We can’t know for sure that Audi took the Q8 concept that debuted at this year’s Detroit auto show and simply threw on a new coat of paint, gave it new bumpers, and stuffed a trick powertrain into its nose, but that’s all it would take to create this orange Q8 Sport concept—the Sport moniker is new! It is all but identical to the original Q8 concept, with a few key exceptions.
That Engine (and Electric Motor, and Electric Compressor)
Both vehicles preview the Q8, a “coupe” variant to be built on the Q7 SUV platform. The Detroit show car was a plug-in hybrid combining a 333-hp turbocharged V-6 and a 134-hp electric motor/generator integrated with the transmission (total output: 443 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque), whereas the Q8 Sport revealed in Geneva gets more adventurous and inventive, intending to preview the SQ8 performance model.
For starters, the Q8 Sport is a fairly basic hybrid—with no allowance for plug-in charging—that uses a smaller, lighter 0.9-kWh lithium-ion battery pack to deliver electric assist via a transmission-mounted electric motor during acceleration as well as brief spurts of electric-only driving. It also employs this stored electricity to power a compressor mounted in the intake plumbing, thus canceling any lag by providing instantaneous boost. This technology is better known as an e-charger or electric supercharger, and it’s something Audi has been pioneering for a few years now; after gracing RS5 TDI prototypes, the trick is in production on the European-market SQ7 diesel SUV.
Between the electric motor/generator in the transmission and the e-charger-boosted V-6, the Q8 Sport’s powertrain packs 476 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque (the latter figure matching the plug-in-hybrid Q8’s). The electric motor contributes less than 30 horsepower to the party, the e-charger responsible for a moderate boost in output over Audi’s 450-hp twin-turbocharged V-6. The e-charger not only sharpens the turbo engine’s response, but it helps the V-6 run at lower speeds by boosting low-rpm torque. This means that the Q8 Sport, Audi says, can avoid unnecessary downshifts during relatively sedate driving situations. The good news is that this powertrain is on its way to production Audis soon, including the SQ8 performance version of the SUV coming later this year or early next year.
Q8 is as Q8 Does
Aside from the drivetrain technology, the Q8 Sport barely moves the needle relative to the earlier Q8 show car. Both concepts closely resemble the production Q8 SUV that Audi will pit against BMW’s X6 and Mercedes-Benz’s GLE coupe. For this SQ8-previewing Sport, Audi replaced the exterior brightwork with dark trim, and the front and rear bumpers look subtly more aggressive. Happily, the earlier show car’s overwrought vertical grille spears have been ditched in favor of a more attractive black mesh grille filler. The Sport’s suspension sits lower, too. Overall, the Sport/upcoming SQ8 looks like the Q8 to get, both as a function of its sweet powertrain and its cleaner styling.