Expert Reviews

2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron and Q8 Sportback E-Tron First Drive Review

The all-electric versions of Audi’s Q8 represent the brand’s flagship SUVs, sitting at the top of an accomplished lineup.

Refreshed with a new name (it was previously just called the E-Tron), along with major refinements and upgrades all around, the 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron and Audi Q8 Sportback E-Tron are designed to be approachable and convenient for drivers who are new to electrification.

Style, Sophistication, and Practicality

The approachable ethos starts with its style, which is strong and confident without being too flashy or overly aggressive. The look is refined and understated, but the details and angles are all correct and speak to the entire vibe of the Q8 E-Tron, which is quiet sophistication.

Both the BMW iX and Mercedes-Benz EQE have unique designs, but not everyone who wants an EV wants one that looks like a robot minivan or a bar of soap. Small but noticeable tweaks add up to make the conventional and Sportback versions more refined, with a new two-dimensional four-ring logo, a light strip above the grille that connects the headlights, and a bunch of trims and vents that add visual interest but also help improve aerodynamics.

Stylistically, both models look very similar. The standard version has roof rails and a more traditional shape, while the Sportback gets rid of the rails up top and uses a sloping roofline with a liftback trunk for a sportier look. Both have an underfloor storage compartment (with a full-size spare tire) and a frunk, which is great for storing charging equipment. The SUV version offers 807 L of space in the trunk and 1,597 L with the 40/20/40-split rear seats folded flat. The Sportback offers 770 L and 1,543 L, but the liftover height for both is higher than I prefer, requiring a bit more effort to load and unload.

The interior will feel familiar to anyone who is used to recent Audis – it’s intentionally designed to look and feel like one of the brand’s gas-powered models, so it’s serious and not at all flamboyant. Immaculately built, the theme of quiet sophistication continues inside, with aluminum and open-pore wood trim and optional ambient lighting, though I wish Audi used less gloss-black trim inside.

Users interact with the infotainment system via two crisp and responsive touchscreens with haptic feedback – one for climate controls, the other for media. The menus are logical, and it doesn’t take too many taps to complete a task, though it can be distracting to use while driving. The cabin has deep door pockets and many cubbies for small item storage.


Improved Efficiency and More Range

The previous E-Tron had just 350 km of range, but the Q8 E-Tron now offers a generous 459 km on a single charge, which is the SUV’s most important improvement. This range now makes it competitive in its segment, beating the Mercedes EQE’s 407 km but falling slightly shy of the BMW iX’s 500 km. Perhaps even more relevant is the accuracy of its range calculations. After driving 103 km, it consumed just 98 km of range with an efficiency of 4.0 km/kWh, which is impressive considering I wasn’t even trying to drive efficiently because the winding roads in California are just too tempting to take it easy on.

Starting with improved aerodynamics resulting in a six per cent reduction in drag, more efficient battery packaging, higher energy density, and more usable battery power (106 kWh), the Q8 E-Tron is more efficient than ever with its 114-kWh battery pack (up from 95 kWh in the previous model but retaining its dimensions).

The only improvement I’d love to see with the Q8 E-Tron is the addition of one-pedal driving. The SUV has regenerative braking that can be controlled by the paddle shifters, but it’s not strong enough to enable proper one-pedal driving that allows it to be brought to a stop simply by easing off the throttle.

Better Charging Experience

Audi has made huge innovations to streamline the charging experience and make it more convenient. The Q8 E-Tron and Q8 Sportback E-Tron now come standard with a better two-in-one onboard charger that allows drivers to charge faster at home without needing to install any specialized equipment; most might just need to have a 240-volt outlet wired into their garage, but that’s cheaper than paying for the rewiring and buying a dedicated charger.

The included 9.6-kW Level 2 charger plugged into a 240-volt outlet (the same type as a dryer or oven outlet) at 40 amps can charge the SUV overnight in about 13 hours. An optional 19.2-kW onboard charger in a 240-volt outlet at 80 amps will take just 6.5 hours. Meanwhile, a second AC charge port is available for increased flexibility for charging when plug locations or cord lengths aren’t ideal.

For those who can’t charge at home or who are going on longer trips, the DC fast-charging rate has been increased from 150 kW to 170 kW, meaning a driver can charge from 10 to 80 per cent in about half an hour (though it’s very rare to see fast chargers actually dispense energy at that speed). Audi Q8 E-Tron and Sportback drivers also get four years or 1,400 kWh of included DC fast-charging on the Electrify Canada network. The rough math says that ends up being about 6,000 km of driving, but stations are only currently available in parts of British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.

To make public charging even more seamless, Audi Canada will soon be adopting the Tesla method, where drivers can just plug and charge at Electrify Canada stations without needing an app or dealing with a payment method each time. (Sister brand Porsche also offers this system.) All payment transactions are done on the back end, as the vehicle will already be registered with a driver’s information and payment method. Unfortunately, this perk doesn’t extend across borders, so drivers will not be able to use this function at Electrify America charging stations.


Better Driving Dynamics

Hustled through the winding coastal roads along California’s famous Highways 1 and 101, the Q8 E-Tron shined, feeling much more agile than a vehicle of this size has any right to. The quicker steering ratio is perhaps the biggest improvement to the drive, with the responsive steering being a highlight of how it drives.

The air suspension also makes the Q8 E-Tron and Q8 Sportback E-Tron expertly well-rounded. It’s adept at both soaking up rough roads for a smooth drive but also is still stiff enough that the SUVs feel flat and composed in a corner. The suspension is expertly calibrated in any drive mode, making the SUV very versatile and confident no matter how someone’s driving it. The SUV balances sportiness and luxury admirably.

With electric motors on each axle enabling all-wheel drive, the total system output is 402 hp, which helps it accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5.7 seconds. It’s not slingshot fast, but that’s generous enough to pass someone or get up to speed incredibly swiftly. I also appreciate how quiet the SUV is – very little outside noise makes its way into the cabin, and there’s even no artificial acceleration or propulsion sounds above parking lot speeds, so it’s always very peaceful.

Canadian Pricing and Availability

The 2024 Q8 E-Tron starts at $95,985 plus the $2,850 destination fee, while the 2024 Q8 Sportback E-Tron starts at $99,285. Both models should be available very soon at Canadian dealerships. Some standard highlights include a panoramic sunroof, a heat pump (for more efficient heating that eats up less range), a heated steering wheel, cabin preconditioning, heated front seats, and some driver assistance and safety features like blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high-beam control, automatic emergency braking and pre-collision warning, and exit warning. Ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, massaging seats, 360-degree top-down parking cameras, traffic sign recognition, and intersection assist are all optional and part of packages.


Final Thoughts

When it first launched, the E-Tron was the brand’s first fully electric SUV, and it was an excellent Audi but not an amazing electric vehicle (EV). The 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron addresses nearly every single issue I had with the original one, so it now nails the assignment on all fronts. The Q8 E-Tron and 2024 Audi Q8 Sportback E-Tron are remarkably well-rounded as both sporty luxury SUVs and EVs. The added convenience of charging and the increased range are hugely appreciated, and I have no doubts the Q8 E-Tron will make the move to EV driving seamless for those new to the lifestyle.