Ingolstadt - Audi’s mission to plug just about every gap in the SUV market has taken a more interesting turn with the reveal of the first-ever Q8, featuring a striking exterior design inspired by the concept of the same name.

Described as a “four-door luxury coupé”, the new high-riding flagship will go head-to-head with the BMW X6 and Mercedes-Benz GLE Coupé when it hits world markets - including South Africa - towards the end of this year.

Shorter, yet wider and lower than its Q7 sibling and riding on beefy rims measuring up to 22 inches in diameter, the Q8 has an imposing stance, and yet it promises practicality too. Boasting a wheelbase of exactly three meters, Audi claims the five-seat cabin beats its key rivals in most “relevant dimensions”.

Audi hasn’t yet disclosed the actual engine options that customers will have, although 3-litre V6 turbopetrol and turbodiesel motors are likely starters, but the carmaker has confirmed that - as per the new A8 - all versions will sport so-called mild hybrid technology.

This entails a 48-volt primary electrical system that incorporates a lithium ion battery and belt alternator starter. The system is capable of recovering 12kW of power during braking, which is then fed back into the battery.

Quattro all-wheel drive will be featured across the board too, with a rear-biased 40:60 power distribution, as will adaptive damping control.

Buyers with budget for extras will be able to order adaptive air suspension, which can vary the ride height by as much as 90mm, and four-wheel air suspension is on the options menu too.

Inside the Q8 has a similar layout to the latest A6 and A7 models, with a large split-level MMI operating system (infotainment on top and climate below) that flows seamlessly into the black dashboard panels surrounding it.

Gadgets include a smart voice control system that can recognise phrases like “I am hungry”, as well as adaptive cruise assist, curb warning, 360 degree cameras and Audi’s ‘garage pilot’ for remote control parking.

The South African line-up and pricing will be confirmed closer to launch, which is scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year.

IOL Motoring