Finding mention of the 2023 Audi RS Q8 online without Lamborghini Urus comparisons is nearly impossible. This rivalry has become one Audi's flagship SUV hasn't been able to shake. Whether at a gas station or the local Target parking lot, everyone wants to know, "How does it compare to the Lambo?"
This comparison, although not unfounded given their mechanical similarities, doesn't give the RS enough credit. It may be over $100,000 cheaper than its Italian sibling, but the Audi and Lamborghini buyers come from two different worlds. Plus, anyone considering either of these six-figure SUVs doesn't need the discount.
So instead of just labeling it a great value proposition given what the Lambo costs, I'd like to approach the RS as someone considering it and direct competitors from BMW and Mercedes-AMG. In its segment, this Audi is not only competitive in terms of performance and handling but bests competitors with its sleek styling and elegant cabin. The RS Q8 has the goods to stand on its own.
|Engine||Twin-Turbocharged 4.0-Liter V8|
|Output||591 Horsepower / 590 Pound-Feet|
Audi's design team has been on a roll in recent years. It hasn't penned an unpleasant vehicle in the last decade, and the RS Q8 benefits from this streak. Although it's no wider than a Q8 or S Q8, the RS is far more aggressive thanks to its upgraded front and rear bumpers. Major updates include a honeycomb grille flanked by large air intakes, upgraded LED headlights, and an extended front splitter. My tester accentuates its front aero with silver paint, which contrasts nicely against the dark Waitomo Blue Metallic exterior.
It's a similar story out back where the RS gets a larger roof spoiler, a gloss black rear diffuser, and twin exhaust tips. Again, my tester counts on silver paint to highlight these updated components. The bright paintwork matches the mirrors, window surrounds, brake calipers, and 23-inch Y-spoke wheels. In standard form, the RS gets a set of 22s incorporating a 10-spoke design.
Since there's no RS Q7, the brand's most powerful SUV is only available with a coupe-style roofline, a common industry trend. The Audi pulls this styling feature off better than direct competitors like the BMW X6 M and Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupe. Its roof integrates neatly into the rest of the SUV's design because it was penned in this style from the start, whereas the BMW and the AMG started out as traditional SUVs first.
Most of the slope happens towards the rear trunk area, limiting the loss of rear headroom. And as the RS is still a full-size SUV, it offers 30.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the second row up and 60.7 cu-ft folded, besting the BMW and matching the AMG. The RS may be nearly four years old, but it's still the most stylish high-power SUV in its segment.
From a driving perspective, the RS Q8 is tougher to distinguish from its competitors. Like the BMW and AMG, the Audi counts on a twin-turbocharged V8, a torque-converter automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive, albeit without a mild-hybrid system. It pumps out 591 horsepower and 590 pound-feet, slightly less than its rivals, but still yields a quick 3.7-second dash to 60 mph. Equipped with carbon-ceramic brakes, the RS will top out at 190 mph.
It also delivers that power like its competitors, with slight turbo lag down low in the rev range, followed by a burst of power as it moves quickly through the gears. It's impressive but not unique within the segment, as other options essentially provide the same straight-line experience. This is primarily a consequence of how fast all sporty SUVs have become. They're fighting on equal ground.
As you can tell from some of the photos, the RS Q8 may be a full-size SUV, but its air suspension squats considerably in dynamic mode. At this lower ride height, it does a great job of managing its 5,490-pound curb weight through the bends. Add in a massive set of Continental SportContact 6 tires wrapped around my tester's 23-in wheels, and it's not only stable but grippy too.
The RS' all-wheel drive system sends 40 percent of its power to the front and 60 to the rear in most scenarios. However, it can send up to 70 percent to the front and 85 to the back when needed. This results in a very un-Audi handling experience as the RS Q8 isn't quick to understeer. Despite its size, it feels confident on a twisty road.
Part of that confidence comes from its optional $8,500 carbon-ceramic brakes, which easily keep the RS in check regardless of how hard you lean on them. While effective, they don't communicate much feel through the pedal. The same goes for the RS' steering, which weighs up artificially but doesn't communicate genuine feedback from the road. Audi's flagship is tremendously capable but still hard to connect with from behind the wheel.
This is a segment-wide problem where all-out speed has overtaken fun and engagement. For a more vivid experience for similar money that'll still seat five, the RS 6 Avant is what you want.
Inside, the RS Q8 comes standard with heated and ventilated front seats, a honeycomb stitch pattern to match the front grille, and a heated steering wheel wrapped in perforated leather. My tester, however, swaps the leather wheel for one wrapped in Alcantara as part of the $1,500 RS Design package, adding contrast stitching to its armrest and center console.
The standard sport seats may have aggressive side bolsters, but they're still plush and supportive enough for long rides. During my week with the RS, I drove out to Beverly Hills to pick up a McLaren Elva for the day, which you'll read about soon, and after a few hours in the Mac, I couldn't wait to jump back into the cushy Audi.
Other options include the $4,900 Bang & Olufsen sound system, $2,800 Executive Package, and $1,500 Luxury Package, to name a few. In short, this RS is loaded with almost every optional extra available to bolster the luxurious side of its persona. And comfort aside, this configuration and its multiple leather, Alcantara, and gloss black surfaces come across as classy and elegant.
Although its interior layout is stellar, its lack of physical buttons is immediately noticeable. Granted, you still get a few on the steering wheel and even a volume knob in the center console, but for the rest of its features, you'll interact with one of two central touch screens, each with haptic feedback controls. While the system's layout is simple and intuitive, selecting various settings often requires a firm press which doesn't always respond.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. However, Audi's native system and app-style layout are easy to live with and worth using before immediately defaulting to a smartphone-based system. To add one more screen to the mix, there's a 12.3-in digital instrument cluster that morphs as you work through various drive modes and whose sleek graphics tie in nicely with the rest of the cabin's aesthetic.
The 2023 Audi RS Q8 starts at $123,995, including a $1,195 destination fee. My tester, with options such as $8,500 carbon-ceramic brakes, $4,900 Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, $2,800 Executive Package, and $1,500 Luxury Package, comes in at $147,780.
For context, a BMW X6 M Competition starts at $128,195, including destination, while a Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S comes in at $121,850, meaning the Audi slots neatly between them.
As far as sporty SUVs go, the 2023 Audi RS Q8 checks off most of the boxes its direct competitors do. It's fast, capable on a back road, and filled with tech. After all, this is what it takes to lead in this six-figure segment, where almost every product has improved significantly in recent years. The Audi stands out with its styling, which feels more cohesive and well-thought-out than other coupe-style competitors. It's the prettiest of the bunch and an all-around performance SUV.
However, one vehicle has been on my mind since I first jumped into the RS Q8: the RS 6 Avant. It's less expensive, lighter, just as powerful, and far more engaging to drive. It even offers comparable cargo space and comfortably seats five like its high-riding sibling. As good as the RS Q8 is, I can't help but still want the Avant. Turns out, the RS' biggest competitor isn't a Lambo, BMW, or an AMG. It's a station wagon.