When Audi first launched its electric range, it called its first model the e-tron. Since then e-tron has become the umbrella term for its entire electric line-up, and so the original was rebadged as the Q8 e-tron and sits above the Q4 e-tron SUV and the sporty e-tron GT.
The naming here is a little confusing, as the standard Q8 e-tron is closer in looks and style to the Q7 ICE model. However, the Q8 Sportback e-tron has an even sportier rear than the Q8 petrol- and diesel-engined models.
Aside from its sporting looks, the shape of the Q8 Sportback e-tron makes it more aerodynamic, and that means a better range of up to 343, compared to 330. With prices starting from just over £70k, it also looks pretty competitive. I took a drive of the new model at its UK launch event in March to try it out.
Design and features
As previously mentioned, the Audi Q8 e-tron comes in two distinct versions: the standard Q8 e-tron and the Sportback version. Unless you really need that extra boot space, the Sportback is the better-looking car and has that slight range advantage.
Further to that differentiation, there are two battery sizes and four editions, starting from the Sport, followed by the S line, the Black Edition and the Vorsprung as the ultimate edition. In the Sportback that means a range of prices from a starting £70,300 to £117,000 for the S-badged SQ e-tron Vorsprung edition. The model I drove was the 55 e-tron Black Edition, with an on-the-road price of £87,650.
The Black Line features 5-arm 21-inch black alloys, adaptive sport air suspension and gloss black exterior touches, while on the inside it has leather sports seats and a leather 3-spoke steering wheel. The flagship Vorsprung edition and the SQ8 models (Black Edition and Vorsrung) feature a number of additional packs as standard, including the Bang & Olufsen Premium sound system, a head-up display and the Parking Assist Pack and the Virtual Cockpit Plus to the car. The SQ8 models also have wider 10.5-inch wheels.
A few big notable changes to this new version are a new front bumper and grill with a flat badge rather than the previous chrome version – presumably an aerodynamic benefit. There’s also the option of virtual door mirrors, which display on screens inside the car, but more on those later.
I love the look of the Q8, especially this Sportback version finished in the Chronos grey metallic. There’s also a range of pearl effect and exclusive paint finishes if you are looking for something extra special.
In the centre of the dash is a 10.1-inch display with an 8.6-inch display below it that displays many of the climate controls and vehicle functions. The MMI Touch system provides a haptic touch to the screens, which is unlike most touchscreens in that it requires a firm push. This can make it easier to use on the move, avoiding wrong presses, but does take some getting used to.
Behind the steering wheel, the virtual cockpit is a 12.3-inch display. This displays not only the speed and rev counter but also the navigation and driver assistance information. The Virtual Cockpit Plus on the Vorsprung and SQ8 versions adds extra viewing options.
The technology pack is available as standard on the Vorsprung and SQ8 models, or for £2995 on all other editions. This adds the Bang & Olufsen sound system, ambient interior lighting, and head-up display. It also includes the 360 camera and Park Assist Plus functions.
The Parking Aid provides guidance for you to manually park easier, with warnings and instructions. However, the Park Assist Plus takes control of the parking manoeuvers while the driver holds down the button on the console.
Adaptive cruise control and lane assist are available as part of the Tour Pack (£1995 or standard on the Vorsprung and SQ models). This also provides safety features such as emergency assist and swerve assist.
The virtual door mirrors are also available as an option (£1750 or standard on the Vorsprung and SQ models). Rather than using glass wing mirrors, a camera sits on a thin stalk and is displayed on a 7-inch OLED screen inset in the door on either side. The screens are impressive and constantly adjust the exposure for the optimum image, though it takes some getting used to as the screens are lower than you are used to looking for wing mirrors. Also, while the camera stalks are more subtle than regular wing mirrors (and reduce drag), they still protrude the same distance from the car.
Hopefully, in time, Audi will be able to use cameras built into the body of the car to replace these stalks altogether. I love the idea of virtual mirrors but the current offering doesn’t have me completely sold.
While the interior feels well-made and very solid, it feels more practical than opulent. Despite the leather details, the model I drove felt sporty rather than built for comfort. In many ways, it feels more like a driver’s car than some EVs, but others may miss the more luxurious offerings of the alternative SUV EV models in the market.
Driving and performance
There are two battery options for the Audi Q8 e-tron. The 50 e-tron is a 95kWh while the 55 e-tron is a 114kWh battery, these give a range of upto 290 miles for the 50 and 343 miles for the 55. That bigger battery 55 model also offers more power and a faster acceleration, providing 408 metric horsepower (PS) and a 5.6-second 0-62mph. There’s also the SQ8 e-tron, which uses a 114kWh battery and delivers 503ps and a 0-62mph of 4.5 seconds. However, the range is reduced to 284 miles.
The 114kWh battery models (55 e-tron and SQ8 e-tron) can also charge at upto 170kW, which is a potential 31 minutes from 10% to 80%.
While the 55 e-tron is faster than the likes of the standard BMW iX and the Mercedes EQE 350 AMG, it’s no match for the BMW iX xDrive50 M Sport or even the Mercedes EQE SUV 500 AMG. Though it is considerably cheaper than both.
The SQ8 e-tron does compete with the likes of these and while it’s not quite as powerful as the BMW iX M60, it’s a decent performance for the price.
The Q8 e-tron 55 I drove handled the roads really well. That air suspension allows for a relaxed ride for comfort but stiffens nicely in sport mode and makes corning feel solid. There’s plenty of acceleration, and you never feel like it’s a big car, thanks in part to the lower driving position.
The Audi Q8 Sportback e-tron is a very compelling option for the money. It offers an excellent range figure and plenty of power, particularly in the 55 e-tron version. Advanced driving features such as driving assistance and parking are available but come at an extra cost, which could mitigate the cost advantage but certainly don’t price it out of the running.
The virtual door mirrors are an option that shows forward thinking by Audi but won’t be to everyone’s taste, and are probably something I could live without. Equally, the haptic touch screen feels like something I’ve not missed in other cars.
For Audi Q drivers, this car makes the perfect transition to electric and I have no doubt will make a sterling flagship for the e-tron range. While it’s likely to be the SUV version that makes up most of the sales, for me, the Sportback is the model that adds something extra and is well worth sticking on your shortlist.
The Audi Q8 Sportback e-tron does offer an alternative to most SUV electric models, but there are still a few others that offer some alternatives. The first is the Mercedes EQE SUV. This luxury SUV version of the EQE has a similar sportback look to the design, making it more aerodynamic and delivering the car up to 334 miles of range, despite the smaller 90kWh battery. Plus the 500 version delivers an impressive 4.9-second 0-62mph. Starting from £90,560, considerably more expensive though.
A slightly less obvious alternative is the Skoda Enyaq Coupé iV vRS. Despite being £10k more expensive than the regular Enyaq iV 80, at £54,370 it’s nearly £17k less than the Audi Q8 Sportback e-tron. For the money it also offers a 323 mile range, though the 0-62mph is a second slower at 6.4 seconds, and the battery charges up to a maximum power of 135kW. Still, it’s a lot of car for the money, and comes in colours other than that bright green.