In so many ways, Lockdown has become the swear word of 2020. It’s cut us off from travelling overseas and stopped us socialising with extended family and friends, it’s had us staring at four walls (and climbing them too) and essentially forced many of us to hibernate. But my time, (or make that two times now) with Audi New Zealand’s new RSQ8 may have renewed and reset my perspective on the word.
You see, although I appreciate that this could be considered a first-world problem (but bear in mind it is my job), much to my disappointment, my first encounter with the very desirable 2021 Audi RSQ8 was cut short due to a second and unexpected plunge into level 3 lockdown.
With over 100-days of Covid-freeness, I (like may) was getting blase and expecting level 1 to go on forever. The urgency to drive the RSQ8 every single moment was lessened and I had even begun forming plans as to where I would take it but Level 3 had me (and other Aucklanders) back to staring out of the window.
Anyway, when restrictions were lifted and Audi New Zealand got me back behind the RSQ8’s leather-clad, sports shaped steering wheel my new plan was simply to drive it – everywhere.
Having an 8 in any Audi nameplate highlights the fact that it’s at the top of its respective category (think A8, R8 etc) and having an RS badge in front means it’s wet your pants fast, so does this mean that when combined the RSQ8 ticks all those boxes? Well yes, and many, many more. It offers up multiple personalities, yep it’s an almost stately grand SUV that comes loaded with the latest MMI infotainment system, 3D virtual camera images and more driver and safety aids than you can shake a stick at, but then it’s got that sportier side and ‘a raising all hell’ side (aka RS 1 or 2) too. With the RSQ8, you really can have your cake and eat other people’s too.
Under the bonnet lies an ultra-powerful 4L V8, it’s bi-turbo assisted (why wouldn’t it be) and delivers a mind-boggling 441kW of power and 800Nm of torque – Damn! To understand what that means (or maybe just because they could), the Audi RS Q8 is now the fastest production SUV to lap Nürburgring racetrack with an official time of 7 minutes and 42.2 seconds, let me say that again, a 2.4-tonne production SUV doing Nürburgring in well under 8 minutes – so when going to the Mall around the corner I managed to get down to 3 minutes 22 seconds (a personal best).
Depending on your nerve (and location) you can shift from zero to 100km/h in way under 4 seconds and you can gallop up to a top speed of around 280km/h. You can also lessen the traction and purchase the big SUV’s alloys have on the tarmac below if you’re in the mood (RS2 mode).
All that power is delivered through an 8-Speed Tiptronic box and in turn to a highly advanced Quattro AWD system with what’s known as active torque distribution to both axles. This purely mechanical system transfers torque to the front and rear axles at a standard ratio of 40:60, and when required, can transfer the majority of the power to the axle with better traction. Up to 70% can be directed to the front wheels and up to 85% to the rear wheels. What it means is that the new RSQ8 simply adores curves and bends and so will you.
The chassis is rigid and the suspension is multi-setting which means that should you require a well-mannered cruise type of driving experience (as if) you may, but should you wish to increase your heart rate level to 11 you can do that too. What’s more, thanks to a discrete RS button located on the leather-bound sports steering wheel, you can get there, anywhere, in a flash (or a push of a button). Under elevated revs the 2021 RSQ8 growls like a V8 should but around town can purr like a domesticated lion – is there such a thing?.
It’s on the larger side of the SUV market but doesn’t drive that way, in fact, it feels like a sportscar and a good one at that, although, I did throw the family inside and head for the beach just to be sure it had a practical side. It was fun to watch them play by the sea as I enjoyed the comfort of the Audi and admired its good looks.
The RSQ8 has Audi’s octagonal Singleframe grille but it comes with an RS-specific honeycomb design. Its big front air inlets are in gloss black and the alu-optic front spoiler gives the large SUV a more purposeful face. The dynamic roofline ends in gently inclined D-pillars, which are supported by the wide, pronounced wheel arches, paying homage to the vehicle’s quattro DNA and creates an unmistakable Audi silhouette. At the rear, an RS roof-edge spoiler provides ample downforce for improved balance at high speeds and the RS-specific rear bumpers with alu-optic diffuser trim, plus signature RS model oval exhaust tips lets you know that it’s something different.
Admittedly I only had the RSQ8 for a long weekend but found every single excuse to drive it (in case of another lockdown), and mainly in RS1 mode. I got where I needed to go, (even when taking the long way there), quickly, and yet felt lavished in Audi leather refinement all the way.
I’m the first to say that SUVs are not my preferred choice of vehicles but this Audi New Zealand RSQ8 performance monster certainly won me over and giving the keys back was much harder than I thought – It would appear that lockdown really has me enjoying the little things in life – wonder if the family are still having fun at the beach…