Audi have had a busy few days at the North American Auto Show in Detroit this week. A pretty reliable indicator for the upcoming year in the motoring industry, it’s no surprise that the first major cross on the international motor show calendar regularly sees the big boys flexing their mechanical muscle. The German powerhouse may have already unveiled the second generation SQ5 performance SUV but that wasn’t the only headliner to take centre stage at the Audi stand in Detroit. Previewing the arrival of an entirely new production model, enter the electrifying new Audi Q8 hybrid concept.
Based on the same technology that underpins Audi’s only current production plug-in hybrid, the A3 e-tron, this new full-size SUV is set to take Audi into uncharted waters. Although strictly speaking a concept, most notably on the styling front, the model revealed in Detroit is chiefly a showcase of Audi’s enhanced hybrid tech that nestles under the bonnet.
Combining its powerful 328bhp 3.0 TFSI petrol unit with a 100kw lithium-ion powered electric motor, the Q8 concept possesses a none-too-shabby total output of 443bhp with 516.3 lb-ft torque. Hooked up to an eight-speed tiptronic gearbox, the 0-62mph mark could be surpassed in an albeit theoretical 5.4 seconds – that’s brisk considering this is by no means a small car.
It’s precisely for that reason that the new Q8 will not be the inner-city dweller’s go-to vehicle. Nevertheless, for those who do find themselves caught in the clutches of metropolitan mayhem, it’s comforting to know the Q8 can negotiate 37 miles of traffic under electric power alone. Alternatively, an even balance of battery power and old-school fossil fuel will extend the Q8’s range to an impressive 621 miles. Evan if, as is often the case with hybrids, the sums don’t quite add up in real world conditions, a pessimistic estimate of 575 miles on one charge is still a promising proposition for Audi’s prospective hybrid flagbearer.
Underpinning the Q8 concept is Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive system. Equipped with wheel-selective torque control, this gizmo minimally brakes the inside wheels in the corners to fine-tune handling.
Whilst we can’t read as much into the concept’s exterior design than can be gleaned from its mechanical underpinnings, it’s definitely worth noting the Q8’s striking front end with that wide and sculpted octagonal front grille. The bottom edge of the front bumper is framed by a sleek aluminium blade-like panel whilst the wedge-shaped headlights feature x-shaped, blue laser light signatures. There’s a more familiar Audi e-tron theme at the rear, in the form of the belt-like light strip extending over the entire width of the tailgate. Other points of note towards the back of the Q8 concept include a prominent aluminium and high-gloss carbon rear diffuser as well as the flat, coupé-inspired rear window.
Place your hand on the concept’s touch-sensitive doors and the portal will swing open to reveal a cavernous and fabulously opulent interior. The concept Q8’s four-person capacity is of course totally impractical for a production SUV of this size but does serve a purpose on this preview model. The extra room highlights the front sports seats and floating centre console, not to mention an ample 630 litres of luggage space. Elsewhere, the driver gets a state-of-the-art analogue head-up display projected onto the windscreen whose virtually generated signals such as arrows seem to align with those on the physical road ahead. It’s all very clever stuff, not entirely alien to those in possession of certain high-end German saloons, but intriguing nonetheless.
To what extent the Audi Q8 SUV concept will reflect the full-production model is hard to say for the time being. It’s coming, that’s for sure, but we’ll have to wait until 2018 at the earliest to discover how many features from the Detroit car actually make their way off the designer’s flip chart.