The 2020 Audi RS Q8 is your 591-horsepower mild-hybrid monster SUV
I saw the RS Q8 in the metal in a warehouse near Munich a few months ago, along with the now U.S.-bound RS 6, the RS 7 Sportback, and the Euro-only RS Q3 twins. The most important thing you need to know about this ridiculously powerful full-size SUV? It’s chunky.
While it packs pretty much the same hardware as the other two V-8-powered RS four-doors, it’s also so wide that Audi couldn’t make its fender extensions out of metal like it did on the RS 6 and RS 7, because the car just wouldn’t fit the assembly line at Volkswagen’s Bratislava plant. Instead, the RS Q8 is 0.39-in wider at the front thanks to some plastic fender flaps, along with a 0.2-in extension at the rear. Under all that, you’ll find 23-inch wheels wrapped in 295-wide rubber. These are Audi’s largest alloys to date.
Other exterior modifications include a frameless grille, more pronounced, sculpted sills to go with the arch extensions, tinted (optional) Matrix-LED headlights and massive air intakes at the front, with plenty of carbon-fiber trim options all around. Black badging? You got it! The RS Q8 can also be yours in nine colors: one solid paint finish and eight metallic or pearl effect shades. Java Green is the new launch color seen here.
Despite weighing over 5000 pounds, this is a “pillarless” SUV in that it makes do without having a B-pillar. It’s also a mild hybrid, using a 48-volt system to power a belt alternator-starter connected to the crankshaft, like in the standard Q8. During deceleration and braking, this can recover up to 12 kW of power and store it in the SUV’s lithium-ion battery. Off throttle and between 34.2 to 99.4 mph, the system can recuperate or coast for up to 40 seconds with the engine off. The belt alternator starter can also active the start/stop operation at speeds under 14 mph, saving even more gas.
As in the RS 6 and RS 7, the 4.0 twin-turbo V-8 also comes with cylinder deactivation, which switches off cylinders 2, 3, 5, and 8 during low power demand. To compensate for this four-cylinder operation, Audi’s mapping changes the points of the active cylinders, so that the deactivated cylinders can run “largely loss-free as gas springs.”
Of course, all this efficiency goes away in an instant once you mash the gas pedal, which unleashes 591 horsepower, along with 590 lb-ft of torque between 2200 and 4500 rpm. Standard all-wheel steering and the adaptive air suspension will support the sudden change in pace, as it can drop the car by 3.5 inches. As usual, at low speeds, the rear-steer system turns 5 degrees in the opposite direction of the front wheels, and 1.5 degrees in the same direction at higher speeds. Yet to reach nearly 190 mph in this full-size SUV, you may also want to specify Audi’s electromechanical active roll stabilization.
Connected to the 48-volt subsystem, these anti-roll bars feature compact electric motors between the two halves of the stabilizer, which are decoupled in a straight line, but get twisted in opposite directions and locked while cornering. This system can also recover power via the electric motors acting as generations, thus feeding power back to the battery.
Top speed chasers will need Audi’s dynamic package plus anyway. This includes both the active anti-roll bars, the quattro sport differential and the 440-mm 10-piston carbon-ceramic brakes, which save a total of 26 pounds in unsprung weight. With all these onboard, you get the top speed of 189.5 mph, and a whole lot of noise through what seem like Audi’s biggest diameter exhausts ever.
Starting at $140,751 in Europe, the RS Q8 is significantly cheaper than a Lamborghini Urus and a Bentley Bentayga V-8. (Pricing in the U.S. will be finalized later.) In my view, it’s also much better-looking, and there’s no way it will be any slower in the real world than those MLB-platform siblings, nor the Porsche Cayenne, for that matter. A first for Audi RS, but a big one, undoubtedly. And literally.