When this large SUV was originally launched in 2018, it was Audi’s first production electric car and it was simply called the Audi e-tron. Since then, the e-tron family of fully electric vehicles has grown, so after a facelift in late 2022, it was renamed the Audi Q8 e-tron. And of course, it’s a much busier market now, so the Q8 e-tron’s rivals now include the Genesis Electrified GV70, BMW iX, and Mercedes-Benz EQC, to name but a few.
Priced from £70,195, it’s available in two body styles – a conventional SUV or a sleeker “coupe-SUV”, marketed as the Q8 ‘Sportback’ e-tron. Additionally, four-wheel drive (‘quattro’ in Audi speak) is standard.
There are two versions of the electric powertrain (50 and 55). The entry-level 335bhp 50 model comes with an 89kWh battery, a range of up to 290 miles and a 0-62mph time of six seconds.
Upgrade to a 55 with 403bhp and you get a 106kWh battery that will manage up to 343 miles, while the sprint to 62mph takes 5.6 seconds.
It’s also worth mentioning that if range is your priority, the more streamlined Sportback can deliver up to 13 more miles than the SUV-bodied car (on paper).
The smaller-battery 50 model can charge at a maximum rate of 150kW, while the 55 gets up to 170kW. A 10-80% charge takes 28 or 31 minutes respectively.
If you want a sportier variant, then go for the more expensive SQ8 e-tron, which delivers blistering performance and tuned driving dynamics, but at the expense of range.
I tested the Audi Q8 Sportback e-tron 55 quattro Launch Edition. Loaded with extras, it ended up just shy of £100,000. The trim range now consists of Sport, S line, Black Edition and Vorsprung.
The handsome Q8 Sportback e-tron 55 has serious road presence and, because it looks so similar to Audi’s conventional 4x4s – inside and out – it makes that switch from fossil fuels to battery electric so much smoother.
Chunky yet athletic, its streamlined profile gives it superb kerb appeal, while its interior is just what you expect from Audi – a classy blend of soft-touch surfaces, leather, brushed chrome and state-of-the-art technology. The finish and build quality are faultless, too.
The cabin is spacious with ample room for rear seat passengers and a large 569-litres of boot space (1,637-litres with the back seats folded), plus 60-litres under the bonnet (ideal for storing cables).
Naturally, the driving position offers a commanding view of the road, while the level of refinement on the road is outstanding.
Tech highlights include Audi’s slick infotainment system utilising twin touchscreens, the lower of which displays the climate controls and drive mode options. The haptic touch buttons take a bit of getting used to but are much more efficient than touch-sensitive equivalents.
There’s also a digital driver’s display behind the steering wheel, with clear graphics.
Drive modes include Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual, Off Road and All Road.
My test car was also fitted with optional virtual door mirrors, and to be honest, they marred my week with the otherwise excellent Q8 Sportback e-tron.
Not only are they an expensive gimmick (£1,750), but they look awful and stick out just as much as a conventional door mirror (imagine how much it would cost if one got knocked off in the street).
Annoyingly, the camera-produced image is displayed on door-mounted screens positioned lower than a door mirror, forcing you to look down at the door rather than across and out of the side window.
What’s more, it’s hard to work out how far away a car is and its closing speed, meaning you’re never 100% confident. Sometimes I even physically looked over my shoulder on the motorway before pulling out. Putting the virtual door mirrors to one side (most customers do), the Q8 Sportback e-tron is a class act.
Air suspension is standard and the ride is super smooth. I tried it off-road too (nothing too extreme) and it was just as impressive there, soaking up the lumps and bumps with ease.
Put your foot down and there’s that instant torque that all EVs deliver, yet it’s even more impressive in this mighty 2.6-tonne SUV. What’s more, because you’re so cocooned in the cabin, it doesn’t feel as fast as it actually is.
On the road, its agility seems to defy the laws of physics (it’s 4,915mm x 1,935mm x 1,619mm), delivering a composed and planted experience regardless of whether you’re cruising on a motorway or enjoying challenging country roads.
In fact, in its class, only the Jaguar I-Pace can offer this kind of dynamism. Not only does the suspension prevent the car from leaning too much through corners, but the big 21-inch tyres deliver stacks of grip and the steering is solid and precise.
Of course, its bulk can make it a handful in town, but with decent visibility, cameras and all-round sensors, you soon adjust.
The brakes are more progressive than most EVs and, in Auto drive mode especially, there’s clever tech which anticipates junctions, corners and traffic up ahead, subtly assisting with the braking.
My test car also came with useful paddles behind the steering wheel which allow you to adjust the amount of regenerative braking on the move.
If you can afford it, then the bigger-battery version would seem to be a no-brainer, given its extra range. I managed a slightly disappointing 2.5-2.9 miles for every kWh of energy, so I’d estimate its real-world range is in the late 200s, which still makes it a serious everyday proposition.
A few other things worth mentioning. The Q8 e-tron is packed with safety and driver assistance aids and it’s rated for towing up to 1,800kg of braked trailer, which is pretty good for an EV.
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