A test drive with the all-new Audi Q8

This car would probably have grip in the Milky Way and even upstages the stellar constellations in the crystal-clear sky in the Atacama Desert. An exaggeration? Unbelievably celestial according to blogger Jan Weizenecker who completed a test drive with the Audi Q8 in the Chilean desert. Find out why he reached this conclusion and what he learned about the magic of the stars while he was at it.

As a kid, I wholeheartedly relied on the power and magic of the stars. In case of wishes outside my sphere of influence, I trusted in the guidance of twinkling shooting stars. It’s a pretty lengthy process, this waiting for the expiration of past planets that took a lot of patience and no shyness of the nature and cold nights. I owe my first remote-controlled car and my first first time to this tactic. Maybe a quick call to Astro-TV or a glimpse into the love horoscope would have been sufficient? What’s sure is that I’m not only a star’s stalker, but a car voyeur as well. It’s a dangerous preference mixture within me that makes the driving presentation of the all-new Audi Q8 in the Atacama Desert unforgettable heavenly.

A breathtaking location for the Audi Q8 test drive

The Chilean desert is one of the locations with the lowest rainfall per square meter. Sometimes, it’s not raining for years there. On average, that makes around 55 millimeters of precipitation per year to be precise. On estimation, that’s up to a little more than half a centimeter what in-turn is relatively little. With this fact in mind, you can imagine what the sandy and rocky desert looks like. Dry, bone dry, but beautiful with its snow-covered mountain tops in a foreign kind of lunar landscape.

One of them is the Licancabur, an inactive volcano at an elevation of around 6,000 meters. It can be best marveled at from the neighboring village of San Pedro de Atacama. But it’s not only the lack of humidity that makes this place one of the apparently best worldwide to go stargazing. The desert lies at more than 3,000 meters elevation above sea level and covers an area of 105,000 square kilometers. Its surface covers more than double of Switzerland’s outline. At the probably world’s dryest place, there is very little population and therefore barely any stray lights. That’s why a major part of the worldwide astronomy research is located here.

A fata morgana or the all-new Audi Q8?

In the middle of this desert, there’s the new “Big Dipper” by Audi: the Q8. A constellation or a fata morgana? It could be both, because the first Audi SUV with a dipping roof line doesn’t fit in here during the day after a first glance. It looks like a pretty enormous space shuttle just landed here. That’s why one thing is sure for the new Ingolstadt family member: Having the undivided attention of the people in San Pedro de Atacama, the Audi employees’ one and my attention of course. Here in the middle of nowhere, the rising Audi star with the highest Q-index up until now, awaits being driven by me. Visually, the first SUV coupe from Ingolstadt knows to convince with both classic charm and exciting modernism. The fluid line management around the displayed wheel arches and confident pillars aren’t only inspired by the Ur-quattro, but really look really impressive as well. There’s no doubt about that!

A modern design with elegant modesty

During the night, its lightning signature that greets the driver with an illuminated pipe organ, steals the show from the crystal-clear sky. In the front, the huge single frame and the LED lights are busy luring and shining. In the back, the vast LED lights that are connected by a slim strip light aren’t shocking anyone since the new A8 celebrated its premiere. In a nutshell, it’s a design that induces melting away in more places than in the desert’s heat.

But at the same time – in comparison to the Audi Q7 – the fluid impression can transform it into cannibalistic danger. What’s interesting is that in the s-line package with “single frame”, the Q8 comes across as very progressive and dreamlike, while it also displays subtle restraint when painted in its car color. That’s why not only established star or BMW customers will give buying the Q8 a second thought. There have been reports of Q7 drivers talking about their desire to switch cars.

That’s why the potential buyer class should feel encouraged by the interior concept. Once you close the door, the desert, sand, wind and heat are gone. What’s dominating then is the cool modernity surrounding workmanship in an air-conditioned interior oasis. The seating on the downside flatters already in the series and thus let’s the optional sport seats transform into pure luxury.

Technical highlight: the “MMI Touch Response” Display on two levels

But between oasis and quality, today it’s also technology and its intuitive control during driving that decides upon success or failure of a model. The concept seems to be familiar to the ones in the A8, A7 or A6 and creates no doubt about its quality. With the 12.3-inch “Audi virtual cockpit” behind the steering wheel, the basis for the driver’s orientation had already been crated in the most recent TT. The most important information, such as a navigation map, can be displayed behind the steering wheel. There’s also an optional head-up display. But the highlight is the standard “MMI Touch Response” Display. It’s located on two levels within the center console. The 10.1-inch upper display maps the infotainment system, while the 8.6-inch lower display surface is responsible for managing the air conditioning. The control reacts lovingly to touches with haptic feedback. Nice.

But today, it’s not about the MMI navigation plus that uses the new mobile standard LTE Advanced for data transmission or about connectivity systems such as Apple Car Play or Android Auto. Today, the Q8 will be driven in a breath-taking desert. That’s why we’re boarding the Q8 50 TDI. A rocket with a V6 diesel with full 286 hp and an engine power of 600 Nm. The SUV coupe’s engine pushes us to a speed of 100km/h in the span of 6.3 seconds on a sandy street on that you can’t see the end. But at 232 km/h, even the acceleration in the desert reaches a limit. The ones that dream about the Q8, but aren’t able to afford it now, can look forward to the 45 TDI, a lighter and probably more affordable version. It comes with a diesel engine with 231 hp and will be available in the beginning of 2019.

A strong performance on the offroad test track thanks to the quattro all-wheel drive and air suspension

But driving is so much more than a sheer collection of cool data. Driving is a heavenly kingdom of freedom. Driving is emotion. And it’s astonishing how much love has been put into the details into the colossus that weighs about 2.1 tonnes. Despite the 2.84 square meter front surface, the wall unit rolls around incredibly silent. That’s when you realize where there’s barely any external interfering noise. Here in the desert, the Q8 sails along between 55 and 160 km/h when the engine is not running and rolls off from 22 km/h until it comes to a halt at zero rotation speed. The 0.7-liter fuel on 100 kilometers that are saved, are the result of an impressive engineering performance, but that’s probably just a drop in the ocean in terms of the SUV trends. But during our first test drive in the Q8 it’s more about the feeling. The high seating positions radiates something august in combination with the optional air suspension. It’s so low in sounds that the comfort mode feels a little alienated from the road and the environment.

But when you switch the drive mode to “dynamic”, then it’ll get wilder. The steering and the gas intake are visibly more straightforward. The suspension’s harder. The strength of the all-wheel drive is visibly demonstrated in fast curves. During fast lane switches, the rear wheels steer concordantly with 2.5 degree. That’s how the track stability is raised so high that the Audi isn’t even flustered on a sandy street. This car would probably have grip in the Milky Way. But like on the moon, there are no roads in Calamar and thus real off-road tracks here. Aside from the quattro drive, the Q8 benefits from the air suspension in terms of taking the car off from 55 millimeters to 245 millimeters ride height. Thus, it comes so close to heaven that none of the love hills seem out of reach anymore.

Grip Test in der Wüste mit dem Audi Q8
When switching to a sporty driving style, the wheel-selective torque control – an intelligent software function of the ESC Electronic Stabilization Control – minimally brakes the wheels on the inside of a curve. Thus, the car turns into the curve ever so slightly and the turn-in behavior remains longer, while the handling becomes even more precise, agile and stable.

The Audi Q8 – my "Big Dipper"

This year, I’ll be 30 years old and by now, I rarely ask the stars for guidance. Because I just fulfil any of my wishes. One of them was a true sports car. But the Q8 with its stand-alone optics, its technical modernity and its simultaneous ability to make traveling comfortable and abstinence from stress, let’s me rethink. Does the desire for a SUV mean that I’m becoming an “adult”? Am I getting old? Am I getting lazy?

But one thing is distinctly clear, because while I keep losing hair and there’s hair growing in places that no one wants to see, Audi builds a car that will become a bright star on the dark sky of the automobile egalitarianism due to its uniqueness.
I’ve already found my “Big Dipper” in the desert – how romantic.