SEA RANCH, Calif. – Take a deep breath. Thumb the digital shifter toggle into Park. Get comfortable. Take pleasure in every part else concerning the 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron in addition to driving it.
The street forward could also be spectacular, however it’s additionally underneath building. Automated crimson lights meter visitors at numerous one-way parts, which implies you’re inevitably caught ready round for prolonged intervals of time. And worse than that, as soon as underway, there’ll nonetheless be visitors forward. Really, “visitors” is just too form. There will be a succession of leisurely shifting leisure automobiles, which in my case at numerous factors was a Ram ProMaster RV by coachbuilder Entegra that would possibly have topped 25 at one level, a 2003 Silverado HD with a bed-mounted camper towing an Airstream, and regardless of the hell this was.
Such a tempo is mainly what you possibly can count on your driving expertise to ivolve whereas traversing the California 1 north of San Francisco. Its spectacular surroundings rightfully attracts a crowd, which implies you’re caught in that crowd. Be taught to just accept that, and also you’ll have a significantly better time. Be behind the wheel of the Q8 E-Tron and also you simply may need the makings of one of the vital pleasurable and memorable drives in latest reminiscence – I do know I did.
Q8 E-Tron could be the brand new identify for the electrical SUV previously often known as simply E-Tron (you possibly can dive deeper into the adjustments in our Q8 E-Tron and SQ8 E-Tron First Drive Assessment). Audi says this was to emphasise this specific car’s standing as a range-topping blah blah blah, however come on, it’s to make it quite a bit simpler to distinguish it with the E-Tron GT, This fall E-Tron and no matter different E-Trons are coming down the pipe in Audi’s electrified future. That stated, it’s, in truth, a mid-cycle refresh of the earlier E-Tron, and never a brand new electrical model of the Audi Q8. The 2 Q8s are completely different automobiles, albeit with related footprints and have content material.
For the needs of a street journey like this one up the coast and again from Healdsburg in Sonoma wine nation, the Q8 E-Tron is now good for 285 miles with its SUV physique type, and 296 for its “Coupe” physique type that up to now has represented solely about 10-15% of gross sales. That’s a considerable enchancment over the outgoing SUV’s 226 miles due to a brand new, extra effectively designed battery pack good for 114 kilowatt-hours versus 95 kWh. It additionally costs faster: a nonetheless so-so 170-kW max versus 150 at public quick chargers. AC residence charging is both an equally so-so 9.6 kW or, with the elective second charger, a nutty 19.2 kW that ought to futureproof your automobile for no matter superior residence chargers are launched (my state-of-the-art Wallbox Pulsar tops out on the similar 11.5 kW as a lot of at this time’s different EVs). All advised, I’d return after a day of driving – principally leisurely, however some bits extra vigorous – with 61 miles left. Good factor it received these 59 further miles, eh?
In addition to the upgraded battery, these further miles additionally consequence from the redesigned exterior’s aerodynamic enhancements that scale back drag by 6%. In addition they enhance cabin noise, which Audi says is as quiet or quieter than the A8. Or, for those who want, my iPhone’s decibel meter app registered a mean of 44 dB throughout a two-minute regular cruise at 60 mph. That’s mainly the identical quantity as an RS Q8 … parked.
With that in thoughts and the Bundeswehr troop transport nonetheless ready for the sunshine to show inexperienced, it was time to make pattern of the Q8 E-Tron’s Bang & Olufsen sound system. As a result of, wow, is it ever good. The mix of silent automobile, soft-touch inside surfaces and no matter speaker magic B&O cooked up ends in the closest factor you may get to a rolling recording studio. I heard issues for the primary time in tracks I’ve listened to numerous occasions: birds chirping in Daisy the Nice’s “Report Participant” and water babbling on the finish of Lord Huron’s “The Evening We Met.” I may hear particular person Dua Lipa’s singing with Elton John on their quasi-duet of “Chilly Coronary heart,’ and much more of Alanis singing backup for Dave Matthews on “Spoon.” I may swear the tambourine within the Beatles’ “Day within the Life” was actually within the automobile banging away in opposition to the lifeless pedal.
As Bang and his pal Olufsen supplied the soundtrack, California supplied the visuals as I mercifully managed to shake RVs once in a while in favor of a minivan or Tahoe. Up right here, California 1 hugs the coast atop gently rolling headlands nonetheless amply inexperienced after the winter’s many atmospheric rivers. Glimpses of sandy white cliffs and the seashores beneath seem at factors because the coast turns, whereas the ocean beneath has a surprisingly nearly Caribbean-like turquoise hue (sure, we drove the white Q8 beneath however the photographs have been taken of a blue one). Although the tempo stays leisurely, the fixed corners present simply sufficient driver involvement as I glide the sleek, constantly weighted steering forwards and backwards. All advised, it actually was a joyful morning of driving and a feast for the senses: sound, sight and really feel. And positive, the Q8 E-Tron smells fairly good, too.
The lunch cease is The Sea Ranch Lodge, or reasonably the ocean-view restaurant adjoining to the soon-to-be-reopened resort nestled on the headlands overlooking the Pacific. Each inside inch of its Nineteen Seventies trendy structure is lined in wooden – if it wasn’t for the California coast out the home windows, I’d swear I used to be in Sweden.
Delicious grilled cheese consumed, I climb again into the Q8 E-Tron and begin operating via the Apple CarPlay music app for my subsequent choice when it instantly dawns on me that no automobiles have handed by the driveway in fairly a while. There should be a hold-up. CarPlay deserted, I faucet the shifter-toggle thingy into Drive and pull as much as the driveway to see a phalanx of three extra campers main a downtrodden regiment of automobiles uphill: a elaborate off-roading Sprinter, a Tundra with a canoe on the roof towing a 15-foot camper and, within the lead, that rattling Entegra once more. They actually ought to’ve purchased the Sort S.
This was my probability. Positive, an electrical bicycle may outrun this parade, however I gun it. Foot to flooring, the Q8 E-Tron doesn’t possess that snap we’ve come to count on from high-powered EVs. Sure, it has 408 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque, however it’s additionally anticipated to launch about 6,000 kilos of rolling recording studio, I imply, Audi midsize SUV. Apparently, energy really appears to progressively construct as, nicely, not as revs rise however that’s type of what it appears like. The quicker you’re going, the faster the E-Tron is to pile on much more velocity. It’s all accompanied with an digital whine, which will get a bit rumblier in Dynamic mode, that sounds applicable for the automobile and doesn’t draw an excessive amount of consideration to itself.
Although the street forward is now clear, I keep a subdued tempo till the route veers inland and the street will get even twistier. Time to see how Audi’s engineers managed to handle the outgoing non-Q8 E-Tron’s largest shortcoming: it was a flabby, bounding mess that made you conscious of each one of many these 6,000-ish kilos. The steering is faster, and 50% stiffer entrance management arm bushings have been added for higher response, particularly on-center. It’s nonetheless a bit too loosey-goosey on middle in Auto or Consolation mode, however in Dynamic, its added on-center heft is extra confidence-inspiring. The additional weighting upon turn-in is much less appreciated, although, because it numbs a number of the response and feels a tad unnatural.
The suspension retains air springs at every nook, however they, together with the steadiness management system have been re-tuned to enhance physique composure whereas dealing with, and it completely succeeded. You continue to really feel its heft, however there’s a poise and athleticism right here that was lacking earlier than. The Q8 E-Tron glided via a prolonged sequence of tighter corners alongside a winding river woodland, forwards and backwards, up and down, easily sustaining tempo and composure regardless of speeds of 60 to 65 mph. No tire squeal, no anxious stability management interactions and positively no bounding about. Seems the Q8 E-Tron now has some GT chops.
Reaching the 101 South, I cost the Q8 E-Tron onto the two-lane divided freeway solely to find in the suitable lane an Infiniti G37 trope: slammed, carbon-look hood, fart can exhaust, home windows down, face in cellphone. The vape should’ve been out of batteries. I attempt to hold again, however he too slows down, subliminal tractor beam engaged. Nice. I can both have my serene rolling recording studio sullied by the fart can for 40 minutes, or I can … Yeah, buh-bye. Q8 E-Tron autobahn credentials thereby confirmed.
With its larger vary and improved driving manners, the Q8 E-Tron is kind of merely an exceptional day tripper. If I used to be happening a lengthier journey up the coast to Fort Bragg or Redwood Nationwide Park, I’d positively run into charging points, however these kinds of journeys are the exception, not the rule. In addition to, it’s a secure wager that anybody who can afford this $92,390 Q8 E-Tron additionally has room within the price range and storage for a non-EV. Or simply fly. Both approach, there’s an excellent probability the journey received’t be as gratifying – even when sitting nonetheless.