Audi Q8 first look: crossover SUVs über alles

June 5, 2018

There's a lot to digest with the Audi Q8 that debuted Tuesday in China, a style-oriented flagship that tops the automaker's growing lineup of luxury crossover SUVs.

Though it shares its underpinnings with the three-row Audi Q7, the Q8 boasts its own styling inside and out. It previews a more hardened look that Audi says will filter down into its other crossovers such as the Q7 and Q5.

MORE: Read our 2018 Audi Q7 review

A new take on the shield-like grille Audi uses on all of its models adorns the Q8's front end. This latest variant is wider and not as tall as that seen on Audi's other crossovers and it features a substantial gray plastic frame that flows into a pair of narrow headlights. From the side, the Q8 follows the trend toward crossovers that blur the line between SUVs, wagons, hatchbacks, and sedans, with the steep rake to its rear window that adds style but robs utility.

At the rear, wide LED taillights put the Q8 more in line with Audi's freshest passenger car designs such as the A7, although its tall stance will hardly be confused with sedans and wagons.

The Q8's interior marks another substantial departure from the Q7. Instead, it shares a screen-heavy look with the Audi A8. Nearly all of the crossover's controls are either haptic or embedded in one of the two touchscreens that make up its center stack. Another screen sits behind the steering wheel.

Underneath, the Q8 will be available globally with a choice of mild-hybrid gasoline and turbodiesel 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 engines, although the diesel is very unlikely to come to the U.S. The powertrains use a 48-volt mild-hybrid system with a lithium-ion battery that cuts the engine out when idling and provides extra boost for hard acceleration. The Q8 will be available with four-wheel steering.

Tellingly, the Q8 didn't make its global debut in Germany or in the U.S., but rather in China, which became Audi's largest market a few years ago.

For now, Audi is holding back on specifics for the U.S. since the version set to go on sale here won't arrive in dealerships until late this year or early next.

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