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New SUV puts Audi at head of Q

The upcoming Audi Q8 is a posh, coupe-like SUV

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SELLING posh SUVs and crossovers is almost as profitable as running an RHI wood pellet boiler these days, so it is no surprise that Audi's next new model is, indeed, a posh SUV, writes William Scholes.

Called the Q8, this imposing vehicle gets a Q7-sized footprint but swaps that car's estate bodywork for a more striking, almost coupe-like profile.

Sales of large limousine-like saloons like Audi's own A8 are on the wane, while the appetite for SUVs seems to be insatiable, so the Q8 makes a lot of commercial sense - expect similar efforts from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and others soon.

Whether it is a design success is, as ever with matters aesthetic, a matter of opinion. Suffice it to say that the Q8 does little to persuade me that the elegance of a large saloon or coupe can be easily replicated with an SUV-meets-coupe format.

The Q8 measures just over 5m long, more than 2m wide and 1.7m tall, with a 3m wheelbase freeing up lots of space for the four passengers in a luxury cabin described as 'lounge-like'.

As you might expect from Audi, there is a strong emphasis on technology, including a plethora of touchscreens and augmented reality for the head-up display. This merges the "virtual and physical worlds", with party pieces including making a sat-nav arrow appear to be in the same position as an actual arrow on the road.

"The Q8 concept is an Audi in peak form," proclaimed Audi board member Dietmar Voggenreiter.

"It demonstrates the strengths of our brand in both technology and design while providing a glimpse at a future full-size, production SUV."

The show car sported a hybrid petrol-electric drivetrain, but other engines will be available.

The Q8 was shown at January's North American International Auto Show in Detroit in 'near production' concept form, meaning the car is, bar a few minor tweaks, as it will be when it goes on sale in 2018. The show car's 23-inch wheels may not be a standard item when it reaches showrooms, for example.

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