It was at the 2003 Detroit Motor Show that Audi revealed the Pikes Peak to the world, the car that would become the Q7. Production followed a couple of years later and, depending on who you ask, in its first full year on sale (2006) Audi shifted around 45,000 examples of its debut SUV. Out of 905,000 cars delivered by the German manufacturer in that year, Q7s accounted for just under five per cent.
Last year, a third of the company's global sales were of the Q variety - with that portion increasing to almost half in the USA - reflecting the fact that, worldwide, 34 per cent of all new cars registered were SUVs. It's a trend that shows no sign of abating either, with the Q2, Q3, Q5 and Q7 set to be joined next year by an Evoque-rivalling Q4 and later this summer by the Q8 you see here.
Why is this PH-worthy? Well, because the Q8 marks Audi's first attempt at taking on the 'sportier' side of Sports Utility Vehicles, going head to head with established rivals like the Range Rover Sport and BMW X6 in the process. You may remember it from last year's Detroit Auto Show, where it was unveiled with a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 and electric motor combo good for 442hp and 516lb ft - or, if you're playing Top Trumps, a 5.4-second 0-62 time and a limited 155mph top speed.
Unfortunately the reality is more traditional, with buyers instead being given a choice between 3.0-litre 340hp petrol or 285hp diesel engines. There's no word on petrol performance yet, but the diesel is claimed to be good for 6.3 seconds to 62mph and a 144mph top speed.
Styling-wise the Q8 is a little more aggressive than Audi SUVs of yore, but certainly retains a lot of VW DNA. The X6-style coupe roofline and frameless doors are of course the main departure from previous designs. While flared arches at the sides, a pronounced diffuser at the rear and what could politely be described as a bold new grille at the front push the sporty agenda. As do the optional 22-inch wheels - the largest ever offered by Audi.
Underneath, a mechanical centre diff distributes power 40:60 as standard, lending the Q8 a slight rear bias, while aluminium has been used for components such as the front and rear suspension in order to save weight. The four-wheel steering system so successfully employed on the SQ7 is again available to improve low speed maneuverability and high-speed stability, and seven driving modes provide settings for everything from off-road to sport driving for the suspension, steering and engine.
Inside, as you might expect from a range-topping model, everything is very reminiscent of what's to be found in the A8, with dual touchscreens dominating the dash, three seat designs to choose from, and four optional driver assistance packages available. Pricing when orders open in June is predicted to be around the £65,000 mark - with plenty of room for that to increase as extra boxes are ticked - and deliveries are expected to start in August.
So, luxury SUV fans, does the Q8 improve on the formula? Does it appeal more than its rivals? And opponents, does it offer anything to tempt you? Whatever your opinion, expect to see plenty of them on the road, though we'll be holding out for that concept powertrain to show up in an SQ model somewhere down the line...
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