Audi's jacked-up Q8 e-tron is a Dakar desert racer for the road... sort of

Limited run electric SUV is here to tackle 'light' off-road terrain

Audi Q8 e-tron edition Dakar
(Image credit: Audi)

The Dakar Rally is underway in Saudi Arabia and a handful of very skilful lunatics are busy piloting heavily modified cars, motorcycles, quad bikes and trucks flat out across some of the world's most treacherous terrain.

Audi is taking part with its innovative RS Q e-tron this year - a specially developed electric racer that pairs an electric drivetrain with an energy converter to increase range. 

Unfortunately, you can’t buy it, but for €120,000/£105,000/$130,000/AUS$196,000, Audi will sell you one of its limited run Q8 e-tron edition Dakar models instead.

It is heavily 'inspired' by the infamous desert race and as a result, features an increased ground clearance (now up to 206mm), massive General Grabber AT3 all-terrain tyres (Audi gives customers eight, in case of punctures) and wider wheel arches for a more aggressive stance.

Audi Q8 e-tron edition Dakar

(Image credit: Audi)

The German marque has also seen fit to add a roof rack, which can handle loads of up to 40kg, which should be enough for a spare wheel or two, while a bespoke weatherproof bag has been created to store excess kit up top. There’s even a special boot liner, so sandy equipment doesn’t mess up your storage space.

Customers can select Siam Beige metallic, Mythos Black metallic or Magnetic Grey colour schemes, while an optional decal package offers an extra nod to the RS Q model running the race.

Inside, there are plenty of elements that remind owners and occupants exactly where the budget has been blown, including sports seats, stainless steel pedals, brushed aluminium trim inlays and a head-up display that projects driver information onto the windshield.

Audi Q8 e-tron edition Dakar

(Image credit: Audi)

Open the doors outside your Bedouin tent at night, and you’ll be greeted with the words "edition Dakar" beamed onto the sand. It works equally as well when you are parked up outside the 24/7 Tesco.

Alas, there has been no massive changes to performance - it's exactly what you get from the standard Q8 55 e-tron model. That means a 106.0-kWh battery supplying power to dual motors, which in turn drive all four wheels.

Expect just over 400bhp and a chunky 664 Nm, which is enough to dispatch of the 0-62mph sprint in a respectable 5.8 seconds. Electric range is pegged at 302-miles, although the inhospitable nature of Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter will likely eat into that.

Leon Poultney

Leon has been writing about automotive and consumer tech for longer than he cares to divulge. When he’s not testing the latest fitness wearable and action camera, he’s out in a shed fawning over his motorcycles or trying not to kill himself on a mountain bike/surfboard/other extreme thing. He's also a man who knows his tools, and he's provided much of T3's drills coverage over the years, all without injuring himself.