The middle child of the Q8 Sportback e-tron family is quietly impressive, for although it’s been improved, not everyone will spot the changes.
Designing a car for a German manufacturer must be hard, for apart from having to meet exacting standards, the aesthetics are usually restrained. So, designers must let their creative juices flow, but only up to a certain point.
This is probably one of the reasons why luxury carmaker Audi isn’t exactly known for wild, eye-catching designs. In fact, some have even described the styling as ‘boring’.
‘Boring’ however, could also mean quietly accomplished. After all, if you’re good at your job, you won’t have to shout it at the top of your lungs.
A DARK SUIT
Now, some of you might recall that Audi’s flagship electric SUVs used to be called ‘e-tron’ and ‘e-tron Sportback’. However, following the launch of the e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT, the naming convention had to be rationalised.
At present, the e-tron badge adorns all pure electric Audis. But since the e-tron and e-tron Sportback are flagship electric SUVs, it was only right to give them the ‘Q8’ moniker, as this tells consumers where the models sit in the brand’s lineup.
Now, the Q8 Sportback e-tron is not a bad-looking car, but true to the brand’s philosophy, its styling does not call out to other road users. Naturally, this hasn’t changed following the model’s update. Keen-eyed observers, however, will notice several new elements.
Chief among these is the redesigned front end, which features a new ‘grille’, while the trademark four-ring badge is now 2D instead of 3D. An LED strip below the bonnet illuminates the badge, making it distinct from the pre-facelift model.
Meanwhile, the B-pillars now host the lettering for the vehicle make and model, which as expected, come in a faint grey. It’s also easy to miss the new rear diffuser, which has ‘e-tron’ written on it.
Audi’s interiors – especially in high-end models – are widely considered to be among the best in the segment in terms of fit and finish. Even the tactility of the buttons and the sound they make when pressed is luxurious.
Style and drama, however, continue to take a backseat here. What you’re presented with is a sombre but properly thought-out cockpit, with a user-friendly layout and intuitive menus. There’s never a need to do a deep dive just to find and tweak the setting you need.
Speaking of which, most drivers will be happy to leave the numerous safety settings, which include Audi pre sense, Side assist and Distance warning, alone.
Convenience-wise, loose items can be stored in the centre cubby and door bins. There’s even a slot for your smartphone beside the cupholders that also houses a charging pad.
Sure to be comfy, too, are the two occupants in the outer seats in the rear. Apart from having a good mix of support and cushiness, there are two more climate zones here, so each one can choose his/her preferred temperature. The same can’t be said for the middle occupant, though, since the protruding centre console lessens knee room and foot space.
BIG CHANGES BENEATH
The biggest upgrades to the Q8 Sportback e-tron are found within its electric powertrain. Thanks to more efficient packaging, the battery capacity has grown from 86kWh to 106kWh without the battery pack taking up more space.
Correspondingly, the driving range has gone from around a quoted 450km to 600km, although this is influenced by one’s driving style and traffic conditions.
Audi worked on making the rear electric motor more efficient as well. It now has 14 coils instead of 12 to generate the electromagnetic field, so it takes less electrical energy to produce the same torque.
Both peak power and torque figures, however, have stayed the same. That means 402bhp (300kW) and 664Nm of torque. Coupled with quattro all-wheel drive, the Q8 Sportback e-tron 55 hits the century mark in 5.6 seconds. That’s relatively quick for an SUV weighing over 2.5 tonnes.
It’s fast, but not so forceful that it completely overwhelms a driver’s senses. This level of performance complements the model’s character as well, for despite the sporty outlook, it’s actually a cushy cruiser.
The car’s air suspension is responsible for this. It’s mostly pliant, so that even when you choose the ‘Dynamic’ setting, only the deepest and nastiest potholes will upset passengers.
At the same time, the SUV’s handling responses were also sharpened. Chalk this up to revised progressive steering and stiffer suspension bearings, which make the car feel less ‘floaty’ and more planted than before.
The numerous improvements to the Q8 Sportback e-tron have made it a more engaging drive. But given Audi’s penchant for being understated, convincing buyers who’ve never driven the pre-facelift model is going to be an uphill task.
However, that doesn’t erase the fact that this SUV is better than its predecessor. Its interior may lack drama, but it is well-designed. And it may not be blisteringly quick (there’s an SQ8 e-tron variant for that), but there’s more than enough performance to see off most cars – hot hatches included.
Perhaps the Q8 Sportback e-tron is boring. But it is quietly handsome and competent, and like a consummate professional, doesn’t need to shout to showcase its abilities.
Audi Q8 Sportback e-tron 55 (A)
MOTORS Permanent magnet asynchronous
MAX POWER 402hp
MAX TORQUE 664Nm
POWER TO WEIGHT 160.2hp per tonne
0-100KM/H 5.6 seconds
TOP SPEED 200km/h
BATTERY 106kWh (114kWh gross)
PRICE INCL. COE On application
AGENT Premium Automobiles