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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 November 2018

Road test: 2019 Audi Q8

The competitive Q8 gives off both sportiness and luxury

So you saw the Urus, Lamborghini’s imminent new super-SUV, thought “I’ll have a bit of that”, then had other ideas when you clocked the Dh1 million price tag and found you only had Dh65 and some shrapnel in your wallet. That’s cool – all hope might not be lost. How about the new Audi Q8?

Now, Audi’s bigwigs won’t really talk about it, but the German brand’s new large SUV has certain similarities with the Urus, perhaps not surprising given the duo’s Volkswagen Group links. Exactly what is shared between the two might not be source of public record, but the Q8’s starting price sure is: Dh315,000. What’s more, whenever it arrives, the mooted RS version of the Q8 is rumoured to have more power than the Urus. And you can be sure it won’t cost as much as a million dibs.

We will have to wait for the RS for the time being, however. What I am in Oman to test drive is the regular Q8, which is on sale in the UAE for the first time this month.

The Q8’s designation is a little confusing, given that Audi’s numerical scales usually relate to size in ascending order – it is actually seven centimetres shorter than previous SUV range-topper the Q7, although slightly wider. Sportiness, then, is the intention here, as well as luxury, illustrated by its expansive dual touchscreens, in the style of saloon pinnacle, the A8. With frameless doors, Audi calls it a “coupe SUV”.

Its premium intentions are certainly proven on first glance when I spy the row of gleaming Q8s in an underground car park at Muscat’s equally spanking-new airport – the vertical slats of the Q8’s octagon grille favourably compare to Maserati’s (more expensive) Levante.

Certain exterior design elements, such as the rear lights, attempt to evoke the original 1980s Audi Quattro, but the Q8 is still unmistakable from other SUVs in its range. That said, at the points of my test drive when our convoy is led by a Q7 pace car, its newer sibling’s dashing lines significantly dates it.

Before that, there is the small matter of a guideless drive up Jebel Al Akhdar, but the mountain exposes a borderline lack of power for a car of this size – the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6’s 340hp, in an SUV that weighs more than two tonnes, doesn’t feel much more than adequate. The 6.2-second 0-to-100kph doesn’t exactly scream “watch out, I’m coming for you”, either.

Off-road, however, and 500Nm of torque and the permanent quattro four-wheel-drive system, plus 254 millimetres of ground clearance, make easy work of the mildly challenging gravel tracks of our route.

The general driving sensation is that of a much smaller vehicle than the actual dimensions of five metres long and two metres wide, while all-wheel steering maintains a tight turning circle.

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Read more:

Road test: 2019 Audi A7 Sportback

Road test: 2019 Audi A8

Road Test: 2018 Audi RS 5

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Inside, the interior is a little bit of a mishmash, with hard plastics (both gloss and matte), Alcantara, leather and wood thrown together with a lack of continuity. The flat-bottomed steering wheel nods again to the sports intent, but it’s the practicality that is more impressive, thanks to one metre of headroom and, with rear seats ­folded, up to 1,755 litres of boot space. A built-in Wi-Fi hot spot is a bonus, too.

Like the new A7, the Q8 has Audi’s mild-hybrid system, and can also save fuel by coasting when cruising at speeds of between 55kph to 160kph. The electric element provides limited additional punch, with a potential extra 7Nm of torque.

When it comes to the crunch, though, is the Urus three-and-a-bit times better than the Q8? It’s probably not a fair test, in all honesty, but in the wider context of the Raging Bull’s pricey big puncher, it definitely seems like quite the comparative bargain.