2024 AUDI Q8 e-tron Quattro – Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Serious Charging Issues Mar Otherwise Beautiful Vehicle
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
In order to document the trials, tribulations and rewards of e-motoring, we've decided to log our experiences with Audi's second generation Q8 e-tron sports utility in chronological fashion. Monday morning, an understated Plasma Blue Metallic over Black Interior Audi Q8 arrives in our driveway. It's here to replace last week's VW Atlas 4Motion test car. First acquaintance with the Audi reveals an unmistakable similarity in size, shape and features to the Atlas suggesting both products have been derived from the same corporate platform. While the departing $50,490 VW sported a deluxe interior thanks to its Prestige trim level, the $88,900 Audi's nicer interior is too similar to the VW's to be worth an extra $38,410. So the difference must lie in the drivetrain and suspension improvements, to say nothing of the name badge upgrade.
The revised and upgraded e-tron, which earns Audi's top Q8 designation for 2024, consists of front and rear induction AC motors which produce a combined output of 402hp and 490lb.-ft. of torque. These motors drive all four wheels via a one-speed direct drive transmission. The first thing we noticed about the Q8 was how fast it was in a straight line. It's not unusual for us to be trapped behind really slow drivers on their way to or from the local beach, so the ability to zip past a dawdling tourist or two is of paramount importance in evaluating any vehicle. In the case of this Audi, we were flat-out amazed that it was quicker than most two-seat sports cars we've recently tested. Despite the fact that this battery-laden chassis tips the scales at nearly three tons, it was able to launch with the kind of ferocious impact only a full EV can generate. With 490 pound-feet of torque the instant you mash the throttle, the Q8 springs from 0 to 60mph in 5.2 seconds and covers the standing start quarter mile in 13.8 seconds at 102mph. Top speed clocks in at a governor-limited 124mph.
The beauty of an electric drivetrain is the driver does not have to work hard to generate immediate torque or speed. No gears to shift, no pains to select Sport Mode before launch. Nothing to do but mash the throttle, because the power-to-weight ratio of 14.83 lbs/hp guarantees an instant launch that would make NASA proud. Despite its brutal capacity for speed generation, the Q8 e-tron is equally capable of leading a more genteel life. The basic creature comforts you would expect to find in an SUV with a base price of $74,400 are all present and accounted for: quattro all wheel drive, adaptive air suspension, leather seating surfaces, fetching natural driftwood inlays, and a panoramic sunroof with electric sunshade. But our exotic looking sample also added a $595 Plasma Blue metallic paint job, a $2,000 Black optic package to visually bury external trim, and a pricey $10,400 Prestige package which includes enough comfort and tech upgrades to run a start-up in Silicon Valley. Prestige highlights include head-up display, digital matrix LED headlights, Bang & Olufsen 3D premium audio, ventilated and massaging front seats, heated rear seats, wireless phone charging and park assist. If you were to define the expression "lap of luxury," you would need do no more than point to the interior of the Prestige package equipped Q8.
Given its substantial size and girth, handling of the Q8 e-tron is predictably clumsy. Through twisty corners, this SUV transitions from apex to apex with some reluctance. Our test Q8 was equipped with a tall (265/45R21) set of Continental ContiContact Sport LX all-season tires (TW 580) which contributed to the Audi's leisurely turn-in behavior. Audi sold an initial batch of "Launch Edition Trim" Q8's with 22-inch rims mounted with 265/40R22 summer tires which would improve its back road behavior. We also were constantly reminded of this vehicle's weighty battery pack when slowing to a stop from freeway speeds. The Q8 always demanded more pressure on the brake pedal than we were initially prepared to exert. Cumbersome rather than nimble is the operative byword here.
The cargo-friendly rear seats both fold instantly flat to produce an uninterrupted 55 cubic foot load floor perfect for transporting my bicycle. The only problem encountered was the chrome trim strip guarding the load floor entryway. The bike had to be hoisted over this strip with care to insure no scratches were inflicted on its shiny surface. The front trunk is fitted with a lidded suitcase of sorts which contains multiple charging accessories. These plugs and cords occupy all the space under the front trunk.
The Q8 e-tron is an impressive beast in many respects, with mega storage inside, subtle good looks outside, and an impressive list of comfort and convenience items to justify its vaunted price tag.
EV DOWNSIDE: HUNTING FOR A CHARGE
Although the Audi's range is listed as 285 miles, it arrived with just 190 miles showing on the instrument panel. Part of the discrepancy could be accounted for by the 60-mile distant location of the shop that delivered the vehicle. After making a brief acquaintance with the rather complicated and idiosyncratic control layout (all screens), we set off to do our photography at a location no more than 3 miles distant. When we finished, the range indicator had already sunk to 179 miles. The first pangs of range anxiety crept into the EV equation, and we hadn't really gone anywhere yet.
Because we had a busy week of local travel planned, we decided to tackle the charging issue first. Living out in the sticks, with no home-based recharger available, we queried Google about the availability of local charging stations and found a cluster of Charge Point units located 20 miles away. Map in hand, we drove around a congested housing complex for 15 minutes without finding the specified location. So we headed to our backup site, a Target store parking lot 15 further miles distant, where we knew a bevy of charging stations awaited. This too is a Charge Point installation that promises 2 hours of free charging. After trying without success to read digital instructions on the charge unit, we nonetheless managed to establish a "Charging" connection. We headed confidently to Target for some shopping.
Two hours later we returned. The first hurdle was trying to remove the plug from our Q8's fender. It wouldn't budge. Luckily, a tall gent named Andrew driving a brand new Fisker Ocean EV pulled up to grab a charge and we hailed him just as he is leaving for Target: "Can you help us? How do we get the plug out of our Audi?" He climbs into the driver's seat and after shuffling through a slew of mysterious digital screens, manages to dial back the charge rate from 100% to 80%, a move that releases the Audi's stranglehold on the charger plug.
But when we switched on the Q8, we are crestfallen to discover that we have gained exactly 9 miles of range after spending more than two hours cooling our heels at Target. As day 2 draws to a close we are definitely inclined to return to petrol/hybrid transportation.
New hope for charging the Audi dawned with day 3. Further research indicated the presence of a fast charging station located less than 10 miles from home base in the parking lot of a Safeway supermarket. So off we went in pursuit of the elusive electron, only to discover that the 3 unit Audi/VW sponsored "Charge America" installation was still wrapped up in protective cladding and unavailable for use. So much for Audi's promise to provide 2 years of free charging for their Q ship EV.
In desperation, we bolted to our second and final site for day 3 - an EV go "FAST CHARGE" installation near a Whole Foods store. This one promised the most and delivered the least. It accepted our credit card for payment, allowed us to insert the charging cord in the fender port, and then failed to deliver any juice. The charge stand displayed an infinitely recycling "please wait" death spiral. So we finally placed a cell phone call to EV go for help.
After a "Your Call is Very Important to Us!" acknowledgement, EV go failed to actually answer their phone at all. Several other stranded EV supplicants at adjacent dispensers met with the same fate. As a final insult, the EV go umbilical also could not be removed from the Audi. This predicament necessitated yet another frantic call to our local Audi dealer (thankfully still open) for information about how to free our Q8. 40 minutes later we were on our way home with just 141 miles of range left and not a single second of recharging to show for three more hours of wasted time.
Day 4 started off with a trip to yet another mall parking lot. This search turned up another pair of EV go Fast Chargers. At long last, we managed to buy juice for the e-tron. A half-hour visit ran the charge from 65 percent to 80 percent and padded the range from 140 to 190 miles. But at this point we were perplexed about the entire experience and most definitely weary of hanging around shopping mall parking lots.
The baffling series of roadblocks we encountered made it difficult to assess the real world potential of the Q8, or any EV for that matter. After all, this turmoil occurred in Marin County, California - the very heartbeat of the EV movement. At our last mall stop, we encountered another friendly EV enthusiast named Miguel who was charging his Polestar. He coached us about the need to download the EV go App because it would "save you time and money." But his sagest piece of advice was this: "If you own an EV, you absolutely need to have a home-based supply source. If you're hoping to find an open, working charger away from home, you can just about forget it. EV owners with home chargers lead an altogether different life than those who have to go looking for a public charger every day."
2024 AUDI Q8 e-tron quattro
Power Source Front: Induction AC Motor, 189hp/228lb.-ft. of torque
Power Source Rear: Induction AC Motor, 231hp, 262lb.-ft. of torque
Combined Horsepower Output: 402hp
Combined Torque Output: 490lb.-ft.
Fuel Economy: 80MPGe City/83MPGe Highway
Driving Range: 285 Miles
Charge Time: 16 Hours (240v)
PRICE AS TESTED: $88,990
HYPES: Beautiful Construction, Lavish Interior
GRIPES: Short Range, Slow Recharge
STAR RATING: 8 Stars out of 10
©2023 David E Colman