TENERIFE, Canary Islands – After a few minutes rolling through town, the Audi RS Q8’s navigation system directed us to turn onto a long motorway on-ramp. With 591 horses underfoot, we couldn’t resist matting the accelerator. The RS Q8 thundered down the on-ramp, merging onto the freeway already going much faster than the smattering of local traffic. After another moment or two, we lifted off the accelerator, triggering an abrupt multi-gear upshift. In that brief maneuver we experienced the dynamic high and low of Audi’s new ultra-high-performance SUV. The Audi Q8, the two-row “coupe” sibling of the three-row Q7, already sits at the top of the brand’s SUV lineup. But some buyers want more power, more performance, more swagger. With BMW offering M and M Competition versions of its competing X6, and Mercedes-AMG having given the GLE Coupe the same treatment, it was inevitable that the Q8 would join the club. While a TDI-powered SQ8 exists in Europe, Audi is skipping that model here and jumping straight to the heavy-hitting RS Q8, putting its maximum-performance imprimatur on its range-topping SUV. Audi’s take on the genre looks big – longer, wider, and taller than either the hunchbacked BMW X6 M or the outgoing Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S coupe. It also has a greater stretch between the axles. Audi’s more upright liftgate preserves a greater measure of utility, but it also makes for a more blockish profile. The RS variant is more filled-out with its deeper lower fascia, wheel-arch extensions, and a restyled rear apron through which poke extra-large oval tailpipes. The design is embellished with dark-tinted matrix LED headlamps, a honeycomb grille, and a rooftop rear spoiler. The aluminum exterior trim can be supplanted with gloss black or carbon fiber. The RS Q8 hunkers down on giant 22- or optional 23-inch wheels. The sport-ified interior features high-backed bucket seats with integral headrests sporting RS logos, and the available Valcona leather has a honeycomb stitch pattern. Alcantara is used on the flat-bottom steering wheel, shifter, headliner, door panels, and sides of the center console. The Q8 does without the Q7’s third row, but it’s rear seat is plenty spacious — and even slides fore and aft — as is the luggage hold. As in the regular Q8, dual center screens blend seamlessly into the gloss-black face of the dashboard. The central display is a crisp 10.1-incher, and below it is an 8.6-inch screen. Both use haptic feedback, responding to your touch with a reassuring click like physical Audi buttons have for years. The upper screen handles the typical areas of audio, phone, and navigation, the latter enhanced with Google Earth maps. The myriad vehicle settings are here too, and you swipe to move between screens. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also supported. The lower unit primarily handles climate control functions, including the heated/cooled seats and the heated steering wheel. It also includes handwriting recognition for entering destinations. Additionally, there is space at the top that can be customized with shortcuts to …
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|MPG||17 City / 21 Hwy|
|Power||335 @ 5000 rpm|
|Drivetrain||quattro all wheel|
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