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Audi Q8 e-tron Sportback 50 First Drive: Good Gets Better

The Q8 e-tron is Audi's range-topping EV SUV, and gets better range and an illuminated grille.
James Wong
James Wong
26 Jul 2023
The Q8 e-tron is definitely worthy of the flagship ‘8’ number and is a nice preview of the highly anticipated Q4 e-tron to come.
What we like:
Vastly improved range
What we dislike:
It may not have moved the game on from the e-tron as much as we'd hoped

The Audi Q8 e-tron is at once familiar, but also more impressive than its predecessor, the e-tron.

If you didn’t have the old model parked side-by-side with the Q8 e-tron (Audi has now christened the car a Q8 to signify a range topper), you might not even notice that the new car is, well, new. You might also want to rejig your Audi hierarchy that’s been committed to muscle memory - all future EV models will have even model numbers (like the upcoming Q4 e-tron), while future ICE models will have odd model numbers (e.g. A3). Weird, right? Well, we will all have to get used to it.

There are some minor exterior tweaks, including 2D Audi logos, an illuminated grille (pretty cool, we admit) and B-pillars decorated with the model nomenclature. But make no mistake: its changes are more than skin deep, and that’s where it really matters.

The e-tron already set a very high bar for a luxury EV SUV. Its build quality was beyond reproach, its refinement was super impressive and it felt like a well-accomplished product. In our review, we highlighted the middling range as something that could be improved and, good on Audi, they’ve addressed this with the Q8 e-tron.

Sophisticated thermal management ensures that the battery of the Q8 e-tron quickly reaches its optimum efficiency range of 25 to 35 °C and stays there while driving. Cell technology and cell chemistry have also seen improvements; during production the individual cells are layered using stacking technology, which results in some 20% higher energy density.

All of this contributes to superior range: it is now 505 km for the Sportback 50 (491 km for the standard SUV shape), which is nearly 100 km more than the previous generation e-tron 55. The Q8 e-tron 55 variants do even better, with the Sportback 55 leading the pack with a headline 600 km range.

It’s the first thing we noticed on our short test drive; range was no longer a lingering concern in one's mind, as it’s about as good as an average ICE car now.

The other improvement which we didn’t get to try is the enhanced charging capabilities, where the car can be juiced up from 10% to 80% in around half an hour with maximum charging power of 150 kW. The Q8 e-tron now has a charging curve that maintains high current flows even up to a charge level of 80% - something that Audi says is unique among its competitors.

The Q8 e-tron’s electric motors have been uprated as well, although this wasn’t as apparent an upgrade, as the original e-tron was plenty fast, anyway. The 50 variant has 340 PS and 664 Nm, which will propel the car from 0-100 km/h in 6 seconds.

Like the e-tron, the Q8 e-tron is secure and steady on the road, always ready to munch up the miles and oozing with quality. Brake regeneration has been kept to a minimum even at its highest setting, as Audi says it is an easier adjustment for customers moving over from ICE cars. In fact, hardly any adaptation is required jumping into the Q8 e-tron. Even its interior is largely like what we have already seen in the ICE Q7/Q8.

The Q8 e-tron is definitely worthy of the flagship ‘8’ number and is a nice preview of the highly anticipated Q4 e-tron to come. It has received updates that continue to make it highly competitive in its segment. The good has gotten better, indeed.

Photos by New Gen Marketing


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