2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron First Drive: A Perfectly Pleasant Experience
I’m not totally sure where this fallacy that every car needs to be good at everything came from. Sure, modern vehicles are more versatile and capable than ever, but your minivan doesn’t need to set a Nurburgring lap time, you know? Trying to be good at both being a minivan and being a track rat means it will be bad at both.
The same thing is true of electric cars. For example, your heavy, two-row electric SUV doesn’t need to do a 10-second quarter mile and carve corners like a hot hatch. Many EVs have tried this, and they’re ultimately disappointing. That’s why I find a car like the 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron SUV so refreshing. It doesn’t have delusions of grandeur. It’s focused on being an attractive, relentlessly pleasant electric luxury SUV, and it’s really good at that.
Full Disclosure: Audi wanted me to drive the 2024 Q8 E-Tron so badly that they let me fly out of Burbank to SFO and drove me to an expensive hotel in wine country where they let me order room service so I could work instead of having dinner with everyone else. I had a Meyer lemon tart for dessert.
What Is The Audi Q8 E-Tron?
The Q8 E-Tron is the new name for the electric SUV formerly known as E-Tron. It was meant to make it less confusing for shoppers looking for Audi’s electrified vehicles, and help establish its place as the halo model in the E-Tron lineup. Functionally, it’s very similar to the old car but notably improved in many key ways.
First, it offers better range thanks to a reworked battery pack that is the same physical size as the old one, but Audi arranged the cells differently inside it, allowing for more cells, and now has 114 kilowatt-hours of capacity, an improvement of 16 kWh over the previous version. The new pack design offers up a total EPA-estimated range of 285 miles in the SUV or 296 miles in the slipperier Sportback. Is it Tesla territory? Nope, but it should be plenty for most people almost all of the time.
Power is up as well, thanks to a reworked electric motor design that offers more windings that translate into a total peak of 402 hp. That’s not a mind-melting figure, and neither is the claimed 0-60 time of 5.4 seconds, but this isn’t a performance EV and shouldn’t be judged as one. It feels quick enough around town, and although highway on-ramps may not be the thrill you might go after, it’s quick enough they don’t become an issue either.
Audi also decided to fiddle around with the suspension and steering for this new Q8 E-Tron. Control arm bushing stiffness up front has been increased by 50 percent, which, when combined with a quicker steering rack, makes for a reasonably nimble vehicle. Steering assist has also increased, so you’re paying nothing in driving comfort for faster steering. Audi has fitted air suspension to both ends of the car, which offers a great ride and convenient ride height adjustments on the fly.
Continuing the theme of small but meaningful improvements, the Q8 E-Tron now supports up to 170kW DC fast charging. You’ll want to take advantage as much as you can as Audi is covering two years of unlimited Electrify America charging with every 2024 Q8 E-Tron. Level 2 charging is also faster thanks to a newly available 19.2kW onboard charger. The standard one is still decent, too, at 9.6kW. It’s worth mentioning that the optional charger will require a much beefier service to your wall box if you’re charging this at home. If you’re not charging at home, Audi’s available dual charge ports are pretty handy, allowing you considerably more flexibility at charging stations.
How Does The Audi Q8 E-Tron Drive?
Driving the Q8 E-Tron can be best described as perfectly pleasant. It’s roomy and comfortable with very adjustable seats, which make long stints behind the wheel a snap. Sure, you won’t find barn-burning performance here, but it has enough to have a little fun, playing into the strengths of EVs while asking very little in compromise from a day-to-day use standpoint.
The car’s weakest point from a driving perspective is Audi’s bizarre regenerative braking settings. Like most German cars, there is no true one-pedal drive mode, and while you can select different levels of regen with the steering wheel paddles, it returns to its default mode whenever you get back on the accelerator. It was so annoying to have to guess what kind of regen I was going to get when I let off the accelerator pedal that I gave up on controlling it altogether and just used the mechanical brakes. Obviously, if you don’t like regen, this is a non-issue, but if you’re a regenerative braking fiend like me, this could be a dealbreaker for you.
Beyond that admittedly minor issue, the Q8 E-Tron’s overall road manners are excellent. It offers high levels of ride comfort with light but accurate steering paired with enough performance to make the car sort of fade into the background as you’re driving it around. It’s not a car that ever screams for attention – from you as the driver or from other people – and instead it just goes about doing its job of being a very nice luxury SUV without a ton of fanfare. This is a huge win for Audi, as far as I’m concerned, because short of having a charger installed at your house, you generally don’t have to think about the Q8 E-Tron. You just get to enjoy it.
Audi Q8 E-Tron’s Interior and Tech
As an Audi, and a flagship model at that, the interior of the Q8 E-Tron is a very nice place to spend time. It’s extremely well-assembled using very upscale materials and has been designed in a thoughtful highly ergonomic manner, which makes most things in the cabin easy to find and to use. I’m not a big fan of the all-haptic controls that Audi has gone within many recent models, but of the fully non-physical control systems in cars today, this is among the best.
At the center of the dash, the MMI Touch infotainment system remains super snappy and easy to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto both connect wirelessly, which is a plus. The Bang and Olufsen stereo system is also pretty much the same as you’d find in most other modern Audis. It’s not incredible, but it’s not overly fatiguing to listen to.
Safety tech on the Q8 E-Tron is pretty solid, including modern conveniences like adaptive cruise with active lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, parking sensors and automatic high beams as standard on the base model. Step up to the middle trim level (aka the sweet spot), and you get a 360-degree camera, traffic sign recognition and LED headlights. The top-tier Prestige trim gets a parking assistant and intersection assist.
Pricing and Competition
Pricing for the Q8 E-Tron SUV starts at $75,595, including a $1,195 destination fee. The top-spec Launch Edition will run you a bit more, with a starting price of $88,745. The Sportback models are more expensive, with the base model coming in at $78,995 and the Launch Edition selling for $93,145.
Right now, if you want a fully battery-electric luxury SUV, your options are limited, but the competition is stiff. Rivian has its R1S, which offers more range as an optional extra but starts with just 260 miles, though with considerably more power at 600hp. It also starts at $78,000. The BMW iX xDrive50 begins at $88,095, including destination, and comes with 307 miles of range and 516 hp, but it’s not exactly subtle-looking. The Mercedes EQE SUV will likely be a fairly robust competitor, but the EPA hasn’t released its estimated range yet.
As so often is the case with Audi, focusing on things that make a vehicle great to live with rather than things that make big headline figures makes their cars a little less desirable on paper, but ultimately it ends up being the model I’d most likely choose to live with.
Sure, you’re making some sacrifices with range and power by going with the Q8 E-Tron, but none you’d likely notice during your commute or even on the weekends. What you gain is a really nicely made and thoughtfully designed EV SUV from an established company that’s not going to make your neighbors call the homeowners association on you if you leave it parked outside. Audi’s flagship EV SUV should be hitting dealers very soon.
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