Sport-utility vehicles are more popular than ever and within that segment, performance utes are hot sellers. Audi’s jumped into the market in the U.S. with its first-ever performance large SUV, the new RS Q8.
The German premium brand’s newest ute “combines the genes of a high-performance RS model with the practicality of an SUV and the dynamic design of an Audi coupe,” the company notes.
It features a 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 putting out 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. The turbocharged engine accelerates the large SUV from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds and achieves a top track speed of 155 mph, or 190 mph when equipped with the RS ceramic brakes. The RS Q8 is currently the fastest production SUV to lap the renowned Nürburgring racetrack with an official time of 7 minutes and 42.2 seconds, Audi noted.
The engine is mated to the quattro all-wheel drive system through a standard eight-speed Tiptronic transmission. The set up gives the driver high-precision and dynamic handling through active torque distribution to both axles.
The system transfers torque to the front and rear axles at a standard ratio of 40:60, but when circumstances dictate, the system can transfer the majority of the power to the axle with better traction. Up to 70% can be directed to the front wheels and up to 85% to the rear wheels.
Wheel-selective torque control helps to improve the agile handling of the large-SUV by providing additional traction modifications across each axle, Audi says. During dynamic cornering, the quattro sport rear differential distributes drive torque between the rear wheels as required. This active torque vectoring helps improve traction, stability and dynamics.
This performance of the powertrain is enhanced with the RS Q8’s standard adaptive air suspension with controlled damping. The new ute is, according to Audi, equally adept on or off road. However, it’s an RS so it’s really designed to shine when on the road. The RS-specific damper tuning offers drivers a choice between long-distance comfort and high performance.
Standard all-wheel steering offers for greater agility at low speeds and improved stability at high speeds while standard active roll stabilization upgrades the vehicle’s driving dynamics by actively distributing roll torque between the front and rear axles.
When driving straight ahead, the two halves of the stabilizer are decoupled, which can reduce body movement on uneven roads and also help to increase ride comfort. During cornering, however, the halves of the stabilizer are twisted in opposite directions, which helps to reduce vehicle lean.
Drivers can customize their driving experience through the standard Audi drive select system with seven different profiles: comfort, auto, dynamic, allroad, offroad and the individually configurable RS-specific modes RS1 and RS2, which can be activated directly via the “‘RS-MODE’” button on the steering wheel.
The Audi drive select setting influences the engine and transmission management, power steering, the air suspension, all-wheel steering and engine sound. With variable ground clearance, short overhangs and hill descent control, the new Audi RS Q8 can carry on confidently when paved roads end.
The focus on performance isn’t just limited to how fast it goes or how well it corners. The company’s specialized ignition sequence gives the RS Q8 a specialized sound. However, owners can also change it to something they find more compelling.
The RS Q8 certainly remains tied to the well-known exterior styling cues for the RS family, including the octagonal Singleframe grille and the RS-specific honeycomb design along with HD Matrix-design LED headlights with LED daytime running lights. The look is accented by front air inlets in gloss black and the alu-optic front spoiler.
The utes roofline melds into gently inclined D-pillars, which are supported by wide, pronounced wheel arches, meanwhile an RS roof-edge spoiler provides downforce on the rear axle for improved balance at high speeds. At the back of the vehicle, RS-specific rear bumpers with alu-optic diffuser trim as well as LED taillights complete the athletic look of the SUV.
Audi puts the SUV on standard 22-inch 10-spoke star design wheels with summer tires or available 23-inch 5-Y-spoke rotor design wheels in matte titanium. Available painted steel brake calipers in red or available ceramic brakes in red or gray.
The interior of the new RS Q8 features a slim instrument with the MMI touch response system. With its black-panel look, it seemingly dissolves into a large, black surface when switched off. Special RS displays in the standard Audi virtual cockpit with a 12.3-inch display offers information such as output, g-forces, lap times, drivetrain temperatures, and torque and tire pressure, and the optional head-up display also offers several RS-specific graphics.
The ute comes with a slew of safety and convenience features including adaptive cruise assist, which combines the functions of adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist and active lane assist. The 2020 Audi RS Q8 packs all of this into one package for just $113,000, excluding the $995 destination and handling fee. However, the automaker warns that the “dealer sets the actual price,” which means if these prove to be popular and scarce, you might be paying even more.