Golden days for

Audi's smartest SUV

Audi Q8, side action
Audi Q8, rear action
Audi Q8, rear static
Audi Q8, front static
Audi Q8, front static 2
Audi Q8, front action 3
Audi Q8, front action 2
Audi Q8, front action
Audi Q8, front seats 2
Audi Q8, dashboard
Audi Q8, boot 1
Audi Q8, body detail
Audi Q8, engine
Audi Q8, boot 2
Audi Q8, dash detail
Audi Q8, front seats
Audi Q8, rear seats
Audi Q8, badge

IF you've got it you might as well flaunt it - so do feel free to order your big and bold new Audi Q8 in dragon orange metallic paint.

If you like this sort of car, you'll love this one with £750 worth of beautifully applied golden topcoat. Glistening under a summer sun it looked every centimetre the stylish SUV it's supposed to be.

Adding extra style means a sleeker rear end and hugely bold new frontal treatment - vast and mildly intimidating radiator grille to the fore - to distance the Q8 from its modestly more practical Q7 SUV sibling.

That car has three rows of seats and space for seven, the Q8 is shorter and wider (by 66mm and 27mm respectively) and has just two rows of seats. That means, in the way of these things, that peeling away some practicality and adding style puts the price up.

So, the lesser of the two Q8 models on initial sale, the 50 TDI S line quattro costs £65,040 - a substantial £7,670 more than the equivalent Q7. Audi must judge that's no barrier for wealthy style seekers and offers a dear version too, at £83,040 for the Q8 Vorsprung, complete with a long-as-your-arm list of expensive goodies on board.

Both versions share the single engine available at launch, a 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 282bhp and the ability to punch this more than two tonne machine to 152mph and to 62mph in 6.3 seconds.

With an eight-speed automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive as standard fit the Q8 records an official 41.5mpg average and 178g/km of CO2, the same figures applying for both wheel sizes fitted to the car, a big 21-inches on the Q8 S line and enormous 22-ins on the range topper (for the moment).

If the exterior grabs your attention with its colour and sheer sharply styled size the interior impresses with its discretion, blending leather and alloy in the sort of way that something like a Bentley at three times the price wouldn't sniff at.

And, being a top grade of Audi, there's enough technology behind that upper class finishing school vibe to keep an electronics geek absorbed for hours as he (it will be a he) taps and slides fingers over the two big glass screens that dominate the central dash.

The idea was to eliminate old fashioned knobs - leaving a lone bit of old tech to switch the sound system on and off. Everything else is touchscreened, from sat nav to heating to finding the news on the radio.

That can be a recipe for deep resentment in other cars as even cooling the interior becomes a battle with virtual sliders, but the Q8's screens are responsive enough to do the job (very nearly) as well as a rotary control.

All that, and a virtual instrument panel that can turn into its own sat nav screen directly in the driver's line of sight come as standard on every Q8, along with expensive goodies like LED lights and adaptive air suspension as Audi seeks to place the car at the pinnacle of its SUV range.

Choose the Vorsprung spec and you add lovely Valcona leather, superbly readable head-up display, the bigger alloy wheels and all-wheel steering. This latter feature helps stability at speed and tightens the turning circle when you're going slowly.

It proved its worth within a mile of starting the test drive when a navigational error (human not car) meant a mini roundabout needed exploring in depth - handled with barely a raised eyebrow from the car.

Back up to speed and the air springing delivers a ride only just short of the full magic carpet, keeping those huge wheels and tyres in impressive check on some awful road surfaces.

There's a distant diesel growl under acceleration but once cruising speed is reached the resultant hush means you can converse in whispers, the frameless side windows that add style to the looks not making their presence heard at all.

You'd think most Q8 drivers will find the performance more than enough (some won't and will wait for the inevitable quicker ones to arrive); it feels sufficiently brisk to need no excuses in the rat race of going home time, for instance.

You won't buy a Q8 because it's economical but the car does its best to help saving fuel with a very mild form of hybrid drive, using an extra lithium-ion battery to power a clever alternator starter that lets the car coast between 34 and 99mph and restart instantly when power is needed.

It will have helped the Q8 on test to a moderate 32.7mpg after a 90 mile run on mostly rural roads. Not quite an eco champion, then, but nothing to worry someone buying the car for the way it makes them feel like winners in the thrust and parry of life.

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