Crossover & Midsize

Is the 591-Hp, Urus-Engine Audi RS Q8 the Best New Audi?

Ever since the RS2 Avant, Audi’s highest-performance models have always carried the ‘RS’ moniker. One step above the ‘S’ models, there are RS versions of everything from Audi’s sedans to wagons. And that includes SUVs, like Audi’s range-topping Q8. The stylish SUV underpins the Lamborghini Urus, which is undoubtedly fast, as well as fairly off-road-capable. But now the Audi RS Q8 aims to bring Lamborghini speed under the German company’s roof.

Audi RS Q8 specs and features

2020 Audi RS Q8
2020 Audi RS Q8 | Audi

The Audi RS Q8’s most prominent feature is under the hood. Instead of the standard Q8’s turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, the RS Q8 has the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 found in the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Lamborghini Urus.

Here, it makes 591 hp and 590 lb-ft and is linked to an 8-speed automatic and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Audi claims the RS Q8 can go 0-60 in 3.8 seconds, which slower than the Urus and also slightly behind the Cayenne Turbo. Likely, that’s because the Cayenne weighs about 150 lbs less than the RS Q8, Car and Driver reports.

2020 Audi RS Q8 mild-hybrid system
2020 Audi RS Q8 mild-hybrid system | Audi

Audi also pairs the SUV with a 48-volt hybrid-assist system, Motor Trend reports. It’s a mild-hybrid system, Car and Driver reports, meant to help the engine start smoother and use stop-start and cylinder deactivation more efficiently. It also helps power various electrical systems, including the optional electronically-controlled anti-roll bars. They’re part of a Dynamics Package that also adds a torque-vectoring rear differential, and carbon-ceramic brake rotors taken from the Urus. Rear-wheel steering and active air suspension are standard, though.

2020 Audi RS Q8 interior
2020 Audi RS Q8 interior | Audi

While the standard Q8 is a 3-row, 7-passenger SUV, the RS Q8 can only seat 5. But the RS Q8 is by no means barren inside. It has bolstered front sport seats, dual-touchscreen infotainment, an RS-specific digital gauge cluster, and a heads-up display. Audi is still finalizing the RS Q8’s options list, but Car and Driver expects adaptive cruise control to be at least an optional extra. Automatic emergency braking, though, will be standard, as well as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, and WiFi.

What’s good about the Audi RS Q8

Carwow host Mat Watson recently spent some time with the Audi RS Q8. And he walked away considerably impressed.

With the anti-roll bars, the RS Q8 does genuinely corner and handle extremely well. In fact, on the road, Watson was even able to get a controlled slide out of the SUV. The rear-wheel steering also makes the Audi SUV feel like a smaller, more agile vehicle. And yet, with the suspension in Comfort Mode, it’s comfortable enough for daily driving. Car and Driver and MT report much the same.

Overall interior quality is also good. There’s leather and Alcantara everywhere, and 2nd-row passengers have plenty of space. The 2nd-row seats can also slide back and forth. Watson’s Audi RS Q8 also came with some options that may make it to the US, like massaging front seats, a Bang & Olufsen audio system, and power-close doors.

What still needs work

Although Mat Watson found the optional carbon-ceramic brakes were very effective, Car and Driver reports the brake pedal feels somewhat mushy. And the carbon-ceramic rotors require a firm push to stop quickly. Plus, while the RS Q8’s anti-roll bars and steering system do add sportiness, Watson reports the BMW X6 M is sharper, if less comfortable.

The Audi RS Q8’s transmission also has some flaws. Although it is smooth and quick, Watson and Car and Driver report it doesn’t respond as quickly to the paddle shifters. And the shifters themselves are made of cheap-feeling plastic. In addition, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo—which is built on the same platform—has both a faster-responding transmission and larger rear cargo space.

Pricing comparison

The Audi RS Q8 is expected to go on sale sometime in summer 2020. Prices will start, Motor1 reports at $113,9995. That’s about $20,000 more than the highest-trim SQ8, Autoblog reports.

2020 BMW X6 M side
2020 BMW X6 M side | BMW

In comparison, the BMW X6 M starts at $108,600. However, while it makes slightly more power—600 hp—its 0-60 time is the same as the RS Q8’s. In addition, Watson preferred the Audi over the BMW when it came to daily comfort.

2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo rear
2020 Porsche Cayenne Turbo rear | Porsche

Meanwhile, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, although it makes about 50 hp less, is slightly quicker. But it’s also more expensive, with a starting price of $126,500. Although, adding in the anti-roll bars, differential, and carbon-ceramic brakes would likely push the RS Q8 to that price point anyway.

Audi RS6 Avant
Audi RS6 Avant | Audi

There’s also the Audi RS6 Avant to consider. MT notes the wagon has a lower center of gravity, making it even more agile. It also shares the RS Q8’s 591-hp engine and hybrid system but weighs about 440 pounds less. It will also be cheaper; Car and Driver reports it will start at $109,995.

Deciding which is the best new Audi, then, RS Q8 or RS6 Avant will require a 1-on-1 duel.

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