2023 Audi Q8 E-Tron Debut: New Name, More Range

It’s been about three years since Audi’s original dedicated electric vehicle, the E-Tron SUV, first hit the road. That’s almost an eternity in car tech time, which means it’s time for an update. The refreshed version debuts with an updated look, a bit more range and a new, less confusing name: Meet the 2023 Audi Q8 E-Tron and the SQ8 E-Tron SUV and Sportback.

Audi’s lineup of electric vehicles has grown to include the smaller Q4 E-Tron crossover, electric Sportback models, the E-Tron GT and RS E-Tron GT sport sedans, with A6 and Q6 E-Tron models right around the corner. And that’s just here in the States; globally, the mix also includes the Chinese market Q2L and Q5 E-Trons.

Simply calling its first electric SUV the “E-Tron” has become less and less adequate as its family grows, so for its midcycle refresh, Audi has rechristened its original dedicated EV the 2023 Audi Q8 E-Tron. In the transition, the sporty E-Tron S becomes the SQ8 E-Tron, with Sportback models following suit. The change brings the SUV’s moniker in line both with the naming structure of its current stable of both electric- and combustion-powered models.

The new nomenclature can be found laser-etched onto the Q8 E-Tron’s black B-pillars, a new branding element for Audi, as well as in black lettering on the rear hatch. Up front, the automaker’s single-frame grille features a new honeycomb design and a contrasting black or aluminum surround that integrates the SUV’s headlights. At the top of the single-frame, a new LED projector bar shines light onto the grille and highlights the four-rings badge. The SUV’s front and rear bumpers have also been reshaped, but overall the midcycle design changes are minimal.

Range increase

Beneath the updated design are improved aerodynamic bits — the new turbulence-reducing wheel spoilers and aero-design wheels are tucked, literally, beneath the Q8 E-Tron’s body — netting the E-SUV a more slippery drag coefficient.

Power for the dual-motor Q8 E-Tron 55, the base spec here in the US, is unchanged at a combined 402 horsepower (300 kW) in Boost Mode and 490 pound-feet of torque. The 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds and electronically limited 124 mph top speed are also unchanged. However, a tighter winding on the rear motor’s stator has allowed Audi’s engineers to squeeze in two more coils, improving efficiency and allowing more torque generation from less current application.

The biggest change comes in the form of a larger battery, or rather, a more energy-dense 114-kilowatt-hour battery pack that fits into the same space as the old 95-kWh unit. That’s thanks to a new stacked prismatic design and new cell chemistry. Between the more capacious battery, more efficient motor and improved aero, Audi expects a 30% increase in range, estimating 361 miles for the SUV and 372 miles for Q8 E-Tron Sportback, both on the European WLTP standard. (Interestingly, the Sportback is now the most efficient of the two body styles, a reversal of previous model years.)

Like most EVs, the Q8 E-Tron reserves some capacity to boost longevity, so only 106 kWh is usable by the owner.

Audi

We expect the EPA-estimated numbers will be lower, but US range estimates have not yet been announced. Still, we can expect an improvement over the current model’s 222- and 218-mile estimates for SUV and Sportback configurations.

“We know how important it is to have a range number that starts with a ‘3,’” said Carter Balkcom of Audi Product Marketing in a briefing, “and so I can tell you that around 300 miles is what we’ve set as our goal and we’re pushing hard to get there.”

SQ8 E-Tron models

The three-motor E-Tron S models also return as the SQ8 E-Tron and SQ8 E-Tron Sportback dynamic duo. Peak power for these models is, again, unchanged from last year at a combined 495 hp and 718 lb-ft of torque. Zero-to-60 mph sprints in Boost Mode still take just 4.5 seconds.

The SQ8 models lack the new front-wheel underspoilers — Audi reckons that with their wider wheels and more aggressive front aero, the air flaps wouldn’t make much difference — but are powered by the new higher-capacity battery. WLTP range for the SUV and Sportback are estimated at 306 miles and 318 miles, respectively, so my guess is that the SQ8 models will likely fall short of a 300-mile EPA estimate.

Peak DC fast-charging rate increases to 170 kW though, with the bigger battery, fast-charging time hasn’t changed much.

Audi

Fast DC fast charging

Road trip pit stops will also be a bit shorter in the Q8 E-Tron thanks to improved DC fast-charging speeds. The peak rate grows from 150 to 170 kW for all models — a small but welcome bump. The SUV can now boost from a 10% state of charge to 80% in around 31 minutes. That’s around the same time as last year’s 20-80% charge but with a larger battery to fill. Plug & Charge capability is still standard, allowing automatic authentication and billing at compatible stations via charging cable communication.

AC home and public charging is unchanged with the included 11-kW adapter taking around 11 and a half hours for a full charge. An optional 22 kW AC charger, or similarly powerful Level 2 AC public charger, shrinks that time to about six hours flat.

Other improvements

Inside, the Q8 E-Tron’s cabin sees new available trim colors and materials joining the options list. The SUV will also make even more use of postconsumer materials, such as a new anthracite-colored “Tech Layer” inlay material made from recycled plastic bottles and sport seats upholstered in synthetic leather and a new microfiber material called Dinamica, composed of recycled plastic bottles , used textiles and “fiber residue,” whatever that is. Dinamica is also produced without the use of solvents, which further reduces its environmental impact.

The E-Tron’s MMI tech is unchanged and should still be quite good. The dual-display center stack features a 10.1-inch main touchscreen up top and an 8.6-inch screen below, in addition to the standard Virtual Cockpit full-digital instrument cluster.

A new LED projection bar illuminates the grille and four-ringed badge from above.

Audi

Forbidden fruit

Outside of the US, Audi will continue to sell a single-motor Q8 E-Tron 50 model, discontinuing the 70-kWh battery in favor of the 55’s old 95-kWh pack. The 50 gets a small power bump to 335 hp and a 40% range bump to a WLTP-estimated 305 miles.

On American roads, the Q8 E-Tron also still doesn’t take full advantage of Audi’s Digital Matrix LED projector headlamps due to our current legal restrictions. So we don’t get beamforming light around oncoming traffic to boost visibility without dazzling other drivers or the “light carpet” with direction indicator arrows. In Europe, 2023 Q8 E-Trons can now indicate the intention to change lanes by expanding the light carpet laterally and can even project traffic and warning indicators onto the road surface based on connected data.

We also still don’t get the camera-based Virtual Side Mirrors, but I’m a bit less salty about that.

Read more: Smart Headlights Are Around the Corner, to the Relief of That Driver You’re Blinding

Coming next spring

Orders for the 2023 Audi Q8 E-Tron and SQ8 E-Tron SUV and Sportback models are expected to open in the coming weeks, with the first European deliveries starting in February. In the US, the first examples should start arriving in late April. Local pricing hasn’t been announced, but we expect slightly higher prices than the 2022 model year E-Tron due to changes in standard equipment, packaging and so on. More details will, no doubt, be revealed closer to the on-sale date.

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