You know that feeling you get when you try on a certain piece of clothing, tour a certain apartment, or visit a certain place and just know “oh, yeah, this is for me?” That happens with cars, too. I recently spent a week with a 2023 Audi RS Q8 and had that “this is the one” feeling throughout its stay. It’s as if Audi built a do-it-all vehicle for me and my life and my tastes… now if only I could swing the $140,330 price tag.
The RS Q8 is Audi’s hottest-of-hot crossover, riding on the Volkswagen Group’s MLB Evo platform alongside such others as the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, and Lamborghini Urus. Given the drivetrain and other hot-girl upgrades you get when moving from a basic Q8 to this wacko RS variant, it’d be fair to call the RS Q8 a bargain-minded Urus. But I preferred to think of it as an Audi RS6 Avant that could tow, which it sort of is.
I lean in to the RS6 Avant comparison because of the drivetrain, first and foremost. Both use Audi’s 4.0-liter V8 with two turbochargers strapped on, producing 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. It’s a 91 horsepower bump over the SQ8, and takes the car from merely fast to wildly excessive. Power routes through an eight-speed automatic and standard Quattro all-wheel drive, per usual.
Four-corner air suspension with adaptive dampers is standard, as is rear-wheel steering and Audi’s “sport” limited-slip rear differential. The formula works here, resulting in a fairly large SUV that drives like something smaller. It never feels light on its feet, but it can be hustled down back roads with ease.
Despite my Dragon Orange test car coming with the Black Optics package, it was on a different set of wheels. Black Optics includes a set of black 23-inch (really) wheels shod with summer tires, not appropriate for the DC area’s winter temperatures. While we hadn’t seen snow in years, I was glad that Audi swapped those 23s out for the silver 22s you see here. Wrapped in Hankook snow tires, the RS Q8 and I left DC for the weekend in search of lousy weather. There was no snow at home, but my friend Tom and I ran up to Pennsylvania for a day of skiing at Whitetail Resort, and the surrounding area was indeed snow-covered.
We found a snowy parking lot to test the RS Q8’s ability to rip donuts at full lock – it’s good at it and sounds fantastic. Our aprés ski included a jaunt down a snow-covered fire road with the air suspension at full ride height to test out the tires and Quattro once more. Everything we threw at the big Audi was shrugged off. Will it go much farther off-road than we took it? No, but it went far enough for my needs.
Back on dry and twisty pavement, I was able to push the RS Q8 a bit. Is it as nimble and eager to corner as the RS6 Avant? No, the higher center of gravity makes an impact and you can feel it. But as with the off-road bit of driving, it’s enough for how I’d use it. I can’t totally judge drivability given the snow tires make everything a bit… squishy compared to Audi’s preferred summer tire. Regardless, steering feel was pretty good and the body remained well-controlled through tighter and faster corners.
So why does this RS Q8 stick out in my mind, out of everything I’ve driven lately? For one, I fit in it as though Audi built the cabin around my six-foot-one frame. Even ignoring the massaging seats, the driving position was perfect. Visibility was good, with a low dash that keeps the excess of screens (seriously, Audi, that lower climate screen is ridiculous) out of your way. The optional Bang & Olufsen sound system is fantastic.
There’s drama and flair that come with the twin-turbo V8 and its valved exhaust. It sounds great, it drives well, and crucially compared to the RS6 Avant that I also covet heavily… it can tow up to 7,700 pounds, per Audi. In theory, it’d tow my racecar on the weekends and provide enough entertainment otherwise. While I didn’t sample the trailering abilities this time around, due to weather conditions, I’ll be sure to test ’em out when the next one comes my way.
For a “coupe crossover” – and keeping in mind I usually loathe the Sportback-type styling as it kills practicality – the RS Q8 is fairly handsome in my eyes. The eye-searing Dragon Orange paint adds to the sense of occasion. It’s all so very silly but in a buttoned-down, actually-good way that is so emblematic of German cars. I love the RS6 Avant but it doesn’t work for me. This is the variant that does.
Check out what Tom and I got up to in our video: