FIRST DRIVE: Audi Q8 TFSI e quattro PHEV

The latest family member in the Audi Q8 line-up is the Audi Q8 TFSI e quattro, which rounds off the Q8’s model range. The new PHEV hybrid model is the version of the German brand’s flagship coupe-SUV, that offers you the ability to drive into town in full EV mode, which undermines the stigma of big SUVs being polluting machines. Going up against the Range Rover Sport PHEV and Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid, the Q8 has all that we know from the standard Q8, mixed with the newly updated hybrid flavor developed by the Bavarians in Ingolstadt.

The Eco-Friendly Luxury SUV

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Let’s not touch too much on the standard features of the Audi Q8. The neatly designed and successful SUV-coupe brings a combination of an elegant exterior design with interior refinement and ride quality that we have seen before among Audi’s range of luxury SUVs. The new TFSI e quattro offers a well known recipe, but just with another powertrain under its belt, allowing you to transport yourself more environmentally friendly across streets, roads and highways.

V6 + Electric Motor

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The key ingredients of the new Q8 consist of the hybrid drivetrain, featuring a larger battery pack and two system outputs. The two variants are the Q8 55 TFSI e quattro and Q8 60 TFSI e quattro. The hardware shared between these vehicles is the same, only the software tune allows for a detuned 55-version, which has been created for markets where you are able to get specific environmental tax benefits from the local government. Interesting move by Audi to accommodate their Q8 hybrid line-up to markets where people will get a benefit when they order themselves a Q8.

This SUV Coupé is already the seventh Audi model with a plug-in hybrid drive that has been newly introduced into the market since mid-2019. The power comes from two different worlds and offers a combination between a 3.0 TFSI V6 petrol engine, which puts out 250 kW / 340 PS and produces 450Nm of torque and a permanently excited synchronous motor (PSM) with a peak output of 100 kW. The compact electric motor is integrated in the housing of the eight-speed tiptronic. Together with the coupling, which connects the 3.0 TFSI to the drivetrain, it forms what is known as the hybrid module.

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The 17.9-kWh battery pack is installed under the 505-liter luggage boot floor, which has been raised by 30 mm to fit all the hybrid tech. The new-generation package has a 0.7 kWh larger capacity than its predecessor (which was released in the Q7 hybrid last year). It is also 70 kilograms lighter. Yes, 70kg! Audi saved a total of 33 percent over their previous battery pack. It now weighs 140kg, which is a great achievement. The battery has a maximum charging capacity of up to 7.4 kW and can be charged fully from empty in 2.5 hours. On a full charge, you will have up to 45km of range in the 60 TFSI, and 47km in the 55 TFSI.

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The combined power of the powertrain differs per model. In the 60 TFSI you get 340 kW / 462 PS and 700 Nm and in the 55 TFSI you get 280 kW / 381 PS and 600 Nm. This has of course an impact on the performance figures. The 60 TFSI brings you from 0 to 100 kmh in 5.4 seconds. The 55 TFSI does it in 5.8 seconds. Both have the same top speed, which is limited at 240 kmh. The Vmax in full electric is 135 kmh.

No Less Than 7 Driving Modes

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On the handling side of things, the Q8 comes with the same set up as its siblings in the range. Quattro permanent all-wheel drive system plus a center mechanic differential come as standard. The power split is 40 percent of the torque to the front and 60 percent to the rear during normal driving. You will have max 85 percent to the front axle and up to 70 percent to the rear axle. The Audi Drive Select system has seven driving profiles: comfort, efficiency, auto, dynamic, individual, off road and all road, and offers you the option to pilot the 2.5-tonne hybrid during your journey.

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You have the option to choose from a number of modes to assist you during your trip. Two main modes are available. EV mode allows you to drive the car in full electric. The petrol engine is not used and you are only running on the battery. The silent drive offers a lovely experience. Push the pedal to the metal and the hybrid mode is enabled, the petrol engine comes to life, and you will hear a lovely V6-tone coming from outside. Nothing too intrusive, but a nice sound that accompanies you during your daily commute.

The hybrid mode is the standard mode enabled at start up. It has three modes. The Auto mode uses the onboard MMI system and its predictive operating strategy via the navigation system to spread the battery charge over the driving route in an intelligent and efficient way or it will recharge the battery for further use. The ‘Hold’ mode will keep the charge of the battery until you choose differently, and the Charge mode immediately starts charging the battery.

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The available choice between these modes is a nice extra, but I would suggest you to drive in Hybrid Auto mode 99 percent of the time. There is no immediate requirement to change modes, but you can if you feel like it. The hybrid powertrain does what it needs to do in an efficient, relatively silent and luxury manner that fits to the Audi brand and the Q8 lineup. The transition between EV and hybrid is smooth and you hardly even notice the fact that you have moved between both modes. Only the cluster in front of the driver will you show the difference between driving in full electric or also using the V6 engine.

For those wanting to opt between the 55 and 60, it is good to know that the 60 TFSI comes with a higher standard trim package. You will get the S line exterior package, black styling package with exterior attachments in body color, the Matrix LED headlights, and the adaptive Air Suspension Sport. Additionally, it rolls on 285/45 sized tires mounted on the 21-inch wheels and has brake calipers in red. On the inside, you get sports seats in black or partially in Rotor Grey with S embossing. The Plus seat with integrated head rests are optional. The pedals and footrests are made of stainless steel and the inlays in the dashboard are made of matte brushed aluminum.

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A Great Package, But Not Coming To The U.S.

The new Audi Q8 TFSI e quattro offers the option between two Worlds. Not only through its hybrid drivetrain, but also by offering two versions. If you live in Europe, a Q8 55 TFSI e quattro will set you back at least 75,350 Euros, while the Q8 60 TFSI e quattro will have you splash at least 92,800 Euros. The difference in price is mainly due to the higher standard trim package on the 60 TFSI, which offers options you can opt as well on the 55 TFSI. The lower price of the 55 and the available tax benefits ensure that this model might well be opted more often by customers than its slightly faster brother. All in all, it is great to see both being available and Audi offering a Q8 variant, which is able to offer you the luxury SUV-Coupe experience with that touch of environmental friendly flavor.