Audi's new Q flagship offers plenty of pace, lots of space and a knock-out design
Quick gait from Q8 The Audi Q8 is exceptionally spacious and can seat four people in luxurious comfort. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

The Lamborghini Urus may be the sportiest sport utility vehicle (SUV) on earth, but the new Audi Q8 has a more commanding presence.

The car is 38mm lower and 27mm wider than the Q7 (the biggest Q), while tip to tip, it is 66mm shorter.

This makes for a squat, muscular stance, which is accentuated by subtle body bulges, a more rakish rear windscreen and sportier frontal design highlighted by a single-frame octagonal grille.

The test-car is fitted with enormous 22-inch wheels, which emphasise the model's positioning as the new Q flagship further.

The car stands apart from other "coupe-SUVs", which tend to be bloated, exaggerated or too literal in their interpretation of the concept.

Inside, the Q8 is on more familiar ground, with a cockpit that resembles what is found in the Audi A8 and A7. Two large "black mirror" screens - one for infotainment and the other for climate control - dominate the fascia. These are lovely when lit, but betray smudges when they are switched off.

Despite its sporty design, the Q8 is exceptionally spacious. It will seat four in luxurious comfort and five with relative ease. Its boot has more space than what the average family requires for a driving holiday.

The Audi is powered by a 3-litre V6. Unlike the supercharged V6 in an equivalent Q7, this engine is turbocharged and makes slightly more power and a lot more torque.

With 500Nm available from 1,370rpm going to all four wheels via a familiar eight-speed autobox, the Q8 sprints to 100kmh in 5.9 seconds. It may not have the smoothest progress, but it can pass off as a sporty SUV - especially when driven with gusto.

What is less impressive is its chassis performance. Although equipped with air suspension, the car is less than cushy and prone to waddling at times.

Whether in Dynamic or Comfort mode, the degree of body movement is almost alarming - perhaps a downside of those monstrous wheels.

The car is set up for fast corners, though - especially in Dynamic mode, in which it lowers itself to sit closer to the tarmac. For a big SUV, nothing other than the Urus matches its surefootedness, sticky roadholding and resistance to roll.

The other thing which comes as somewhat of a surprise is the amount of noise that intrudes.

Thankfully, the car comes with an excellent hi-fi system. It would seem that the best way to enjoy the Q8 is to drive it like a sportscar, with the volume of the sound system turned up.

That, however, might worsen the car's fuel consumption, which averaged 14.8 litres/100km during this test-drive - 66 per cent higher than the manufacturer-stated figure.

Mind you, the car comes with a 48-volt mild hybrid system that allows the engine to completely shut down under light-load conditions. For instance, when it senses a downslope ahead, its accelerator pedal vibrates and a sign pops up on the head-up display asking the driver to take his foot off the pedal.

The car is also clever enough to understand conversational voice commands. Alas, Singapore addresses are not part of its vocabulary.

Shortcomings aside, nothing is close to the Q8 when it comes to its combination of pace, space and sheer presence.

In fact, the moneyed masses might be swayed by just the way it looks.