Audi Q8 E-tron’s updates improve already-excellent package

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It has been five years since Audi introduced the E-tron, during which it has been known as the E-tron SUV, even as other E-tron models debuted. It didn’t make much sense. It’s like naming your dog Dog.

Given that Audi expects to offer more than 20 battery-electric vehicles by 2026, at which point it plans to no longer market vehicles with smog-belching internal combustion engines. So the brand was long overdue to endow its flagship vehicle a proper name, in this case the Q8 E-tron.

The new Q8 E-tron is also available in SQ8 and SQ8 Sportback trim, which are 0.08 inches lower and 1.5 inches wider than other Q8s and have less cargo space in exchange for a sportier look.

As long as Audi was giving the vehicles fresh badges, the automaker also endowed it with styling updates, including fresh lighting, a new grille, redesigned wheels and aerodynamic tweaks. It’s far from a radical change, but radical change has never been an Audi trait. This is a brand that embraces a handsome, conservative yet contemporary aura, being adult, upscale and sophisticated.

The Q8 E-tron is offered in Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige trim; I sampled one decked out with the optional $2,000 Black Optic Package, which has 21-inch wheels, all-season tires and black exterior trim that diminishes the visual noise of the Audi’s redesigned front fascia.

Inside, the vehicle maintains its polish and high-tech luxury, with a digital gauge cluster, a pair of flush-mounted screens, an upper 10.1-inch screen and a lower 8.6-inch display with haptic feedback. The screen is instinctively easy to use.

Audi connect services come standard, and that package includes a six-month trial subscription to various Car-to-X Services, including traffic sign information, hazard alerts, on-street parking and traffic light information. It can even recommend destinations based on previously traveled routes. And opting for one of the Premium Plus or Prestige models brings with it a Bang & Olufsen sound system.

The Q8’s interior quality eschews the third-world casino vibe of a Mercedes-Benz EQ and has an upscale, techy feel that is approachable, supplementing its performance, nicely. The matte wood treatments may seem dated to some, but they add warmth to an interior that might otherwise be too sterile.

Underneath all of this window dressing is a 106-kWh battery pack that feeds two electric motors, one on each axle. Together, they not only provide all-wheel drive, they also generate 355 horsepower and 414 pound-feet of torque.

Pop the Q8 into Sport driving mode, and its output gets briefly boosted to 402 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque. An air-spring suspension is standard, and its height can be adjusted by up to 3 inches.

All of this means is that you can reach 60 mph in 5.6 seconds from a stop, while being able to tow 4,000 pounds. Depending on weather conditions and your driving style, you will get as much as 285 miles of range on a charge. And when the Q8 E-tron needs more juice, a 170-kW DC Fast Charger can refill its battery pack from 10 percent to 80 percent in a mere 31 minutes.

But it’s the 2024 Audi Q8 E-tron’s calm demeanor that you will first notice. Extremely well-balanced and sporty yet comfortable, it possesses the finest qualities of the brand. It confidently corners without becoming rattled.

The revised steering and air suspension minimize body roll yet delivers a supremely comfortable ride. Yet little noise of any kind is heard in the cabin, and road abrasions seldom bother the Q8 E-tron’s occupants as it effortlessly delivers speed, agility, comfort, calm and grip.

And yes, it is quick. But it lacks the one-pedal driving that comes from an aggressive regenerative brake system.

That system captures energy produced while braking to help recharge the battery. This means that when the driver lifts their foot off the throttle, the car slows down aggressively without the driver having to hit the brakes. It’s a feel that some battery electric drivers covet but is noticeably minimal here.

It makes for a fine flagship, albeit one that’s too pricey to qualify for the federal government’s $7,500 tax credit. But some things in life are worth paying more for.

Besides, the 2024 Audi Q8 E-tron’s updates don’t fundamentally change its demeanor. Instead, they improve upon an already-excellent package. It’s a sublime SUV, with the sense of timelessness that’s inherent in Audi’s finest designs.

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