Its confusing nomenclature aside, the 2018-vintage Audi E-Tron (as opposed to the smaller Q4 E-Tron or the E-Tron GT flagship sedan) is a pretty decent EV. Its trim, understated design puts it in stark contrast to the controversially styled BMW iX and Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV, and it has the refined driving manners and appealing interior one would expect of a car from Ingolstadt.
But since the first mainstream Audi EV’s debut in 2018, the luxury EV market has advanced rather significantly. Both the E-Tron and its choptop Sportback variant have aged out of contention, with a barely adequate 150-kilowatt DC charge rate and a range of less than 230 miles. Luckily, the fraternal twins are getting a tidy little update this year, with modernized styling, a larger battery with up to 300 miles of range, quicker charging, and a new name that brings it closer in line to Audi’s existing lineup. The 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron and Q8 E-Tron Sportback have appealing maturity that helps them blend in without being bland or dull.
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|2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron
|Dual Permanent-Magnet Asynchronous
|0-60 Miles Per Hour
|Price As Tested
|On Sale Date
Gallery: 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron Sportback First Drive
Watt’s The Big Deal?
Beyond the tweaked-but-familiar design and revised Q8-family branding, the most comprehensive update to Audi’s electric flagship SUV appears under the skin. The floor-mounted battery retains its predecessor’s external dimensions, yet it grows from a usable 95.0 kilowatt-hours to 106.0 kWh. The front and rear electric motors have likewise been revised, with 14 windings instead of 12 for a stronger magnetic field and more efficient power generation. Peak output remains at 402 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque, but when the driver isn’t calling for the go-juice, the Q8 E-Tron operates with greater efficiency than before.
Add in the revised bodywork’s 6-percent-improved 0.29 drag coefficient as an SUV or 0.27 as a Sportback, and you’re left with significantly more range between charges. An E-Tron with the conventional roofline jumps from 222 to 285 miles, while the sleeker body style rises from 218 to 296 miles. You can also get an Ultra package on the Sportback, with lower rolling-resistance tires and smaller wheels that give it a 4-mile edge. Energy use likewise improves, with the Q8 E-Tron getting 81 miles per gallon equivalent combined (up from 78 for last year) and the Q8 E-Tron Sportback getting 87 mpge (up from 77).
The new battery’s more efficient internal structure also means it can accept a higher 170-kilowatt peak DC fast charge rate, allowing it to recharge from 10 to 80 percent in 31 minutes. Last year’s 150-kW charge rate meant a 10-80 percent time of about 30 minutes on a DC fast charger, but remember – the new battery is quite a bit larger, so spending the same time at a roadside station will give you more range overall. And it’ll also be free if you can take advantage of the two years of included charging at Electrify America stations – just plug in and go without fumbling with an app or a credit card.
The 2024 Q8 E-Tron has the same standard 9.6-kW on-board charger, so going from 0 to 100 percent on 240-volt, 40-amp Level 2 charger takes 13 hours – last year’s model was only 10 hours, owing to the smaller battery. If you have access to an 80-amp circuit at home, I’d recommend swinging for the $1,850 AC charging package, which adds a Level 2 charge port to the right front fender – joining the standard Level 2 and 3 combo port on the left fender – and bumps the on-board rate to 19.2 kW. Plugging in at your 240-volt, 80-amp home station will now only take 6.5 hours for a full charge.
For my first experience behind the wheel of the 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron, the automaker invited me to Napa Valley, California, and put me on a brilliant driving route that consisted of about 45 minutes of freeway, then four hours of winding coastal and forest scenery, traversing along the Pacific Ocean from Duncans Mills to Navarro. The narrow, often traffic-clogged route from Healdsburg to my first stop was an excellent test of the Q8 in everyday driving conditions, unfortunately highlighting its greatest dynamic flaw.
The regenerative braking system doesn’t offer a full one-pedal driving mode, and the selectable regen (handled by the steering wheel paddles) isn’t strong enough for my liking. EV first-timers might like it since it feels akin to engine braking in a gas car, but I wish Audi gave folks the option for full-fat 1PD. The car will hold your regenerative braking preference if you’re in Dynamic or Eco modes, but in any others, it will revert to the least aggressive setting the next time you touch the accelerator, making it feel a bit inconsistent.
Beyond that complaint, however, I genuinely enjoy driving the Q8 E-Tron. With standard four-corner air suspension and adaptive damping, it was a refined and comfortable car in which to tootle through all that construction traffic, dispatching hard-edged expansion joints with poise and control. Even in its cushiest setting, the suspension is still reasonably firm – more so at freeway speeds when the car automatically hunkers down lower for aerodynamic reasons – but it never feels harsh or unyielding. There’s always a thick layer of buttercream frosting between you and the potholes below.
The E-Tron is also impressively hushed at speed thanks to the sleeker aerodynamics and the dual-pane acoustic side glass that comes standard on Premium Plus, Prestige, and Launch Edition models. There’s a hint of wind noise coming over the windshield header, but it isn’t distracting in the slightest. In fact, Audi doesn’t even add faux electric propulsion noise except at low speeds to warn pedestrians. Anthony Garbis, the company’s senior manager of product planning, said this was a deliberate move that both showcased the Q8 E-Tron’s zero-emissions raison d’etre and called out competitors for using propulsion audio to mask road noise.
Go North, Young Man
Once out of tourist and construction traffic and heading north toward the Navarro River Redwoods State Park, I was able to ramp up the Audi’s pace, enjoying the firmer, lower suspension and sharper accelerator response of the most aggressive Dynamic drive mode. I wasn’t going to be clipping apexes and trail-braking into corners since the fully loaded Q8 E-Tron I drove tipped the scales at 5,798 pounds, but the electric SUV is an enjoyably brisk performer on winding roads, with well-controlled body motions, predictable (if numb) steering, and surprising grip from its Continental CrossContact all-season tires.
There isn't any shortage of suspension compliance to buff out even the roughest pavement, as is common on the geologically unstable roads that skirt the California coastline.
Understeer was never an issue in my drive through the redwoods. The dappled sunlight streaming through the trees occasionally played tricks on my eyes, forcing me to add some extra steering for a surprise decreasing-radius turn, and the Q8 E-Tron just followed my lead with no drama whatsoever. And there isn't any shortage of suspension compliance to buff out even the roughest pavement, as is common on the geologically unstable roads that skirt the California coastline.
The powertrain follows suit with approachable, competent behavior. With 402 hp and 490 lb-ft coming from standard dual motors, the Q8 E-Tron isn’t lightning-quick, hitting 60 miles per hour in an Audi-estimated 5.4 seconds. But it doles out that power quickly and smoothly, giving EV newbies the thrill of instant torque without overwhelming them with neck-snapping acceleration. I appreciated its linear, genteel power delivery, and although it lacks its E-Tron GT sibling’s two-speed transmission, the Q8 E-Tron always feels like it has enough power in reserve for a quick two-lane pass.
MoMA: Museum of Modern Audi
There are also a handful of styling revisions to match the new hardware. Although its dimensions are all but identical, the facelifted Q8 E-Tron looks wider than before thanks to a revised front grille design and functional bumper corner vents, as well as a black plastic mask spanning the width of the front end. The SUV also gets Audi’s new two-dimensional logo with daintier rings done up in white on standard models or gray on cars equipped with the S-Line appearance pack. The flagship Prestige trim also includes a narrow LED strip running just behind the rings at the top of the grille for a luminous appearance at night.
The regular Q8 E-Tron receives a silver-painted, three-dimensional grille standard, with a smoother gloss-black texture if you opt for the S-Line (which comes standard on all Sportbacks, by the by). You also get thicker black trim on the bumper corners, making the air curtain vents appear larger and more aggressive, as well as the aforementioned darkened rings. And speaking of Sportbacks, the chic lower roofline looks excellent, asking for 1.3 cubic feet of cargo room in exchange.
Inside, there aren’t too many changes apart from color – the limited-production Launch Edition gets orange seat piping, for example, to hearken back to high-voltage automotive wiring. Audi’s MMI twin-touchscreen layout carries over into 2024 with minor changes, combining a 10.1-inch primary infotainment display with a lower 8.6-inch unit handling climate controls and assorted functions like HomeLink. The old E-Tron’s neat slide-handle shifter remains, as do class-competitive interior materials with well-padded surfaces almost everywhere you want them. There’s far less hard plastic in here than in the EQE SUV, for example.
And thank goodness for the multi-contour seats that come standard on the Prestige trim. In addition to the Magic Fingers massage function, the seats also offer adjustable bolsters that closely hugged my ribs and hips to keep me stable in hard driving. And I love that Audis with ventilated seats – on the E-Tron that means all but the base Premium model – also allow you to use the heating elements at the same time, keeping you toasty but also refreshingly free of swamp-butt.
Gallery: 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron First Drive Review
German EV Excellence
Potentially thwarting Audi’s intentions with the Q8 E-Tron are the aforementioned BMW iX and Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV, which wear EV propulsion on their sleeves with bold interior and exterior styling. But the Q8 E-Tron is cheaper at $75,595 with destination, compared to the $79,050 EQE SUV and the $88,050 BMW – and it comes standard with Level 2 driver assist, which are options on the others. Equipped like my loaded, $90,440 Prestige tester with the AC Charging package, Black Optic package with 21-inch wheels, and metallic paint, the BMW would cost more still, at about $95,000 (full pricing for the Mercedes isn’t yet available).
The E-Tron also has more range than the EQE, which tops out at 279 miles, although the 516-hp BMW can do 307 on a single charge. That ranking also follows through in cargo space, where the smallish Mercedes can only handle 14.0 cubic feet to the Audi’s 28.5 or the BMW’s 35.5. But the Q8 E-Tron’s most compelling argument in its favor is purely subjective: It feels like any other Audi. While the EQE’s egg-inspired design and the BMW’s futuristic interior technology set them apart from other cars in their respective lineups, most Audi customers would have little trouble getting accustomed to the E-Tron’s tech suite or styling.
That conventional appeal used to come with a caveat, but the SUV’s newfound EV range and faster charging have nullified it. Although it lacks some of the polarizing, headline-grabbing pizzazz of its rivals, the 2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron is a mature, sensible option that’s easy to drive, easy to live with, and easy to appreciate.
EQE SUV Competitor Reviews:
2024 Audi Q8 E-Tron Prestige