The Audi Q8 Concept’s debut in Detroit draws a decidedly production-ready picture of the next range-topping crossover from Audi. But what do we really know about it, and what does the Q8 tell us about the near future of Audi?
As shown on the auto show floor, the Q8 is a plug-in hybrid sporting a turbocharged V-6 engine good for 442 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, which should make for rather engaging acceleration, if nothing else. But some of the most interesting aspects of the Q8 aren’t the current, production-oriented technologies on display, but the looks we’ll get at Audi’s future. We sat down with Audi of America’s Vice President for Product Management, Filip Brabec, to dig out the coolest aspects of the new Q8 concept.
1. The interior is all-new — and it’s the way forward for Audi. Sleek and monolithic, the new dash layout definitely builds on Audi’s current interior design theme, but takes it in new and even more attractive directions. At the heart of that new direction is the perfect, seamless integration of the screen into the dash surface itself, which is the result of a completely new dash architecture. Rather that living in a clearly divided binnacle (or worse, stuck to the dash like a tablet), the screen is almost completely undifferentiated from the rest of the dash — and fades to total invisibility when powered down, an effect Audi calls “black panel.”
2. The exterior door handles really are touch-sensitive Audi logos. A simple light touch triggers the opening mechanism, which also swings the door out to a pre-set angle. The touch sensor is even capable of authentication, says Brabec, much like your smartphone knows it’s you and not some random just by scanning your finger tip.
3. The wheels are huge. The concept sports 23-inch by 11-inch wide wheels, a number the production Q8 may see, though 22-inch wheels are definitely planned for the production Q8. It’s not just the wheels that are huge, either. The total diameter for the wheel and tire package is a whopping 800 mm, or about 31.5 inches.
4. S and RS versions are likely. While Brabec wouldn’t confirm any definite plans for high-performance models (the Q8 concept itself technically isn’t a definite item for production, after all, despite being all-but-green-lighted), he did agree that the S and even RS treatments would suit the Q8’s overall demeanor. So if you’re keen on the Q8’s looks, but want more pep, you may just get your wish.
5. The Q8 sits on the same wheelbase as the Q7, but does away with the third row entirely, making a lot more space for passengers. Standard configurations include a four-passenger layout with a divided rear seat and a five-passenger option when configured with a rear bench seat.
6. There’s a cutting-edge augmented reality head-up display inside. That’s right, it’s not just your typical floating numbers HUD like you’ll find on a wide array of today’s cars, but a fully integrated augmented reality projection screen. That means that navigation directions can be overlaid onto the real world and actually look like they’re there — the proper lane on the road highlighted, your destination outlined, the correct highway exit marked with a big yellow arrow — and all of it appearing to be part of the world around you, custom edited on the fly. Brabec says this sort of technology still faces some technical hurdles — not least is packaging the display so that it fits within a reasonable amount of dash space — but it’s in development and on the horizon.
7. Matrix laser lights may make it past regulators in time for use in the Q8. It’s not guaranteed, or maybe even likely, but Brabec says Audi is working to get its Matrix laser headlights (already on sale in Europe and other parts of the world) past U.S. regulators and onto our roads. But the Matrix lights on the Q8 are not the current hardware — they’re the next generation. That next-gen hardware will be capable of even more impressive lighting feats, like highlighting parts of the roadway, or, potentially, even communicating simple text or graphic messages to pedestrians by projecting onto the roadway.