Audi Q7 vs Q8: Practicality or Style?

With the explosion in demand for SUVs, it was inevitable that Audi would eventually follow suit and introduce their own coupe/sportback SUV – a trend that began with the BMW X6 all the way back in 2008.

Audi first unveiled the Q8 coupe SUV in 2018, ending the Q7’s reign as Audi’s premier SUV. Despite the substantial price hike, the Q8 is technically just a sportback-variant of the Q7, so can the extra cost really be justified? Let’s take a look at how the two SUVs compare across different aspects.

Quick Summary

The Audi Q7 and Q8 are both midsize SUVs which share the same platform, but the Q7 is slightly bigger and seats up to 7 thanks to its third row. The Q8 gets sportier styling and comes equipped with a more powerful V6 engine as standard.

Audi Q7 front
Q7
Audi Q8 front 3/4 view
Q8

Pricing

The 2021 base model Audi Q7, the Premium 45 TFSI Quattro, starts at $54,950. It features a 2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 engine which lacks the oomph you’ll get out of the 3.0-liter V6 found in the Premium 55 TFSI Quattro, which starts from $60,800.

The Audi Q8 comes equipped with the more powerful 3.0-liter V6 by default, but that should be expected given the starting price of $68,200 for the Premium base model.

Audi Q8 side view
Audi Q8, side view
Q8

With a $13250 price difference between their respective base models, and similar differences when comparing the Premium Plus and Prestige trims, the Audi Q7 is obviously far more forgiving in terms of cost.

While not the focus of this comparison, there’s also the SQ7 and SQ8 from Audi’s sportier S-line, which come equipped with a 4.0-liter V8 for $85,000 and $89,100 respectively.

Styling

The Q7 is distinctly Audi, subtle and reserved. Unfortunately, we’re still on the second-generation (Typ 4M) of the Q7 which was introduced in 2015, so the body is looking a little stale in 2021.

Audi Q7 rear
Q7
Audi Q8 rear view
Q8

By comparison, the Audi Q8 looks exciting and mean, with sharper lines and a stunning Matrix LED taillight that spans the entire width of the car. The Q8 didn’t exist before 2018, so its design is still very fresh, and overall its design is quite distinct from other models in the Q family.

Once inside, differences become less obvious. The dashboard layout and setup are basically the same, and the overall look and feel will ultimately depend on the trim and options you pick, rather than the model.

Despite the aesthetic differences, the Q7 and Q8 are almost identical in size. The Q7 is around 3 inches longer, whereas the Q8 is approximately an inch wider and sits slightly lower to the ground.

Audi Q7 interior
Q7
Audi Q8 interior
Q8

Performance

When fitted with the 3.0-liter turbo V6, the performance of the Q7 is identical to that of the Q8. Producing 335 horsepower and up to 369 lb-ft of torque, the SUV is fast off the line and comfortable towing heavier loads.

Both the Q7 and Q8 feature the smooth and snappy 8-speed tiptronic transmission, and come with Quattro AWD that makes them handle harsher conditions without a hitch.

Air suspension comes as standard on all versions of the Q7 and Q8, so driver and passenger comfort is excellent on the road.

Off-road, these are still crossover SUVs, so they won’t perform as well as true 4x4s like the Land Rover Defender or Suzuki Jimny, but that won’t be a problem for 99% of drivers.

Of course, opting for a Q7 with the smaller 2.0-liter inline-4 engine–as most people do–does make things feel much tamer by comparison, but far from sluggish.

Practicality

Although the Q8 is perfectly capable as a daily driver, there’s no doubting that the Q7 is the more practical vehicle.

The Q7 is a 7-seater, whereas the Q8 is a 5-seater. That alone should make it the more obvious choice for bigger families. Also, because it’s more boxy and doesn’t feature the sloping roofline you get with the Q8, the Q7 allows for more cargo space–71.6 cu.-ft. versus the Audi Q8’s 60.7 cu.-ft.

Audi Q7 seating plan
The Audi Q7 has an extra row of seats and can accommodate up to 7 people

The absence of a third row does mean the Q8 offers an additional 1.4 inches of rear seat legroom, but the reduced headroom leaves rear seat passengers feeling a little more cramped than they would in the Q7. Regardless, these are both Audi’s best SUV offerings, so there’s ample room in for everyone inside the cabin.

Technology and Features

The Volkswagen Group is known for equipping its cars with some of the best technology on the market. Both the Q7 and Q8 come with an impressive dual-screen infotainment system and offer the likes of a Bang & Olufsen® 3D Advanced Sound System, virtual cockpit and full integration with Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto. The base Q8 does come with a few more features as standard than the base Q7, but things like automatic climate control or  adaptive cruise control are still reserved for higher trims.

Fuel Economy

As you’d expect from any midsize SUV, the Q7 and Q8 consume a lot of petrol. The Q8’s 3.0-liter V6 only manages a combined fuel economy of 18 miles to the gallon. If you drive a Q7 fitted with the smaller 2.0-liter engine, you’ll get a slightly more respectable 21 miles to the gallon.

It goes without saying that if fuel economy is a big concern, a plug-in hybrid Lexus RX or Volvo XC90 would be much better choices.

Safety

The Audi Q7 and Audi Q8 both score very well in US NHTSA crash tests and achieve 5-star overall ratings.  The two SUVs are built from the same foundation, so they share exactly the same scores.

They received 5-star ratings front barrier crash and side crash tests. As you might expect from a taller SUV, the rollover rating is lower at 4-stars.

Verdict

Deciding between the Q7 and Q8 should be an easy affair for most buyers.

The Q7 is the sensible purchase, because it saves you a significant amount of money and is more practical thanks to the third row of seats and bigger trunk. The smaller engine also gives it superior fuel efficiency, and you can still option it with the 3.0-liter V6 found on every Q8 if that’s what you want.

However, if you want to turn heads and drive something that truly stands out from the rest, the Q8 is the car for you. It isn’t just one of Audi’s best looking models, it’s of the best looking SUVs on the market, period.

If you’re looking for a luxury midsize SUV like the Audi Q7 and Q8, it’s also worth considering the BMW X5 and X6, Mercedes GLE and Lexus RX.