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This Q8 is just great, says RAY MASSEY: Audi’s new Sportback e-tron delivers on all fronts – at a price

Dark and brooding but with sleek fastback lines, Audi’s new Q8 Sportback e-tron is a real green demon. The powerful electric all-wheel-drive crossover has a bold presence but drives like an angelic dream and is zero-emissions.

But it’s not cheap. Ahead of first deliveries this month, I was driving the 55 Quattro Launch Edition with a hefty price tag of £99,095.

Two electric motors — one on each axle —develop 405 hp (300 kW), which propels it from rest to 62 mph in just 5.6 seconds up to a top speed restricted to 124mph.

Dream drive: Audi's new Q8 Sportback e-tron delivers on all fronts — at a price Dream drive: Audi's new Q8 Sportback e-tron delivers on all fronts — at a price

Dream drive: Audi’s new Q8 Sportback e-tron delivers on all fronts — at a price

Riding on 21in wheels, it came fully stocked with an array of comfort and safety features. And it has a sharp interior with the latest digital dashboard technology and satnav.

However, there is almost too much on-screen information to take in at once. A digital de-clutter to decrease potential distraction would help.

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The all-round cameras and parking aids were useful for squeezing a big car into tight spots. But I still prefer traditional reflective mirrors to the clever ‘virtual door mirrors’ which use exterior cameras to project a view of the road behind onto screens in the car’s ‘armpit’ between the door hinges and the dashboard. I was forever looking in the wrong place.

That said, however, the digital wing-mirrors really came into their own as a brilliant aid when I drove through a motorway deluge. The electronic cameras enhanced my view of the road and vehicles behind. There were very helpful flashing warnings of approaching vehicles.

On top of that, the Q8 e-tron itself proved more than a match for the really filthy weather.

It was solid, well balanced, grippy and refined through the lashing rainstorm – and some impromptu wading when I got closer to home. It was a tough test. I felt confident in its abilities. And I was very impressed.

My Q8 e-tron Sportback promises a generous range of 343 miles from its 114 kWh lithium ion battery, which should cut down on any range anxiety. It takes just half an hour to recharge on a fast DC public charger, or overnight on a domestic charger as I did.

And should you buy one, the charging cables are stored under the bonnet, not under the boot floor; lesson learned.

Prices stretch from £67,800 for the standard entry-level 340 hp Q8 50 e-tron SUV, rising to £117,000 for the top-of-the-range 508hp sports-performance SQ8 Sportback, to follow soon. Across the range, the Sportback variant adds £2,500 to the price.

Following the introductory Launch Edition, there are four trim levels: Sport; S Line; Black Edition and Vorsprung.

Comfort and safety features on my Limited Edition model include: privacy glass; a panoramic sun roof; exit warning and cross-traffic assist (which does work when reversing out of your driveway); head-up display; adaptive cruise control and lane-change assist; progressive steering; supportive sports sears; and adaptive sport air suspension; and acoustic glazing.

Following the introductory Launch Edition, there are four trim levels: Sport; S Line; Black Edition and Vorsprung Following the introductory Launch Edition, there are four trim levels: Sport; S Line; Black Edition and Vorsprung

Following the introductory Launch Edition, there are four trim levels: Sport; S Line; Black Edition and Vorsprung

It has a sharp interior with the latest digital dashboard technology and satnav It has a sharp interior with the latest digital dashboard technology and satnav

It has a sharp interior with the latest digital dashboard technology and satnav

Two electric motors — one on each axle —develop 405 hp (300 kW), which propels it from rest to 62 mph in just 5.6 seconds up to a top speed restricted to 124mph Two electric motors — one on each axle —develop 405 hp (300 kW), which propels it from rest to 62 mph in just 5.6 seconds up to a top speed restricted to 124mph

Two electric motors — one on each axle —develop 405 hp (300 kW), which propels it from rest to 62 mph in just 5.6 seconds up to a top speed restricted to 124mph

As part of its 'Vorsprung 2030 plans', Audi's current line up of eight EV models will expand to 20 by 2026 and will be all-electric within a decade As part of its 'Vorsprung 2030 plans', Audi's current line up of eight EV models will expand to 20 by 2026 and will be all-electric within a decade

As part of its ‘Vorsprung 2030 plans’, Audi’s current line up of eight EV models will expand to 20 by 2026 and will be all-electric within a decade

Prices stretch from £67,800 for the standard entry-level 340 hp Q8 50 e-tron SUV, rising to £117,000 for the top-of-the-range 508hp sports-performance SQ8 Sportback Prices stretch from £67,800 for the standard entry-level 340 hp Q8 50 e-tron SUV, rising to £117,000 for the top-of-the-range 508hp sports-performance SQ8 Sportback

Prices stretch from £67,800 for the standard entry-level 340 hp Q8 50 e-tron SUV, rising to £117,000 for the top-of-the-range 508hp sports-performance SQ8 Sportback

For other trim levels, depending on the variant, Audi says it has simplified the number of available options on the Q8 e-tron, with two ‘technology-focused’ packs.

The Technology Pack costing £2,995 comprises a Bang & Olufsen sound system, multi-colour interior ambient lighting pack, head-up display, 360-degree camera, and park assist plus with parking aid which enables the Q8 e-tron to park itself with the press and hold of a button.The Technology Pack Pro costing £5,995 adds exterior ambient lighting which illuminates the grille, four-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, USB-C in the rear, heated rear seats and an advanced key. Tour Pack (£1,995) remains available and comprises adaptive cruise with active lane assist, emergency assist, predictive efficiency assistant, turn assist and swerve assist. City Assist Pack (£1,495) adds Audi pre-sense rear, exit warning, cross traffic assist front and rear, lane change assistant and park assist with parking aid. 

Audi’s virtual door mirrors – using rear view cameras and internal screens, instead of traditional reflective mirrors, are a £1,750 option.

As part of its ‘Vorsprung 2030 plans’, Audi’s current line up of eight EV models will expand to 20 by 2026 and will be all-electric within a decade.

Audi UK director Andrew Doyle said: ‘Audi established the premium market for electric SUVs back in 2018 with the e-tron and since then customer appetite for the model has grown year-on-year.

‘The introduction of the new and improved Q8 e-tron family heralds a new era for Audi.

‘It’s the first of a variety of incredible new products Audi will be bringing to market in the coming years that will continue to set the standard in the world of premium electric mobility.’

Will it fit in my garage?: Audi Q8 55 Sportback e-tron quattro 300kW 

Price as driven: £99,095

Price of Q8 e-tron range: £67,000 to £117,000

Length: 4915mm Width: 1937mm Width inc. mirrors: 2189mm Height: 1619mm Wheelbase: 2928mm

Unladed weight: 2520kg Gross weight: 3180kg

Range: 343 miles

Drive type: all-wheel drive Electric motors: 2 Power: 408 horsepower (hp) / 300kW Transmission: 2-stage gear box with single gear

Wheels: 21 inch

Battery type: Lithium ion432 cells Battery capacity: 114kWh (106kWh usable)

0 to 62mph: 5.6 seconds Top speed: 124mph (restricted)

CO2 emissions: Zero

Power consumption: 2.9 miles per kWh

Charging time: DC fast charging to 80%: 31 minutes; AC domestic charger: 11.5 hours

Turning circle: 12.2 metres

Luggage space: Rear seats up: 528 litres; Rear seats down: 1567mm

VW ID.Buzz is Best Car of the Year 

The global Best Car of the Year jury crowned the VW ID.Buzz its world champion. Toyota’s sporty GR86 took silver and Nissan’s electric Ariya the bronze.

Top spot: The global Best Car of the Year jury crowned the VW ID.Buzz its world champion Top spot: The global Best Car of the Year jury crowned the VW ID.Buzz its world champion

Top spot: The global Best Car of the Year jury crowned the VW ID.Buzz its world champion

The international panel of respected and impartial expert judges — including designers, engineers, sports legends and journalists — also named upwardly mobile Korean car firm Genesis (the posher sibling of Kia and Hyundai) as car company of the year for its ‘exciting and extensive range of all-new luxury models’ including the sporty electric GV60 .

The Dacia Duster was named best bargain car; MG4 best affordable electric car; Toyota GR86 best affordable sports car, VW’s ID.Buzz Cargo best van; and the Citroen AMI best quadricycle.

Upwardly mobile: Korean car firm Genesis was car company of the year for its 'exciting and extensive range of all-new luxury models' including the sporty electric GV60 (pictured) Upwardly mobile: Korean car firm Genesis was car company of the year for its 'exciting and extensive range of all-new luxury models' including the sporty electric GV60 (pictured)

Upwardly mobile: Korean car firm Genesis was car company of the year for its ‘exciting and extensive range of all-new luxury models’ including the sporty electric GV60 (pictured)

The winners will appear at this year’s British Motor Show (thebritishmotorshow.live) at Farnborough in August.

Government’s no ‘current plans for road pricing 

Comments: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt Comments: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Comments: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Fans of the TV political satire — or should that be documentary — The Thick Of It will take great delight at the words of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on the prospect of the Government introducing pay-as-you-drive road pricing.

This would be one way to fill the multi-billion-pound taxation black hole if petrol and diesel cars disappear (and with them all that fuel duty and VAT collected at the pumps) amid the shift to zero-emissions electric power.

In his written exchange with the House of Commons Transport Select Committee chair Iain Stewart, Mr Hunt insisted: ‘The Government does not currently have plans to consider road pricing.’

Some took this to mean that ministers had dropped the idea completely.

But note that key word: ‘currently’.

The Thick Of It’s sweary spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker would be proud.

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