Audi Q8 e-tron Sportback long term review, 12,600km report


The Audi Q8 e-tron Sportback joins our long-term fleet and is immediately crowned the new ‘Range King’ after a stress-free drive to Mahabaleshwar. The ‘maha test’ to the hill station is a 265km drive that goes from sea level to 4,500 feet. Batteries don’t like gravity and lose their charge rapidly on a steep climb, which is why not many EVs can make it up comfortably on one charge, despite the distance being far less than their claimed range. But the Q8 e-tron made it up easily and with enough juice left in the battery. A residual charge of 38 percent and 138km of range remaining at the end of the five-hour journey buffered me nicely from any form of range anxiety. In fact, even before I left, I wasn’t worried about range at all. That’s because an earlier run to Mahabaleshwar in the regular Q8 e-tron on the shorter but more challenging (for range) Mahad route, which includes the steep, battery-sapping Ambenali ghat got me home with 21 percent SOC left, and this reassuringly set my expectations.

Large 114kWh battery gives enough range for long drives.

Also eliminating range anxiety is the new Atal Setu bridge, which makes the drive 10km shorter and when you’re in an EV, every kilometre shorter is a kilometre of range saved. In fact, the Atal Setu, which is just 8min away from the office, is an absolute game changer for my Mahabaleshwar drives, and with just one major traffic light to cross to reach the bridge, I don’t know what rush hour is.

My routine now is to leave office late on a Friday evening, stop at the food mall just after the first toll on the Mumbai-Pune expressway for an unhealthy dinner (delicious pav bhaji this time) and reach the Wai turn off on the Bengaluru highway around 11pm. A good time to enjoy the best part of the drive: the smooth and relatively wide Wai ghat. With no cars, no people and no dogs on the deserted mountain road, without the fear of the Q8 e-tron running out of charge, I could have a blast on the final leg without a worry.

For a Mahabaleshwar weekend, I usually pack light, but when you have a home, there is always some extra stuff (usually books and magazines in my case) you end up taking with you, which is why the boot of any car is always important. The Sportback’s boot, despite the sloping roof line is spacious enough for my overnight stroller and a few small bags. The true test of the boot will be an airport drop with the family and all their luggage going on a long vacation.

When you drive an EV, you always have an eye on the range or SOC meter, which is a fat green bar on the infotainment screen or a simple graphic in the instrument cluster. In fact, other than range and SOC, you don’t get any other info like real-time power consumption or range, and other graphs that the geek in every EV owner (or driver) would like to know. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again, Audi’s infotainment system is a generation behind and we’ll have to wait for the Q6 (expected in the first quarter of 2025), the first Audi to debut the company’s next-gen on-board tech, which is a quantum leap ahead. Also, the Q8’s central screen is quite a fingerprint magnet and needs constant wiping to keep it smudge-free.

Touchscreen a fingerprint magnet and needs constant cleaning.

However, when you have great range, you forgive an EV’s other shortcomings and I have to say that I was superbly impressed by how gradually the Q8 Sportback e-tron’s battery depleted, even on the fairly steep three ghats along the way. At the food mall stop just before the Lonavala ghat, the Q8 e-tron lost just 11 percent over 67km and, 232km later at the foot off the Wai, the drop was just 50 percent. Having a half-full battery for the remaining 32km of the journey gave me enough margin (and confidence) to floor it up the ghat, and not surprisingly, the Q8 e-tron guzzled volts at an alarming rate losing 12 percent of battery charge in just 32km.

The thing is that the heavy Q8 e-tron isn’t particularly efficient, but the 114kWh battery, the largest amongst all EVs in India today, is what gives it this range. Think of it like a gas-guzzling V8 with a 100-litre tank.

The flip side of such a large battery is that it takes ages to charge. And by ages I mean 31 hours when plugged-in to a standard 15A socket at home! The faster option was to drive to the 30kW DC fast charger at Dreamland hotel 2 kilometres away that would cut the charging time to under 3 hours, however, that would have meant hanging around for as long. Since I wasn’t going to be budging from the house, the home-sweet-home slow charging option was far more convenient, even if it charged at a glacial pace. It also proves my point that nothing beats home charging.

15 amp charger at home took over 31 hours to charge battery from 38 to 100 percent, but this proved more convenient than driving to a DC fast charger.

Range was less of a worry on the return trip via Mahad, which is a good 30km shorter than the Pune route and the regen braking going downhill boosted range too. However, on the fast drive down, the big and heavy Q8 e-tron felt quite ungainly and cumbersome on the tight and twisty mountain road, so I dialled it down a bit till I reached Poladapur at the foot of the ghat.

Over 2.5-tonne SUV feels ungainly in corners; rolls a fair bit.

On the highway, though, the Q8 e-tron is a brilliant cruiser. It feels rock solid at speed, whisper quiet and makes an absolute non-event of any long distance journey.

Feels solidly planted and whisper quiet at high speed.

NH66 is still a mix of good, bad and simply horrendous surfaces. But unlike the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, this old Goa road is quite empty; there are no cameras and you can really hoof it (on the good bits), but that badly hurts range and efficiency. In fact, the Q8 e-tron was ‘thirstier’ on the drive down (just 4.0km/kWh) but the shorter distance meant I got to office with a solid 160km left in the ‘tank’.

And the best part? The trip was free! A similar petrol luxury SUV would have cost me around Rs 12,000 in fuel bills but with Q8 e-tron, I spent zilch.

Also see:

Audi Q8 e-tron long term review, 1,500km report

Audi Q8 e-tron review: Unpretentious appeal

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