When it comes to driving, I have always preferred sedans and hatchbacks. Because in my experience, no matter how much power you pack, or how much you stiffen the suspension, an SUV will feel like a big bus if you thrash it around corners. It was a belief that was etched in my mind until the RS Q8 happened. Nevermind the exterior and interior; I wanted to see how this lapped the Nurburgring in just 7minutes 42seconds.
I fired up the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and was reacquainted by the familiar raucous note. I say familiar because just a few days ago, I had driven the RS 7, which also gets the same engine and it met all my requirements. It was fast, loud and was low to the ground as well. It made me think, why would one pay Rs 14 lakh more for the RS Q8? It isn’t as striking, is high up the ground and is also heavier.
A thought that was instantly dismissed as I flexed my right foot. My head was thrown into the headrest, and everything around me turned into a time warp. Now, I’ve been in Porsche Cayennes and Mercedes G-wagons. But, none of them lunges ahead as the RS Q8 did. No doubt then that it does 0-100kph in just 3.8secs. For a car that weighs over 2-tonnes, it is ridiculous.
Living in a cramped city like Mumbai, means you have to push and shove your way out to find a decent stretch of road. So, despite leaving at the crack of dawn, I found myself navigating between cabs and buses. The roads too, thanks to the heavy showers had been withered away, so I was nervous, to say the least. But, to my surprise, the RS Q8 blends right in. All I did was select ‘Comfort’ mode, and the rest was taken care of. The suspension softened up, the steering was lighter, the engine and gearbox relaxed and even though I didn’t feel it, I am sure that the cylinder deactivation, which is standard on the RS Q8, helped save some of that precious high-octane fuel. The ride quality too was impressive despite the massive 23-inch wheels. Not once did I flinch while going over a speed hump or the occasional blind pothole.
But, as soon as I got on to the open roads, it was out of Comfort and straight into RS2. Sure, you get plenty of modes between Eco and Dynamic and even off-road, but when you have the RS Q8, you want the full-bore 592bhp V8 with very little electronic interference and the exhaust growling at full pitch. Select RS2, and you notice the instrument cluster turns racier, the steering gains heft, the exhaust note gets more bassy and the whole car just hunkers down to its lowest ride height. Yes, you still tower above most sedans and hatchbacks, but it feels like a sprinter crouching down waiting to hear the pistol go off. And it goes like one too, thanks to launch control, you feel the 800Nm rushing to all four wheels and propelling this massive tank faster than even some supercars via an 8-speed automatic gearbox.
However, it is the handling that takes you by surprise. In RS2 mode, you can attack corners at supercar speeds, and because I had never cornered this hard and flat whilst sitting this high, it was all a bit disorientating at the start. No matter how much I tried, I just could not induce any body roll on the RS Q8. It goes flat, without any tyre squeal or even the slightest understeer. A lot of this is thanks to all the wizardry that happens beneath the sculpted sharp body. To begin with, it has air suspension, but unlike the standard version, it is tweaked and is sportier. Then there is the optional, active roll stabilisation and sport rear differential, and yes, they are just as impressive as they sound so if you’re buying one, tick on these boxes. It also gets all-wheel steering as standard (unlike the RS 7) in which the rear wheels turn the opposite way up to 5 degrees at slow speeds and at high speeds, they turn in the same direction by up to 1.5 degrees to keep the car in line. Then, of course, there is the fabled ‘quattro’ system. Year on year it is a better version of what it was, and with this, it is the best right now. It all is aimed at one thing and one thing only- to make the RSQ8 not feel like an SUV.
So yes, the RS Q8 is the best driving SUV right now. But what about vanity? You pay that many zeroes, you want something that wows you, something that turns heads. And here too, the RS Q8 doesn’t disappoint. Even in the discreet Navarra Blue shade, it was the main attraction everywhere. The massive air intakes, the wide haunches, the all-black grille with the RS logo. It’s all very striking. There is nothing subtle about this Audi.
The profile is even more bonkers with the massive 23-inch wheels, and the hunkered down roof along with the minimalistic but aggressive lines on the body that add to that angry character. And at the rear, it is a light show with the beautiful LED taillamp that stretches from end-to-end.
The interior too is worthy of the price, and there has been no trade-off between performance and luxury. There is so much to cocoon you when you aren’t hammering the RS Q8 around. The seats for one are superb. Despite being sports seats, they are comfortable and well-cushioned and have excellent bolstering to hold you in place when you are attacking corners. They also get the massaging feature which is an optional extra but will come in handy after a long day of fast-paced driving.
The minimalistic centre console looks plush thanks to the dual-touchscreens, but you do miss some physical switches and buttons. The screens are vibrant and responsive, but even changing the AC settings requires pinpoint accuracy, and you often tend to take your eyes off the road. Quality overall is right up there with the best, and you do get a lengthy list of features and an even lengthier options list. Worthy additions include the B and O audio system and of course the massive panoramic sunroof that elevates the cabin that much more.
The back seat is impressive as well. On those rare occasions that you will find yourself in the back of the RS Q8, you’d be surprised by the amount of room on offer. The sloping roof is quite deceptive as you have plenty of headroom and legroom, and there is a huge boot for your luggage too. It is a car you can actually use as a daily driver.
And that is the main reason to opt for the RS Q8 over the RS 7 or any other super-sedan. You do away with that butt-clenching ground clearance, but get just as much performance and drama. It’s so much fun that you are triggered when someone says German cars are serious and boring. This SUV is a laugh. It also has a 48V battery that makes it a mild-hybrid. Tell me that’s not funny. A 592bhp twin-turbo V8 mild-hybrid! Summing up the RS Q8 then is not difficult at all. It is a super-SUV that doesn’t have to worry about the road conditions. That doesn’t have to worry about scraping the speed bumps and one that isn’t restricted to the same boring supercar route in your city. You can actually take it out of the daily chaos, find that hidden gem of a road and use all the high-tech science that is on offer and drive it the way it’s supposed to be driven. SUVs like these are last vestiges before electrification takes over, so it is very important to want them, look at them, listen to them and of course, drive them.