A move like this has been rumored for years, but the Q8 Concept shown here at the Detroit Auto Show is the first tangible proof that Audi is thinking beyond to expand its range of luxury SUVs. Just as importantly, some of the tech and design debuting in and on its striking Bombay-blue flanks presage developments for the German automaker's upcoming A8 flagship sedan and other future models. And while this exact design won't see production, Audi has already confirmed that this show star will be "the basis for a production model."
The Q8 has a sloping rear backlight, so it adheres firmly to the "four-door coupe" styling idiom that auto designers seem increasingly obsessed with, but Audi claims that there's spacious seating for all four occupants, with plenty of headroom. Up front, there's a new design riff on Audi's trademark single-frame grille, which features a much more prominent bezel than current Audi models. It's an in-your-face look, particularly owing to the six prominent vertical supports. Although not immediately apparent at first glance, the frame is in an octagonal shape (previous Audis have had hexagonal surrounds), and each of the points results in a body character line, streaming off into the hood, the headlamps and so on. According to Audi lead exterior designer Andreas Mindt, these elements will define the face of future Audi SUVS.
The full-band taillamps, which serve to emphasize the Q8's broad stance, are also an interesting departure from existing Audi models, and Mindt says that this type of rear lighting will be incorporated in some of the company's higher-end SUVs as a design differentiator.
Appearances aside, the Q8 Concept has a lot of technological firepower in its arsenal. It's powered by a 330-kW plug-in hybrid powertrain with a heady 516 pound-feet of torque, which ought to be plenty of oomph for the vehicle to get out of its own way, all 16.5 feet of it. The hybrid's hardware also includes a predictive efficiency assistant, which utilizes route data and Car-To-X communications to optimize powertrain performance functions like boost, coast and energy recuperation modes for maximum efficiency.
And it's got a lot of novel tech inside, including a dual-touchscreen system that shows the next evolution of Audi's award-winning Virtual Cockpit and its MMI infotainment interface. The latter has a more horizontal orientation for better ergonomics when it comes to operating onscreen controls. In the industry's ongoing quest to reduce and remove physical switchgear from dashboards, the auto industry has struggled mightily to find safe and intuitive control solutions
Also of particular note inside is a next-generation head-up display dubbed "contact analog" that is larger than traditional units. The goal of the system is to accurately overlay information on the road ahead. According to an official press release, "A navigation arrow, for example, appears in the same position as an actual arrow on the road - an intelligent application of augmented reality. The notifications from the driver-assistance systems also merge the virtual and physical worlds."
We won't have to wait too long for a production Q8 to arrive -- Audi says that we'll see one in 2018.