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First Drive: Audi Q8

Alex Grant weighs up the pros and cons of Audi’s imposing coupé-SUV.

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SECTOR Large SUV   PRICE £65,040-£83,790   FUEL 41.5mpg   CO2 178g/km

With a range spanning 51 models, it can be tricky to keep track of which niches Audi’s newcomers are targeting. Particularly when it deviates from its numbering strategy. The Q8 isn’t a sister product to the A8, it’s more an A7 Sportback SUV, or a rival to the BMW X6 and Maserati Levante.

So it’s smaller than the Q7, swapping seven seats for a sloped roof, blistered arches, frameless windows and wheels from 21 inches. Visually it’s perhaps less polarising than the competition, and debuts an all-options-ticked Vorsprung trim, though Audi expects most to pick the entry-level S line.

Coupé-SUVs can be the worst of both worlds, mixing SUV bulk, with coupé impracticality. That’s true to an extent here, particularly in terms of load space, but the Q8 scores well for passengers. The cabin, with its haptic feedback touchscreen controls, is beautifully finished, and offers an impressive amount of headroom and glazing in the back to stop it feeling cramped.

We tested the 286hp 3.0-litre TDI, which feels muscular enough to match the styling despite the often-lazy auto box. Adaptive air suspension and four-wheel drive hide some of its 2.1-tonne mass, particularly when paired with the rear-wheel steering of Vorsprung versions, and ‘mild hybrid’ technology cuts some of the associated thirst for fuel. But there’s no escaping its sheer size on narrow British roads, and even Comfort mode can’t hide the poor ride quality from the Vorsprung’s 22-inch wheel upgrade.

Love it or loathe it, the Q8 fills a worthwhile niche globally. But UK drivers – especially business customers – craving a high-performance Audi SUV are probably better biding their time for the slightly smaller, but fully-electric, E-tron due at the end of the year.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.