Review: The stunning 2019 Audi Q8 has a deal-breaking flaw

The 2019 Audi Q8 is the shape of the future. Its beautiful as it successfully merges the look of a sports sedan with the shape of an SUV. It has flowing lines, crisp angles and just the right look on and off the road. Inside, its comfortable though a bit smaller than the name suggests. And under the hood, Audi paired a capable V6 engine with a 48-volt battery, creating a mild-hybrid setup that supposedly helps with fuel economy.
Yet after spending a lot of time in the Q8, I found it backwards. Most crossovers provide the comfort of a sedan with the utility of an SUV. This one has the rough comfort of an SUV with the limited utility of a sedan. Worse yet, driving the Q8 around town can be a frustrating experience.
I spent a couple of weeks in the new Q8 on a road trip from Detroit through Canada to New York City. I took it over the countryside, around hilly passes, and through four of the five boroughs. My kids spilled Cheetos in the back. I lived in this car for thousands of miles. This experience is different from most vehicles reviews. Most car reviews are penned after a few hundred miles in the car, which can often lead to milquetoast conclusions. Not this time.
I dont like the Q8. The bad outweighs the good. The stunted driving characteristics ruin the otherwise gorgeous vehicle.
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The sedan is bleeding out, and the crossover is holding the knife. Consumers are overwhelming, picking these quasi-SUVs over sedans or sport utility vehicles. Theres a good reason, too. Crossovers often provide the supple ride quality of a sedan with the utility of an SUV. Im sorry to report the Q8 does the opposite. It has the rough ride of an SUV and the limited utility of a sedan.
The Q8 has a puzzling powertrain. It doesnt like to go forward. Several times throughout my time with the Q8, I nearly got into an accident because of the timing of the transmission. It often left me hanging in the middle of the road while it took its time to translate the engines instructions to the tires. I was honked at constantly while in NYC.
A turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 rests under the hood, and Audi says its good for 335 HP and 369 pound-foot of torque. The Q8 is not underpowered, and it sports a version of ZFs ubiquitous 8-speed transmission. The Audi Q8 is one of the first internal combustion vehicles to be paired with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. This is said to help improve fuel economy by relegating acceleration to a mild hybrid setup, and this could prove to be the cause of my frustration.
Whoevers to blame, in real life, the transmission feels like it doesnt use the first and second gear. Theres a second or two hesitation between the time the pedal is engaged until the car decides to move forward. Once underway, the Q8 is a lovely expressway cruiser with plenty of power to overtake meandering sedans. At speed, its comfortable and confident. At a standstill, its hesitant and frustrating.
Im not alone in this frustration. Car and Driver says the Q8 is it felt hesitant around town unless we crushed the gas pedal. Motor1 says, At times [the transmission is] clunky, particularly when accelerating Motor Trend stated, We noted, however, a longish delay in the delivery of torque after you give it some beans.
Audi built the Q8 as a multipurpose utility vehicle and equipped it with several driving modes, including Dynamic, which lowers the vehicle and supposedly changes the transmission response. Select Off Road or All Road, and the Q8 raises a few inches, providing better ground clearance. This is handy on Michigan roads where post-winter potholes are the size of bathtubs.
These driving modes give the Q8 added utility and foreshadow a future where cars better adapt to their drivers needs. Audi has offered similar features for years but not to this extreme. The Sport mode drops the Q8 to the ground while the Off-Road mode raises the Q8 to a level where it could tackle serious terrain.
Sadly, the adjustable modes did not address the lackluster powertrain. Even in Sport mode, the Q8s transmission was sluggish.
At least the Q8 is comfortable.
The interior of the Q8 is lovely and features Audis new dual-touchscreen infotainment center. I love it. Audi long had the best user interface in the industry. This one is entirely different and even better.

Audi proves two little screens are better than one big screen
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