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Audi Q8 Concept Preview

01_Audi_Q8_Concept_OEM.jpg Audi Q8 Concept | Manufacturer image

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Looks like: A stretched Q3 with a more aggressive rear roofline and a front grille that looks like Bane’s mask

Defining characteristics: Plug-in hybrid, all of the interior screens are touchscreens, sloping rear glass

Ridiculous features: Touch-sensor doors, thin seats, rear touchscreen for climate and seat controls

Chance of being mass-produced: A production version of the concept will go on sale in 2018.

As SUVs continue to be all boom and no bust, Audi is once again expanding its SUV lineup with the Q8 concept, which debuted at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Audi has already announced that a Q8 based on this concept will be going into production, arriving some time in 2018. There are still some concept-only touches that aren’t likely to make it to the production version, but its styling looks close to road-ready.

More 2017 Detroit Auto Show Coverage

Much of the exterior design seems like it will carry over to the production Q8, especially its shape. There are a few concept-only touches, including carbon-based trim pieces and those massive 23-inch wheels that won’t make it into the real-world, but I wouldn’t be at all shocked if the general shape and look remain intact.

Audi has touted the Q8 concept as the spiritual successor of the Ur-Quattro, the ’80s rally racer, but I don’t really see it in the SUVs lines. It seems to have more in common with the rest of Audi’s SUV family, except for the sharply raked rear window, which makes the profile more aggressive but may cut into cargo space.

The front grille has very prominent vertical slats — the first time I’ve seen that on an Audi design. If Audi’s goal was to add a bit of menace to the Q8 concept’s nose, it’s succeeded — the grille brings to mind a certain muzzle-mouthed villain from the “Dark Knight” series. And just like Bane, the look is also hard to understand.

Similar to the exterior, the interior of the Q8 concept combines several concept-only elements as well as some features that should make it into production. Those super-thin seats are unlikely to make it.

The concept’s most interesting interior design element, however, could foreshadow a new direction for Audi’s interiors going forward: a proliferation of touchscreens. The center console has no physical controls except for the gear selector. Everything on the center stack is controlled via touchscreen, with the lower screen serving the dual purpose of replacing the puck-like controller that Audi currently uses for its multimedia system. There is also a new touchscreen display in the center armrest for rear-seat passengers and a fourth screen above the rearview mirror, which has controls for the garage opener and an SOS button for emergencies.

In fact, the only physical buttons I could spot in the whole interior were on the steering wheel. Our staff likes having physical controls for certain features, such as climate, volume and emergency buttons, but the Q8 concept does away with those entirely. Audi says that the strength of this approach is its directness; drivers simply select functions where they see them. But the downside to this approach is that the driver would constantly have to look down to see the controls they are selecting. Touchscreens can also cause awkwardness when using tightly bunched controls, especially on that top screen that has the garage opener icon next to the SOS icon. No problem here officer, just trying to get into my garage.

Audi also says that the Q8 concept will feature an augmented reality head-up display that makes navigation directions and arrows appear on the road in front of the vehicle. The Virtual Cockpit system has also been updated with a higher-resolution screen and new graphics.

Under the hood, the Q8 concept has a plug-in hybrid electric drivetrain that joins a 333-horsepower, supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with an electric motor, which produce a combined 330 kilowatts and 516 pounds-feet of torque. The lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 17.9 kilowatt-hours and allows for an estimated 37 miles of range solely on electric power. A full charge will take a little more than 2 hours on a 240-volt charger. Audi says the Q8 concept can run from zero-to-60 mph in just 5.4 seconds (very quick for a large SUV) and has a top speed of 155 mph.

The Q8 concept also features an eight-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive, with a wheel-selective torque control system that slightly brakes the inside wheels during cornering to increase stability. There’s also an air suspension with controlled damping underneath, with two settings that can change the ride height by 3.5 inches — the higher setting for comfort and the lower for tighter, more controlled handling.

A production version of the Q8 (aka Gotham’s reckoning) will arrive some time in 2018.

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