Audi has shown the Q8 Sport concept twice now, though it did at least go to the trouble of re-painting it yellow for Geneva. Big deal, you say. But this car is a big deal, not only as a design preview for 2018’s Q8 SUV but because its key tech will appear on production Audis before the end of this year, first in the form of the new A8 saloon.
Bringing the promise of increased efficiency with an impressive turn of speed is the mild hybrid powertrain, which in the Q8 concept combines a 0.9kWh lithium-ion battery under the rear luggage compartment and a modest 26bhp, 125lb ft electric motor sandwiched between the more conventional elements of the powertrain, a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo petrol V6 and eight-speed Tiptronic transmission.
Energy flows between motor and battery via the car’s 48-volt system, with the motor wearing many hats: starter motor, generator under braking, additional power unit for hard acceleration and sole power source in traffic.
The aim is the grunt of a V8 with the efficiency of something more modest. The V6 summons 436bhp alone but, when the powertrain chimes in as one, its total output is 462bhp and 516lb ft of torque.
Audi claims 0-62mph in 4.7sec, 171mph, and a pinch-of-salt range of 746 miles. It’s claimed the system reduces fuel consumption by a gallon every 282 miles and CO2 by 25g/km compared to a non-hybrid V6, and allows for limited engine-off running in traffic.
‘This drive system is a step towards optimising efficiency and sustainability in large-volume production,’ says Audi chairman Rupert Stadler. ‘The combination of mild hybrid and a TFSI engine sets a new benchmark for the synthesis of electromobility and combustion engines and will be used in many models.’
Unlike the current plug-in hybrid Audi e-tron A3 and Q7, this new mild hybrid powertrain doesn’t feature external charging, and uses a far smaller battery. The new powertrain also uses tech already deployed on its majestic diesel engine (as found in SQ7) to all but eliminate turbo lag, with an e-compressor spooling the turbos when exhaust pressure cannot.
Electrification to boost performance – and economy
Hustlers will appreciate the immediate throttle response while dawdlers will achieve better economy by virtue of rarely having to shift down.
Stadler says Audi will overcome the business challenges involved in getting three pure electric cars on sale by 2020. ‘We will have an SUV first, even though the architecture is more difficult because you don’t have perfect aerodynamics.
‘But people love to sit an SUV. After the SUV, we will have a more emotional shape [on the same platform] and then a more compact BEV on the VW MEB platform.
‘I would like to have only small cars with less fuel consumption but there are customers who want six cylinders and 2.5- and 3.0-litre engines. And we have to compensate for that.
‘It will be mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids, g-trons [CNG compatible], e-trons, BEVs – it will be a bunch of technologies, because if you rely on only one you meet only 10% of the customer base.’
4 new technologies that’ll debut on the Audi A8 and Q8
1) Electric shock
This mild hybrid system isn’t ground-breaking but it will be widely adopted across Audi’s model lines in the future, delivering strong performance – with fearsome instant grunt – plus those all-important reductions in fuel consumption and emissions.
2) Clean and mean
Electric motors are used both for direct motive power (without the engine, for crawling in traffic, and in tandem with it for hard acceleration) and to spool up the turbos at low engine revs, when exhaust pressures are low and you’d expect a lacklustre response.
3) Virtual Cockpit 2 (above)
The concept takes Audi’s Virtual Cockpit (hi-res screen upon which dials can be show at full size or shrunk into the corners) and ramps up the hardware to a 1920 x 720 12.3in screen. Nav switches from a top-down view to a 3D rendering of the car and its surroundings when you zoom in.
4) Look, no knobs
Audi’s current HMI uses a rotary control, a quadrant of buttons whose functions change with the screen and shortcut buttons to nav, radio, media and phone. The next A8 will follow the concept’s lead with a move to more touchscreen technology, with a startlingly high-definition and touch-ready haptic main screen and a secondary touchscreen for climate controls, similar to the Range Rover Velar’s Touch Pro Duo set-up.