Hello, 2024, and goodbye, Audi e-tron. The Audi Q8 e-tron. The new name for the automaker’s all-electric lineup’s flagship SUV — or shapely Sportback — brings with it an increase in range, performance, driving dynamics, and eco-cred in the cabin. Audi’s rebranding makes sense: after all, when the German automaker debuted the first Audi e-tron SUV in 2018, it was a brand new segment with a brand new name.
Since then, the e-tron lineup has grown to include a number of new models, most recently the Q4 e-tron, and a Q6 e-tron SUV is on the way. Audi has thus decided to restart its most opulent SUV.
It’s doing so by borrowing a nameplate from the Audi Q8, the de facto flagship of its internal combustion SUV lineup. Despite being similar in size to the Q7, the Q8 seats only five people in its spacious cabin, as opposed to the family-friendly (and less expensive) three-row vehicle. Furthermore, it is more luxurious and potent.
It is also now outclassed by the Audi Q8 e-tron 2024. It will be available in both SUV and Sportback flavors, effectively taking the old SUV and giving it more power and range to go with the new badging. There will also be a high-performance Audi SQ8 e-tron.
New style and new badging
Considering the Q8 e-familiar tron’s design, Audi has worked hard to improve its appearance. There’s a new 3D singleframe “mask” grille, which will be available in a variety of finishes, including black and aluminum, and is topped by a projection light bar that connects the LED headlamps. It also illuminates the Audi four-ring logo, which is now finished in white with thinner lines.
It’s not the only change to the badge. The Q8 e-tron also debuts Audi’s new B-pillar branding, with model details laser-etched into the black; this will be rolled out to other Audi vehicles gradually. The model name remains on the trunk line, though it is now finished in gloss black.
There are also new aerodynamic tweaks for the Q8 e-tron SUV and Sportback. Audi claims that this has helped reduce the drag coefficients to 0.26 and 0.24, respectively. There’s also a redesigned rear end that looks better than the old e-tron SUV.
Addressing the biggest issue: range
The most significant changes, however, occur beneath the skin. Even when it was first introduced, the e-tron SUV’s EPA range of 204 miles wasn’t particularly impressive, and while that has increased to 226 miles in the 2023 model year car, it’s still on the low side for a luxury electric SUV.
Customers wanted more range and efficiency, according to Audi, and that’s what this 2024 Q8 e-tron brings. The old 71 kWh battery is being phased out and replaced by a 95 kWh entry point into the lineup. On European cars, the Q8 e-tron 50, which should deliver between 298 and 310 miles of range (depending on body style) on the European WLTP cycle.
New motors mean more performance
There will also be an increase in performance. With more windings on the stator of the rear electric motors (from 12 to 14), the new e-tron will require less current to deliver the same amount of torque as the previous SUV. The base 50-spec car will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds, thanks to a 20 kW power boost.
Meanwhile, the Q8 e-tron 55 will complete the same run in 5.6 seconds. Audi has also used a new steering system with new software for a more precise cornering feel with less effort required and more feedback, while the new axel kinematics promise a more direct and lightweight feel.
The air suspension has also been updated for less roll, and it is now standard on all Q8 e-tron models. The braking system is still primarily brake-by-wire, with Audi making extensive use of regen. According to the automaker, the electric motors will only be used to slow the SUV for about 90% of the time, and regenerative braking alone can provide up to 0.3g of deceleration.
While the base Q8 e-tron retains 150 kW DC fast charging, all other models — including all versions sold in the United States — will see an increase to 170 kW. That means it will take about 31 minutes to get from 10% to 80%. Plug & Charge will be the norm.
The SQ8 e-tron is the triple-motor flagship
The most powerful model in the lineup is the 2024 SQ8 e-tron. It will also include the 114 kWh battery, which has an estimated range of 310 miles on the WLTP cycle. Again, EPA figures have not yet been confirmed, but expect a 30% increase.
Of course, the main attraction here will be speed. Audi claims that the SQ8 e-tron will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds thanks to a three-motor setup. In boost mode, the engine produces 370 kW (496 horsepower) and 718 lb-ft of torque. The top speed is limited to 130 miles per hour.
The triple motors pay dividends not only in a straight line. Audi’s setup uses a single 124 kW electric motor on the front axle and two 98 kW motors on the rear wheels. This enables the SQ8 e-tron to perform torque vectoring, which distributes power across the rear wheels based on factors such as which has the most traction.
A sleeker, greener cabin
Inside the SUV, the colors and trims have been updated, with new decorative inlays, new walnut wood, and the option of a fabric made from recycled PET bottles. The old base trim has been phased out, making the Advanced Line the entry point. The leather seats now have contrast stitching, and Dinamica upholstery (made from 40% recycled materials) is available as an option.
A glass, opening panoramic roof is available, as is quad-zone climate control as an upgrade to the standard dual-zone system. Massage seats and ventilated seats are available. A dual-touchscreen MMI touch response infotainment system with 10.1-inch and 8.6-inch stacked panels, voice control, and an optional head-up display comes standard. Audi’s virtual cockpit is also standard.
However, as we’ve come to expect, some of Audi’s most advanced technology is out of reach for drivers in the United States. The most prominent example is the optional digital Matrix LED headlights, which lack the ability to animate lighting patterns to show when you’re changing lanes, when upcoming roads narrow, and flag traffic warnings ahead of the car due to current road safety regulations. If the hardware is installed, Audi hopes to be able to distribute software updates that enable it in US vehicles if the rules change.
Bigger appeal, bigger price tag
Production in the United States is expected to begin a few months later, with the first examples arriving in North America in spring 2023. Pricing will be confirmed closer to the opening of the order books, with the possibility of an increase due to the healthier base-spec. In comparison, the current 2023 e-tron SUV starts at $70,800 (plus $1,195 destination) for the base Premium trim, and $77,800 for the Premium Plus trim (plus destination).
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Audi expects the EV to be available in more than 100 countries by the summer of 2023. Just in time, in fact, for the launch of the A6 e-tron sedan and its svelte A6 e-tron Avant wagon sibling.