Audi’s updated Q8 E-Tron focuses on luxury over performance

Audi's original E-Tron was really just an electric Q8. Now that the E-Tron moniker is used as a label for all of Audi's EVs, the updated vehicle has been rebadged as the Q8 E-Tron. Yet the upgrade vehicle is more than just a nice redesign of the front of the vehicle. Instead, Audi took the opportunity to make the vehicle better based on what it's learned over the past few years as an EV builder.


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Video Transcript

ROBERTO BALDWIN: There's something to be said about serenity. The world is chaos, and we've started battling it with faster, louder, and more intense activities. Let's play video games until dawn. Let's watch an anxiety inducing playoff game. Let's drive faster around that corner than ever before. Then there's this. This is the Audi Q8 E-Tron. And, sure, it'll go fast. But more importantly, and more surprisingly, it's calming.



Now, if you're a little confused about all this, don't be. It's not your fault. Originally, the Q8 E-Tron was just called the E-Tron, which was weird because before this vehicle came out there was also a plug-in hybrid A3 sport wagon that was also called E-Tron. Then Audi decided that it was going to call all of its EVs E-Tron. Everything that had an EV in it, it was going to be an E-Tron. Which meant, when they updated the Q8-- which was just called the E-Tron-- they had to call it the Q8 E-Tron.

With this update, Audi made the necessary tweaks and adjusted a few things. The front end looks nicer. And, you know, Audi is the performance luxury and the tech brand of the Volkswagen group. That said, I'm expecting this version to be a little bit quicker, a little bit punchier, and to have some updated tech, which it does. But what I didn't expect is just how nice it drives in comfort mode and how quiet it is here in the cabin. It's very serene. In comfort mode, the acceleration curve on this vehicle is just silky smooth. It just feels real nice, as you're pushing down on the accelerator.

The steering is light but precise, and the brakes-- the brakes are great. They actually feel more like traditional brakes. And there's also another thing. They have adaptive regenerative braking, which I've come around on that. I think the first time I used it in the BMW it wasn't quite ready yet. But now, here in the Audi and in the BMW I've driven before, regenerative braking is awesome. What it does is it takes your route and your traffic, and it adjusts regenerative braking, based on those aspects. It's really nice. And it's really part of this whole package that Audi has put together with this updated vehicle that really makes it feel nicer than the last vehicle. And, to be honest, it sort of feels like I'm driving a Mercedes. And that's not a slight against Mercedes or Audi. That's just the truth. Mercedes has some of the best driving-- comfort and luxury driving-- out there, and Audi is-- well, they're knocking on the door right now, with this Q8 E-Tron.

In sport mode, you're still getting that dynamic Audi experience. They actually call it dynamic when you're choosing the modes. It's not nearly as quick as some of the other EVs on the road. But, to be honest, you're battling physics when you're dealing with a large SUV with a large battery. The chassis engineers over at Audi have done a stupendous job sort of mitigating that and giving you the experience you would expect from an Audi, so it almost feels like you're driving a lighter vehicle.

On the tech front, the driver's assistance system is on par with what do you expect from a luxury automaker. The adaptive cruise control is smooth, when it comes to dealing with cut ins-- that's when someone pulls out in front of me-- or when people move out of my way. If it's set at 70 miles an hour, I'm doing 60, a car moves out of the way, it doesn't just slam on the accelerator. It gradually moves up to 70 miles an hour. Same thing when someone pulls out in front of me. It doesn't just slam on the brakes. It does a really nice job of gradually braking. The lane keeping assist and the lane centering does a really, really nice job with cornering, while you're driving on the freeway. That said, this is a hands free system. And, as with all these systems, you need to keep your eyes on the road and be paying attention to traffic because, ultimately, you're still responsible for what the vehicle is doing.

Audi's infotainment system hasn't changed too much over the past few years. They updated MMI a few years ago, and, since then, it's been pretty much the same. There is an app store. You can download apps, including Spotify because, apparently, all app stores now need Spotify because everyone uses Spotify.

What I really like about Audi's system is that it's two displays. You have a 10.1 inch display up top and then an 8.6 inch display down here. The display on the bottom essentially takes care of your climate controls. And you can put some shortcuts in there, and you can see the charging and stuff like that down there. But most of your business is happening up here. Both displays support haptic feedback, so it feels like you're actually tapping on a real, physical button when you use the display. You do have to tap a little bit harder on these displays than you would with a regular display. But it does feel like you're actually doing something, you're actually changing something, you're actually touching something physical, while you're using it. There is a bit of latency, just a scooch. It's not too bad. It's what you expect from most cars in this market. Not much you can really be too concerned about.

Now, the first Q8 E-Tron, it got 204 miles of range, which is not great. At the time, it was fine. Now, not so much. Essentially, people are looking for at least 250 miles of range, when they're looking at an EV. Well, this E-Tron-- this Q8 E-Tron-- the range has been upgraded to 285 miles of range, so an increase of 81 miles. Good job, Audi. During our test-- during a very windy day, which, of course, is going to diminish some of the range-- we got 263 miles of range. And so, based on the amount of wind we were battling, I'm guessing that 285-- if we had done that test on a non windy day, we probably would have got about 280, 285. That increased range comes from a 114 kilowatt hour capacity battery pack, of which 106 kilowatt hours are available for daily use. So you're getting a much larger battery in this vehicle than you got in the previous Q8 E-Tron.

Audi has also increased DC fast charging support to 170 kilowatts versus the old E-Tron, that could only charge up to 150 kilowatts. As for home charging, it supports 9.6 kilowatts of AC charging standard. But you could upgrade that to a second charge port on the vehicle, on the passenger side, and shoot that AC charging support up to 19.2 kilowatts, which is bonkers quick for a home charging network. It also supports plug-in charge, which means is that you just pull up to a compatible charging station and you plug the vehicle in. No need to open an app. No need to pull out a credit card. You just plug the vehicle in, the charging station recognizes your vehicle-- which is linked with your account-- and it just starts doing its thing. So you can go inside and have lunch, go shopping, or just hang out in your vehicle.

One of the issues I had with the old E-Tron and with the new Q8 E-Tron is this. It is the charging port door. You push this button. The door opens. It's all very mechanical. It's all very fancy. Why not just have a-- well, a little mechanical door-- like you see on other vehicles-- like a gas vehicle, where you just tap it and it pops open or you open it from inside the vehicle? Instead, you have this whole mechanism, which feels like a recipe for a future repair.

Inside, the cabin is comfortable and well appointed. You have that Audi luxury feel in here. You have this nice wood trim. You do have this sort of shiny silver bits, which-- to be honest-- when you're driving in the sun, all these silver bits-- automakers, please, stop. They're blinding us. But, overall, you have really nice materials, nice leather. These seats are very comfortable. I've been sitting in them for hours. I could see myself doing a road trip in this vehicle, no problem. There's room for adults both in the front and in the back. I've had friends back there that are taller than 6 foot, and they've had zero issues sitting back there and being comfortable. If you do need to haul things, with these rear seats up, you have 28.5 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row. If you fold that down, though, that almost doubles to 56.4 cubic feet of space. So you have enough room for a really nice Costco run, or to run to Home Depot, or Target, or-- I don't know-- just fill the back of the car with dogs.

As for the design, well, it looks like an Audi. And while BMW and Mercedes have both put out EVs that have designs that can be called polarizing, Audi just, well-- they just built an Audi. Sure, they updated the front end a little bit. But if you were to place this next to a gas powered Q8-- unless you knew what to look for-- chances are you probably couldn't pick this out as an EV. And, for many people, that's a plus.

A lot of the tweaks and updates that are in this vehicle are because Audi learned quite a lot from its earlier E-Tron. In other words, because it jumped into the modern world just a little bit sooner than its counterparts, it was able to take the learnings from that EV and apply them to this vehicle. Now, this isn't new. In fact, automakers will continue to make better EVs. The Q8 E-Tron is a perfect example of the evolution of electric vehicles. What that means is better range and a more refined driving experience. Audi wanted to build a better EV, and it did just that. I do wish, though, that the charging port wasn't as complicated. For more automotive coverage in front of a tree, be sure to subscribe to Engadget.