close to 2.5 tonnes, body-roll is inevitable but in the Sportback, it is minimal.

Such discipline would not be possible without the impeccable quattro system and Bridgestone tyres but I was most impressed by the air suspension. The way it adapts to the driving conditions is extremely intuitive. It allows the car to deliver a flawless ride over poor surfaces and then somehow digs deeper to produce the precision needed to go around a corner at amazing speed. To keep speed in check, there are disc brakes all around plus regenerative braking. In this latest iteration, one can select the levels of regen using paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel and they are not reset until the driver opts to do so. In terms of safety, Audi have left no stone unturned and this car’s cabin could be a good place to be in should things go out of control.

At the end of my time with the Sportback, I was hard pressed to recall a moment of fear, indecision or discomfort. I had driven this expensive big car along narrow roads, in rush-hour traffic, and on my favourite twisty routes. At all times, this Audi asked very little from me as a driver. It was more than happy to carry most of the weight in the driver-car relationship. Yes, it relies heavily on electronics and, thankfully, Audi have among the best systems in the world.

Even the most difficult and mundane drives are broken down into a stress-free experience by the Q8 Sportback e-tron. It is easy to drive and would have been a great chauffeur-driven car if Audi had paid more attention to the second row of seats. This is the Audi Q8 Sportback 55 e-tron and it costs Rs 1.30 crore (ex-showroom) which is actually not much over what its predecessor cost. For the kind of kit and tech on offer, the Q8 Sportback e-tron offers phenomenal value for money when compared to the car it replaces.

Watch the first drive video review here:

Also Read: Land Rover Defender 110 P300 Review

 

About the author: Joshua Varghese

 

Would gape at fast cars. Still does but now has a chance to drive some of them. Hates driving in traffic but makes up for with a spot of off-roading or the occasional track outing. Insta: @motoknight

 

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