2023 Audi Q8 e-tron 55 Review: A New Classification

Lionel Kong

Audi’s new electric SUV isn’t as gigantic as its legacy name makes it out to be, and is also the first in its EV rebranding exercise

2023 Audi Q8 e-tron 55

Launch Date: July 2023, S$538,952 with COE and VES
Five-door, large luxury SUV, five seats
408hp, dual-motor electric drive, 22.6kWh/100km, 582km range*

Dynamically balanced drive
Near zero wind noise even at high speed

Shallow luggage space
Too many touchscreens
Virtual mirrors take getting used to


UPDATE 17 July 2023 (original review published 12 May 2023): Singaporean Prices for the new Audi Q8 e-tron and Audi Q8 Sportback e-tron have been announced. Both models are now available at the Audi Centre Singapore, with prices starting from S$436,708 with COE and S$455,228 with COE respectively.

The Audi Q8 e-tron Sportback is only available in Singapore with the 250kW (338hp) motor for now, while the Audi Q8 e-tron SUV gets the 250kW and 300kW (408hp) versions.

The electric car you see here is the Audi Q8 e-tron, but it’s not actually part of the original Audi Q8 family. If you’re new to this Audi Q car thing, the Q8 is traditionally the name for Audi’s big SUV and includes the go-faster versions Audi RS Q8 and SQ8. It’s the same size as a Porsche Cayenne, yet the electric vehicle wearing the Q8 badge here is visibly smaller in size. 

What’s going on?

As we explained in 2022 when the Audi Q8 e-tron was first revealed, Audi is renaming its electric vehicle lineup, and like when BMW boggled our minds with the 3 Series and 4 Series split all the way back in 2014, the naming change is a way for the brand to differentiate its product range.

The Q8 e-tron actually traces its lineage back to the original Audi e-tron quattro from 2018, back when the e-tron badge was reserved for the brand’s single EV. Now that EVs are everywhere in the brand’s model range, a change in naming convention is in order before things get too confusing.

So the news is that moving forwards, Audi’s even numbered cars will be EVs, and odd numbered cars will be ICE and hybrid cars. This means that the present Audi A4 sedan is likely going to become the A5 when the next generation car launches, and the A6 is going to become the A7, with the A6 badge moving to the upcoming A6 e-tron.

We’ll still be able to identify the Audi EVs easily as the e-tron badge will form part of the name, as seen here on this example.

The Q8 e-tron family is a large one, with the base model Q8 e-tron 50, a mid-specification Q8 e-tron 55, and the performance specification in the form of the SQ8 e-tron. All three are offered in standard SUV and swoopy sportback variants, then the two standard Q8 e-trons have the option of being packaged with an S-Line styling kit as well. 

The ‘standard’ Q8 e-tron SUV in the foreground and the Sportback variant at the back

It’s a mind-boggling amount of combinations right out of the box, so we chose to feature the combo that’s likely to be the one that most drivers will buy, the Q8 e-tron 55 in SUV style.

Audi readily admits that the car is built upon the architecture that forms the basis of the original 2018 e-tron, so the Q8 e-tron can be thought of as a heavily updated version of that. There is more battery capacity, the battery cells are more compactly packaged, and the motors have been modified to deliver more torque at an improved efficiency.

Charging adapter cables are stored in the frunk, where you would normally find an engine

Body styling isn’t just a cosmetic improvement, as Audi has worked to further improve aerodynamic efficiency. Notable changes are the inclusion of air spoilers under the body, just ahead of the front wheels. Air turbulence around rapidly spinning wheels are the greatest source of aerodynamic inefficiency in almost every car, and the spoilers direct airflow away from the wheels so that they don’t get pulled into the wheel arches and create massive turbulence and drag.

The undercarriage has also been smoothed out even further, working in conjunction with the active front cooling intakes that automatically close off when no additional cooling is needed. Audi’s engineers say that this greatly reduces the problem of airflow getting ‘lost’ inside the car’s chassis and being unable to find a clean exit. 

Another small but significant change is that the Audi logo on its EVs is different. The four rings that are usually chrome and feature beveled edges are now totally flat and in a gray tone. The brand says that the more streamlined look is designed to convey the sleek efficiency of its electric cars. 

The Q8 e-tron 55 has a claimed maximum range of 582km and a peak power output of 408hp, while the base model Q8 e-tron 50 has a slightly lower range of 491km and peak power output of 340hp on the account of its smaller battery and less powerful motor output. 

Inside the car, it’s all Audi business as usual, meaning a clean, tidy cabin that’s well-insulated from road noise. The jury is still out on the extensive use of smooth touchscreen surfaces as major control panels however, with Porsche already backpedalling   on the centre console touchpads in the upcoming Cayenne, after trying to sell the idea that glossy black surfaces everywhere are the best thing in a luxury sports car for years.

Well, Audi and Porsche both fall under the Volkswagen Group, so this change of heart could yet trickle across, but for now it’s still glossy glass everywhere in the Q8 e-tron. The panel that the air conditioning controls are nested in is tricky to use, as it’s down at waist level and you do need to take your eyes off the road to look at the screen.

The car measures 4.9 metres in length so while it’s not gigantic, it’s not exactly small either. Boot space is shallower than you might expect compared to an equivalent petrol-powered SUV, but it’s been like this for much of the competition too as the batteries are lined up under the passenger and luggage compartment in the car. 

How much power a car can deliver matters where you drive it, and here in Germany on the unrestricted autobahn, where even delivery vans are holding a comfortable 140km/h cruise, having a fast, stable car is an asset. Featuring all-wheel drive with two motors, one over each axle, the Q8 e-tron 55 isn’t just grippy and quick, it’s also very quiet. And by that we don’t mean the fact that it doesn’t have a noisy exhaust and engine. There’s also very little wind noise, a testament to how well the aerodynamics have been designed. You can maintain 200km/h, the car’s electronically limited top speed, on the autobahn and have a normal conversation inside the car, as long as you keep your eyes on the road because everything comes up very quickly at this speed.

While the SQ8 e-tron features three electric motors and a total output of 496hp for even more oomph, the Q8 55’s total output of 408hp is plenty, even considering the fact that the car weighs in the region of 2,500kg. 

It’s well-balanced on winding country roads, with the usual Audi quattro characteristic of being accurate and efficient in the way it goes about its business. There’s no overly-dramatic noises and crazy techno lighting, like we have seen in the Mercedes-EQ EQS, but there’s just enough to give the car that serious touch of luxury. 

The car driven here also has another new-fangled piece of technology, Audi’s virtual wing mirrors. They are already available as an option on some present-generation e-tron cars, but this is the first time we are using them in a real-world scenario. 

The wing mirrors have been replaced with small cameras on stalks, which does improve the car’s aerodynamic efficiency somewhat, but the small display screen is on the door panel, which necessitates the driver to move his eyeline away from the road to look at it.

As it is a camera projection, moving your head around doesn’t change the view on the screen, which is a problem when you are used to reverse parking with the view in the wing mirrors. There’s also no depth perception, which is a challenge when you have just seconds to decide if it is safe to change lanes on the autobahn and there’s a car closing in on the fast lane. You simply can’t gauge how far away the object in the mirror is. 

As of now the virtual mirrors are a 1,500euro optional extra in Germany. The Singaporean-specification Q8 e-tron has yet to be finalised however. 

With the luxury EV segment in Singapore continuing to add more choices into the mix at a monthly rate, the Audi Q8 e-tron is going on sale into a very crowded retail space. BMW’s iX3 did very well at the time of its launch due to attractive tax rebates, but the time of early adopters of EV has come to pass and with the EEAI rebate set to come to an end soon, luxury EVs will only continue to get more expensive. 

These are factors on the automotive retail scene here beyond the control of the dealerships, but the fact is, here is another very competent luxury EV coming to join the party. 

Audi Q8 e-tron 55 S Line

DrivetrainFull electric
Electric Motor / LayoutDual motor / front + rear
Motor Power / Torque408 hp / 664Nm
Battery Type / CapacityLithium-ion, 106kWh
Standard Charge Time / Type11 hours 30 minutes / 11kW AC
Fast Charge Time / Type28 minutes 10 to 80 percent / 170kW DC
Electric Range*582km
0-100km/h5.6 seconds
Top Speed200km/h
VES BandA1 / -S$25,000
AgentPremium Automobiles
PriceS$538,952 with COE and VES
Verdict:The rebranding of Audi’s electric vehicle range doesn’t gloss over the fact that the new Q8 E-Tron is still quintessentially Audi: quiet, efficient, comfortable, and a fuss-free luxury drive

*According manufacturer specification


Audi Q8 e-tron electric car EV SUV

About the Author

Lionel Kong

An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.

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