Audi Q8 First Drive: This Flagship e-tron Electric SUV Refines the Definition of Luxury

No room to compromise? That's what the 2024 Audi Q8 e-tron luxury electric car is all about: Luxury, 265 mile range, 402 HP and two beautiful styles: SUV or Sportback

A Side View Of The Audi Q8 E-Tron Sportback
A side view of the Audi Q8 e-tron Sportback. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

When “compromise” isn’t an option.

Audi has always had a reputation for building great vehicles. They’re stylish and comfortable with all the luxury features anyone could want, but none of the pretentiousness. 

I recently had the chance to check out the 2024 Q8 e-tron SUV and Sportback. Previously just called the e-tron, Audi has added Q8, priced from $74,000, to the vehicle’s name to signify that it is the largest (and most luxurious) of its electric cars, its flagship electric SUV. 

Alphanumeric vehicle names make me a little crazy; it’s hard to keep straight which model is which  — and I’m an automotive journalist, I can’t imagine what regular consumers must think. But there must be some reason Audi continues to do it. They were among the first automakers to use them. 

Related: Like Your Favorite Golden Goose Sneakers, the Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback Electric SUV Is Sporty to Chic

Me With The Audi Q8 E-Tron

Me with the Audi Q8 e-tron. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

A Little Bit About Me and Audi

My history with the brand goes way back. I was among the first journalists to drive the original Audi A4 sedan when it was introduced in the early 90s. I was a young automotive reporter and I didn’t even have a passport. 

My company offered me the chance to go to Europe, meet with top Audi executives, and then see the plants where the vehicle and its engine were made. I then drove it from Germany to Austria to Hungary, including portions on the autobahn. 

Needless to say, after an experience like that, Audi will always have a soft spot in my heart. 

So getting to spend time with executives and then drive the Q8 — this time in California’s Napa Valley and on the Pacific Coast Highway — was a homecoming of sorts. 

Related: Can an Electric Car Work as a Family Car? The Car Mom Puts the VW ID.4 to the Test

The E-Tron Dashboard

The e-tron dashboard in the Launch edition. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

Welcome to the Future

Audi says its goal with the Q8 e-tron is to bring “sophisticated, seamless electrification to the luxury SUV segment with increased range, higher-power charging and improved driving dynamics.”

I think they’ve done all that and more.

The Q8 is my favorite kind of luxury car. It’s both simplistic and intuitive and the design touches are amazing. 

Being inside of it is like being in the very poshest 5-star luxury hotel or in the first-class cabin on an airplane. Make that the upstairs first-class cabin. You know, the one where only the high rollers get to sit. 

There is just the right combination of screens and knobs to make working the controls quick and safe. You don’t have to take your eyes off the road since most of the functions can be enacted using voice prompts. 

Related: 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge: Pure Electric Power in a Stylish and Playful Package

The Front Face Of The Audi Q8 E-Tron

The front face of the Audi Q8 e-tron. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

Pretty is as Pretty Does

Befitting its flagship position within Audi’s electrified portfolio, the Q8 e-tron has the most sophisticated and luxurious interior design within the model range. 

The Q8 e-tron offers standard four-zone automatic climate control with a heat pump and comfort pre-conditioning. Three-stage seat ventilation improves comfort even at warmer outdoor temperatures and is included in the Premium Plus and Prestige trim lines. 

A highlight among interior options, as part of the Prestige trim, the standard eight-way, power-adjustable individual contour seats wrapped in Valcona/Milano leather provide pneumatic leg and side bolster adjustment, power thigh extension, and include massage functionality. 

The View From The Driver'S Seat In The Audi Q8 E-Tron

The view from the driver’s seat in the Audi Q8 e-tron. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

For Those Who Like Gorgeous Wood and Pretty Colors

The Q8 e-tron interior finishes feature optional decorative inlays of open-pore wood such as volcano gray ash, light brown walnut and dark brown sycamore. 

I drove two body styles of the Q8, the Sportback and the SUV. I deliberately chose the Sportback in Magnet Gray because in certain light, it has a slightly green tone to it and I’m all about green-colored vehicles. 

It’s also kind of on the matte side. An Audi executive told me they were offering those finishes before they became so trendy. Maybe they are more common now, but they are nevertheless distinctive. 

The SUV I drove was a gorgeous rich dark brown that almost had a plum tone to it; it’s called Madeira Brown. It also took on different tones depending on the lighting. 

The wheel covers and new two-dimensional logo are also design elements to be appreciated. 

Massaging Seats In The Audi Q8 E-Tron

Massaging seats in the Audi Q8 e-tron. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

Here’s One Place Where You Need Your Fingers

I’m going to cut right to the chase: My favorite thing about this vehicle, even more than the amazing torque when accelerating due to it being electric, are the massaging seats. 

But in order to operate them, you do need to go into the touchscreen to choose which sequence and intensity. There’s wave, pulse, stretch, relaxation, back, shoulder, activation and revitalization. 

I tried them all (on high intensity, of course)  and they were all lovely. It’s the kind of interior you aren’t going to want to leave once you arrive home and are parked in your driveway. Go ahead, sit and enjoy those heated/ventilated massaging seats a few minutes longer. You deserve it! 

The 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron Suv.

The 2024 Audi Q8 e-tron SUV. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

Audi Makes EV Ownership Economical and Easy

There’s a learning curve when it comes to electric cars. If you’ve never driven or owned an EV, you need to know that you won’t often charge your battery to more than 80% capacity, which is best for a long battery life. So the range numbers you hear are a bit inflated since they are indicative of a 100% charge.

You also need to know that there are three different levels of charging and that many public chargers in most parts of the country are actually NOT DC fast chargers (level 3) but instead are slower level 2. So when an automaker tells you range and charging time, be mindful of those factors. 

Audi says because of advancements in battery cell technology the maximum DC charging power has been increased from 150 kW to 170 kW, permitting recharging from 10% to 80% capacity in about 31 minutes at a level 3 DC fast charger. Under ideal level-2 charging conditions, the Audi Q8 e-tron can recharge in around 13 hours at 9.6 kW, or around 6.5 hours at 19.2kW. Those are different charger powers; you have to look on the charger to see which level of power it delivers. 

To make the transition to Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) ownership even easier, if an owner doesn’t already have an available wall plug, Audi is working with Qmerit for charger installation. 

Qmerit enables drivers to take advantage of white-glove concierge home charger installation services. In fact, home charging hardware and its installation through Qmerit can be financed at the dealership and incorporated into your monthly payment. 

Audi'S Virtual Cockpit Driver Information Graphics

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit driver information graphics. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

Here’s Why Plug & Charge is Cool

Audi also aims to make it somewhat less painless to own an EV by offering two years of Electrify America DC fast charging, a convenient new Plug & Charge feature, and Audi on Demand premium rental service.

Plug & Charge eliminates the need to tap an app or use a credit card at certain public charging stations across the country. Once you’ve registered your car and payment, the charging terminal will recognize your car, charge it up and charge your credit card.

At compatible Electrify America charging stations, the Plug & Charge feature will automatically authorize and confirm billing via encrypted vehicle to infrastructure (V2i) communication, and activate the charger when the charging plug is inserted into the vehicle. The multimedia system’s embedded e-tron route planner can also provide guidance to charging points along your route. 

The 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron

The 2024 Audi Q8 e-trons we test drove. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

Need a Gas Powered Audi For a Few Days? No Problem!

Both Q8 models get notable ranges estimated to be about 285 miles on a full battery. Despite how great that sounds, there are times when you just need to not have to think about charging. 

So, one week of complimentary Audi on Demand rental benefit through the Always Audi program is a really nice perk.  

Want to take a long road trip, maybe in a rural area without a lot of public chargers? No worries, choose any Audi gas-powered vehicle from one of 47 participating dealers (with more to come) and you are good to go. 

The Cargo Area With The Rear Seats Up

The cargo area with the rear seats up. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

Audi Q8 Offers Sports Car Handling with SUV Storage Space

Audi says owners of the 2024 Audi Q8 e-tron can expect noticeable handling and agility improvements even in everyday driving, thanks to engineering efforts on multiple fronts which enhance and refine the driving dynamics Audi owners have come to expect. 

Never mind “everyday driving.” Do you like to drive the twist-and-turn mountain roads? You know, the ones you can find along the Pacific Coast Highway in California or the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina? Me too!

I’d say the refinements are doubly noticeable on hairpin turns. The vehicle offers different driving modes, so tap the “Mode” button until you see “Dynamic” on the screen, and get ready for the fun.

Being slightly lower to the ground makes the car feel planted more firmly during cornering.

Audi says the Q8 e-tron’s progressive steering is now more direct, with a quicker steering ratio achieved through a new steering gear with optimized gear ratio and new software implemented for improved driver feedback. The result is “faster” steering, meaning less driver input is required for the same amount of steering responsiveness, making the steering feel more direct with more communicative feedback. 

That’s a really tech-heavy explanation. All you really need to know is it’s incredibly fun to drive. 

The Cargo Area With The Seats Folded Down

The cargo area with the seats folded down. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

Last but not Least, a Place for All Your Stuff

The SUV has a classic-shaped cargo area and that means ample storage. Even the slightly lower-profiled Sportback still offers a ton of storage. 

Seats fold nearly flat in both models. Maybe most drivers wouldn’t notice this, but I personally wish they were completely flat. I often transport dogs in crates so even the slightest incline on top of the flat-fold seats can be problematic. 

But when the seats are up, they are cushy and comfortable and there’s plenty of legroom for human backseat passengers, who probably are more vocal about their needs than the dogs. 

The Rear Of The Audi Q8 E-Tron Sportback

The rear of the Audi Q8 e-tron Sportback. Photo: Tanya Gazdik

Are You Ready to Order One? Here are the Deets

The vehicle arrives at dealerships this summer and can currently be ordered.

Pricing on the SUV starts at $74,400 for Premium, Premium Plus starts at $78,800 and features a Bang & Olufsen sound system along with ventilated front seats. The Prestige edition starting at $84,800 features  those beautiful Valcona/Milano leather seats including individual contour massaging front seats. (Just say yes!) 

The limited-time Launch Edition starts at $87,550 and includes orange piping on the seats, 21-inch, 5-arm aero-structure-design wheels in a metallic black finish and an S-Line exterior with body color front grille along with black roof rails, mirror housings and exterior trim. 

Pricing on the Sportback starts at $77,800 for Premium, $82,200 for Premium Plus, $88,200 for Prestige and $91,500 for Launch edition.

A Word about the Launch Edition

Are you that person who wants something unique?  Audi likes to celebrate the first year of its new models by offering attributes in vehicles that won’t be available for folks who delay their purchase. (Talk about smart marketing!)

The Launch Editions include all-black wheels and a special flint gray interior and two-tone dashboard. The seats are trimmed with orange piping “which signifies the high voltage system in the car,” per an Audi executive. 

There are also new high-tech mesh inlays, which are made with recycled plastic bottles. Audi melts down the bottle, spins it into fibers and makes the inlay from it, which I think is pretty cool. 

It’s just one more thoughtful touch that sets the brand apart from its competitors.

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Disclosure: I was a guest of Audi for this test drive. Travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.

Tanya Gazdik covers automotive, financial services, travel, sports, and pets for MediaPost's "Marketing Daily." She is the chief programmer... More about Tanya Gazdik