If compact and luxury SUVs weren’t ironic enough, we now have to live with Super SUVs. Thankfully though, the “super” here isn’t just ceremonial, especially in the case of the Audi RS Q8, a car that bends more laws of physics than Newton would’ve liked.
On the face of it, at least the media spec car for India, the RS Q8 looks mean, powerful and yet more put together than the Lamborghini Urus which looks like it’s trying too hard to look fast compared to the RS Q8. The blacked-out Audi logo and badges along with the massive 23in rims make this SUV quite a sight in anyone’s rear-view mirror. If you happen to be sitting behind the wheel, the view gets even better, if a bit predictable. Audi has been a master of the cookie-cutter philosophy in the past and now that it’s new design language has permeated through most of the model line-up, it’s beginning to have a similar effect all over again. The dual-screen MMI layout and the Virtual Cockpit are no doubt great pieces of tech and lend the requisite avant garde look to the cabin, though on bright sunny days, the fingerprints it gathers can be repulsive for some, especially in today’s times. Maybe the glove box for once can actually be used to store gloves!
The cornucopia of technology starts with what’s under the hood though. A great big, hulking twin-turbo V8 plucked right out of the Lamborghini Urus/RS6 and massaged to make almost 600hp and a tarmac-tearing 800Nm of torque! Under its 2 plus ton weight, it likes to believe it’s a Porsche Cayman and that is thanks to tech like rear-wheel steering besides the Quattro all-wheel drive, sports differential, a 48-volt mild hybrid system that tackles a variety of systems, including active-roll stabilisation. Collectively, all this tech gives the RS Q8 ability to grip the road like a Schwarzenegger handshake and is comfortable going around high-speed expressway bends in unmentionable triple-digit speeds and stay flat, composed and without breaking a bead of sweat.
With 23in wheels, you might (as I certainly was) be worried or even scared of venturing out on Mumbai’s lunarscape but in comfort mode, the RS Q8 showed no signs of protest and quietly took every pothole, speedbump and potholes on speedbumps in its stride without tossing the occupants even! The dynamic dampers allow you to raise the ride height by a generous 3.5in but I never once engaged it, even when I did venture on broken roads, close to a lakeshore. The steering wheel now gets a dedicated RS button that lowers the ride height and sends the traction control on a sabbatical, opens its throaty exhaust valves and tells you it’s time to show the so-called sports cars who’s boss. Pedal to the metal, this is a phenomenal piece of engineering that leaves your mouth open as you hurtle towards the horizon. The relentless surge of power, the seamless shifts from the 8-speed gearbox and the growl from the exhaust all come together for an experience that is unbelievable when you’re seated this high up and from something that weighs this much. In fact, the only time you really feel the weight is under braking. It does have good stopping power but it can’t disguise the pressure it is under shedding speed of all the mass. The responsive transmission and paddle shifts come in handy to use some engine braking too and the throttle blips make for dramatic aural drama. The steering is direct and takes the car exactly where you point it without fuss and with all the power on tap, actually makes it fun to throw around corners and come out looking like a hero.
Tony Stark tech
As the flagship SUV in Audi’s fleet, it gets almost everything thrown at the cabin that Ingolstadt has in its arsenal. Head-up display, wireless phone charging pad, 17-speaker B&O surround audio, 360-degree camera with park assist, cruise control with speed limiter, 4-zone climate control, massaging and heated/cooled front seats and the usual assortment of safety and convenience essentials. If you like digital dials, there’s a lot to play with here especially with the RS-specific digital rev counter that lets you know exactly when to shift up at the redline and all sorts of G-force and temperature displays that make you feel like you’re behind the wheel of something very fast and expensive.
But the coolest party trick has to be the live view from the 3D cameras peppered all around the exterior that stitches it all up together and present a beautiful image on the MMI screen to show you real-time video of your car in motion. You can even use your fingers to move around the image and view the car from any angle you like and it all works without a glitch or lag. Makes light work of getting this massive beast in and out of tight spots and alleviates some of the criticism I have for the resolution of the rear cam. It’s 2020 and it still throws up low-res images that remind me of a Blackberry from 2008. Not to mention that it collects more mud than a puppy’s paws in a park.
The 730-watt sound system is only a little shy of greatness levels but still plenty entertaining on long drives. Control over the amount of 3D effect is good to have if you’re a purist at heart or revel in showboating. Either way, it has plenty of power and spatial spread, just could do with more definition and better bass control at high volumes. Some door panels in the lower section show signs of distress when the volume knob is turned clockwise, but for most conditions, this is a fine implementation of the B&O system without the acoustic lens tweeters. Ergonomically, there isn’t much to fault except that some of the controls can be distracting since so much of it is screen-based. But the dedicated screen for AC control helps, along with the air quality package that just comes as added peace of mind in this new normal world. I also personally love the physical volume knob which is tactile and also knurled, which my fingers like.
What was once as practical as a Grizzly Bear in a birthday party is now beginning to look a lot like a bear in the Rockies. I’m referring to the super-SUV culture if my metaphor was too left field. If you’re a speed enthusiast or a petrol head, you can amass enough wealth to buy a V8 or V12 sports car but you’d be slower than most people on the road. You'll have to stop, negotiate with every speedbump and eventually have heartburn with the sound of the underbody leaving its precious metal all over the city. The RS Q8 suddenly looks a lot more practical when seen from this perspective. I never once scraped its underbelly even in standard ride height, you can still get the ginormous 23in wheels without worrying about breaking them right outside your driveway and it has more power than most self-respecting sports cars anyway! What’s not to like?