Behind the Wheel

2019 Audi Q8 Review: Two-row SUV carves out its own space in a crowded field, falls short on power

The Audi Q8 stands out for its high-tech features but it has a significant downside.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The new 2020 Audi Q8 has defied the odds and carved out its own space, not just in the Audi lineup, but in the luxury SUV market with its precision craftsmanship and non-invasive technologies.

The Audi Q7 is a luxury three-row SUV but the Audi Q8 is not. Defying common nomenclature logic, the Q8 is a fastback two-row SUV. The differences between the two are not just a row deletion. The Q8 is a thoroughly modern vehicle that offers finer appointments and a new take on the typical center stack interface that is shockingly easy to use.

On the outside, it has Audi's freshest design language that verges on boring as you move from the face to the side, but reaches its apex at the rear where Porsche-inspired black fascia elements set the model apart from everything in Audi's stable but the E-Tron. It's modern, new, and completely inoffensive.

2020 Audi Q8 face front grille headlights The face of the Audi Q8 sports the automaker's new take on a grille.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The most disappointing aspect of the 2020 Audi Q8 is its 3.6-liter V6 engine, which is sufficient but far from inspiring. Putting the accelerator to the floor results in a disappointing too-long pause before the car takes off. It achieves middling fuel economy.

On the inside, it's clear that the Q8 is an Audi with horizontal lines, modern technology, and straightforward design. The overall aesthetic is the best that Audi currently offers. It's well appointed, with excellent fit and finish, which is expected from the luxury manufacturer.

Its seats are more comfortable than those in its German counterparts and there's a suitable amount of head-, hip-, and legroom in the two rows of seating for four adults. The SUV's trunk is spacious enough for daily driving or road trips.

Four big suitcases also fit at the rear though they significantly disrupt the view out the back window. As is the case with other SUVs, the second row's middle headrest significantly encroaches on rear window visibility.

2019 Audi Q8 interior seats back rear8 The Q8 has enough space in its back seat to comfortably seat two adults during a road trip.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The car employs two infotainment screens. The top features traditional radio and navigation functions. The lower controls the climate controls and seat comfort systems. They have just the right amount of haptic feedback and noise to mimic traditional controls, requiring a genuine push to activate certain functionality. The screens are easy to navigate, even for a novice, with little to no learning curve.

The Audi does get itself tripped up when it comes to dimming the infotainment system and driver information screen. There is no physical control for interior lighting and so it takes multiple menus to find the right menu choice.

2019 Audi Q8 interior cabin infotainment screens wheel shifter The interior of the Audi Q8 is its high point.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The Q8 comes with a long list of standard and available safety technology that is unobtrusive and acts as advertised without any invasive wheel jerking or hard braking when the conditions are less than ideal for the sensors. It is the best behaving overall safety system in a luxury SUV today.

As tested, the 2019 Audi Q8 came in at $79,340 with about $11,000 in safety and technology upgrades over the base price of $67,400. It's a price that makes sense when looking at the vehicle's competitors. Still, its engine holds it back from being the best SUV you can get for the price tag.

Trending News

Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Toyota Highlander is currently the only three-row SUV that Toyota sells.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

On December 28, 2020, Toyota Motor Corporation filed a trademark request for the words "Grand Highlander" with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Does this mean that a larger Highlander is on the way? A more elegant one? Here's what we know.

The trademark of "Grand Highlander" was applied for under the "Automobiles and structural parts thereof" section of the application for a word mark as a standard character mark. This is identical to how the RAV4 Prime application was filed in November 2019.

It is different than other automaker trademark requests. For example, Ford Motor Company applied for the "Bronco Sport" work mark with a much broader specified area of commitment for the words:

"Land motor vehicles, namely, passenger automobiles, pick-up trucks, sport utility vehicles; land motor vehicle parts for passenger automobiles, pick-up trucks, sport utility vehicles, namely, shock absorbers, shock absorbing springs, vehicle anti-roll bars, braces for suspension struts, exterior metal decorative and protective trim, exterior plastic extruded decorative and protective trim, differentials, gear shifts, hoods, fascia, steering wheels, seat trim, parking brakes, wheels, brake discs, brake calipers, brake pads, engines, engine or motor mufflers, exhaust pipes, exhaust headers, air intakes, oil fill caps, coolant fill caps, engine valve covers, ignition coil covers, radiators, and exterior insignia badges"

The "Grand Highlander" mark is currently in the 1B stage of the trademark process.Following the initial filing the USPTO reviews the application. From there, it is decided whether or not the application will be approved. Upon approval, the mark is published for opposition reaction. If it passes without opposition, a Notice of Allowance is issued. From there, a statement of use needs to be filed, then reviewed before the trademark is officially filed.

If the mark is not initially approved, there is a rebuttal process and subsequent amendments to the initial filing are allowed. After that process is complete, the Notice of Allowance can be issued, or the trademark request can be rejected outright.

For the "RAV4 Prime" mark, the entire process took about a year with the mark published for opposition in February 2020 and the registration was completed in December 2020. The "Bronco Sport" mark was published for opposition in April 2020 and has yet to reach the final approval stage.

That's a lot to say, that the Grand Highlander mark may mean that something is in the pipeline, or it may not. We know for sure that the Land Cruiser is leaving the U.S. lineup soon. Toyota doesn't use the "Grand" name in any of its North American vehicles. But, it also doesn't mean that it won't.

But, what about a concept car? Toyota has been using alphanumeric names for their concept vehicles lately. The Lexus LF-1 Limitless, Lexus LF-30 Electrified, and the Toyota FT-4X Concept debuted a few years ago.

Could the filing allude to a new, super fancy Highlander? Maybe? It's hard to see how a super fancy Highlander would work to improve the differentiation between the Lexus and Toyota brands though. That's a line that the recent Venza arrival made even blurrier.

Will the Grand Highlander replace the Land Cruiser? Theoretically, a big three-row version of the Highlander that rides on the Tundra platform could be something Americans would buy. Is it something that Toyota would produce? They really do love to have a vehicle for every segment.

Trending News

 
 

The Nissan Kicks has been refreshed for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

For the majority of Americans, driving their vehicle isn't a raucous good time. It gets them from Point A to Point B in a fashion that is reasonably comfortable and fuel efficient while fulfilling their cargo and capability needs. That's where the 2021 Nissan Kicks comes in. For the average small SUV buyer, it checks many of their boxes.

For the 2021 model year, Nissan has refreshed the subcompact SUV giving it new looks and options. Perhaps most importantly, the company is giving buyers more without raising the price too much – it starts at just $19,500, just $400 over last year's MSRP.

2021 Nissan Kicks The fresh exterior of the 2021 Nissan Kicks brings it in line with other SUVs in the Nissan family. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The SUV's exterior is now more in line with the revised 2021 Nissan Armada, new 2021 Nissan Rogue, and forthcoming Nissan Ariya. It has a deep V-motion design with a "double V-motion" feature that pairs the sweeping chrome piece with piano black underneath. The Kicks continues to sport Nissan's old logo.

Its grille is flanked by new, slim LED headlights with the top-tier Kicks SR getting a multi-reflector versions of the light. The car also has automatic high beams with adjustable sensitivity and timing and a rear windscreen wiper as standard.

A new rear bumper design and taillight meet to give the Kicks a wide-looking booty. All is not well – the body finisher that covers the tailgate release and rearview camera looks like a glued-on afterthought. But truly, that's my only quibble with the exterior.

Nissan offers the Kicks with a host of two-tone paint jobs. It's nice to see the trend continue with this refreshed model. The Kicks SR tester's Aspen White Tricoat/Super Black body/roof combo was worn well, especially when paired with the available 17-inch black alloy wheels.

2021 Nissan Kicks The 2021 Nissan Kicks is available in a variety of two-tone paint jobs. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan gives every Kicks a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that is rated to get 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. This is the same engine that is in the Nissan Versa, delivering the same power figures but with slightly varied gear ratios. As in the Versa, in the front-wheel drive Kicks it is paired with Nissan's Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). All-wheel drive (AWD) is not available.

The Kicks came to visit during a week filled with icy and wet roads. It handled them with aplomb. Don't let the lack of AWD scare you away from the dealership lot.

It also wasn't terrible on gas. Nissan estimates that the Kicks gets 31 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 33 mpg combined, making it one of the most fuel-efficient subcompact SUVs you can buy. It has 356 miles of range on a single tank of gas.

Though it's engine isn't large, nor its power figures, Nissan has gotten the formula right with the Kicks delivering a vehicle that can easily and relatively quickly get up to speed without much racket (it has a CVT, and they're naturally noisy under harsh acceleration but there are far more offensive ones out there).

2021 Nissan Kicks The interior of the 2021 Nissan Kicks is made of higher quality materials than the 2020 version. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Braking is improved in the Kicks over the previous model year with the addition of better braking equipment.

The interior design of the Kicks remains mostly the same as in previous years but it is filled with higher quality materials than before. The look and feel of the SUV makes it punch above the weight of its price tag in the same way the 2020 Nissan Sentra does.

The Kicks cabin mostly feels spacious for its size. Nissan has made the most of the space with good small item storage, easy-access USB ports up front, and more than one storage option for your smartphone while driving and charging.

Climate controls are easy to find with your fingers while driving. Nissan gave the SR tester a heated steering wheel and heated seats, both of which reacted quickly, a nice addition for buyers in states with a cold winter.

The Nissan continues to have a D-shaped steering wheel, six-way adjustable driver's seat, four-way adjustable front passenger seat, and 60/40 split-folding rear seat as standard. Nissan has given the SUV an electronic parking brake, freeing up valuable center console space.

2021 Nissan Kicks The 2021 Nissan Kicks is relatively spacious for its size. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Kicks has best-in-class front seat legroom though its hip room proportions and center console design make the front seats more compartmentalized than what is ideal for larger and taller drivers. Adults can easily fit in the back seats – not something that is a standard in the subcompact class.

The available tonneau cover provides a good amount of hidden storage, covering about two-thirds of the rear cargo area. The cover is easily lowered and maneuvered.

The base model Kicks S gets a host of standard tech features including a 7.0-inch infotainment touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, three USB ports, keyless entry, push-button start, and Easy Fill Tire Alert. Moving up to the Kicks SV adds Nissan Intelligent Key, automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch driver information screen, satellite radio, remote engine start, and a USB-C port. That's a fairly comprehensive list for this class model.

The Kicks SR is the only model available with a package, which makes ordering easy. The Premium Package adds a fantastic Bose Audio system, Prima-Tex-appointed seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, a security system, NissanConnect Services, a Wi-Fi hot spot, the ability to have over-the-air updates, and tonneau cover.

2021 Nissan Kicks Most adults could fit comfortably the rear seats of the 2021 Nissan Kicks. Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The Nissan Kicks is a subcompact SUV that delivers a lot of bang for its buck, especially with this model year's more premium upgrades. Priced against the competition, it's easy to see why buyers would be looking at it instead of less engaging, less well-equipped counterparts from Honda and Toyota.

Trending News