2019 Audi Q8 review update: Luxury crossover lode runner

Lights flicker underneath champagne-dry powder that dusts the old marquee at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah.

The Egyptian’s been here since the 1920s. Back then, Park City was a glorified, dusty camp attached to a silver lode; a long ride but a world apart from Salt Lake City, which is now a 20-minute ride down Parley’s Canyon in the 2019 Audi Q8.

When it was built, the Egyptian was a brick-and-mortar commitment by the boomtown to finer arts like theater and opera, surprisingly common among the mining outposts that dot the Rockies in Utah and Colorado.

This morning, decades after the silver mines ran dry, Park City bustles with a new kind of gold rush. Sundance Film Festival organizers scurry in the cold morning at the Egyptian to ready the theater on Main Street as Hollywood’s winter home. The sun barely peeks over the Wasatch Mountains. Theaters like the Egyptian are the new star for Park City.

Outside, the Q8 basks in a similar dawn.

Its bleeding-edge matrix headlights and dancing taillight animation are a century removed from the Egyptian’s original yellow-tinted marquee and decades removed from Audi’s stellar sedans of the 1990s.

But both have bright lights for a new era.

2019 Audi Q8, Park City to Telluride

2019 Audi Q8, Park City to Telluride

2019 Audi Q8, Park City to Telluride

2019 Audi Q8, Park City to Telluride

2019 Audi Q8, Park City to Telluride

2019 Audi Q8, Park City to Telluride

Crossover at a crossroads

The goal for the Q8 was to sit on top of the automaker’s lineup for crossovers, but there are bigger brass rings to reach for Audi.

The Q8’s exterior draws flared fender blisters from the Ur-Quattro sports cars and a thick rear roof pillar looks like the Quattro’s hatch if you close one eye from 10 feet away. Any other similarities feel like a bigger stretch.

The all-wheel-drive system in the Q8 draws a more direct line—it’s actually called Quattro—and is a full-time system like the Audi racers of yesteryear. The system is rear-biased, too, but the Q8’s 5,000-pound heft serves a 2.5-ton anchor to sink any further comparisons.

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The Q8 is the biggest, most expensive crossover from a brand that will sell more crossovers to U.S. buyers this year than anything else. Although it stops short of offering bleeding-edge, self-driving tech from the A8, or batteries like the E-tron, the Q8 will be Audi’s workhorse now and in the near-to-now. (What about the R8? Even honest whispers in Ingolstadt acknowledge that the supercar’s time is gone.)

The view behind the wheel of the 2019 Q8 doesn’t bear the symbolic weight of Audi’s future—even if the car’s curb weight does.

Swathed in leather and bursting with ambient LED strip lighting, the Q8 glorifies and prefers deliberation. The car’s 32 inches of high-definition screens (12.3 inches in the instrument cluster, 10.1 for infotainment, and 8.6 for climate and vehicle controls) are all presented in widescreen format—as long, flat, and seemingly unending as the horizon.

The steering is similarly relaxed like an unbroken sunset. The Q8 hardly relays any drama through its steering wheel, and while the standard adaptive suspension toggles between Comfort and Sport readily—it doesn’t stray too far from the former, even if it’s in the latter.

The Q8’s main mission is in comfort.

MUST SEE: 2019 Audi Q8 priced from $68,395, rivals BMW X6 and Mercedes GLE Coupe

Press the start button and the Q8’s turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine thrums quietly outside of thick dual-pane glass that wraps around a cabin that doubles as a sense-deprivation chamber.

Its 5.6-second sprint to 60 mph never feels rushed, and the V-6’s 335 horsepower feels confident among its contemporaries—quick but not groundbreaking stuff.

2019 Audi Q8, Park City to Telluride

2019 Audi Q8, Park City to Telluride

The Q8 shares much of its hardware with the Q7—wheelbase, powertrain, among other things—but skips the third row in favor of more spread-out space in the second row. With more than 40 inches of rear-seat leg room, the Q8’s best for full-grown kids or better yet, no kids at all.

The short of the long? The Q7’s good up until they leave for college. The Q8 is better when you don’t have to pay for college anymore.

That may be an affront to those who still consider Audi to be the poster child for all-wheel-drive blitzes up mountain passes, fueled by leaf blower-sized turbochargers and whistling wastegates.

The Q8 takes a bigger trophy for Audi: it’s easily the most comfortable crossover Audi makes and one of the best on sale today.

There’s more money out of that race-car fantasy and in to sales reality.

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