Geneva 2017 Reflections: Audi Q8

Pun-tastic name aside, the new monster from Ingolstadt mainly serves to expose the car industry’s ignorance towards the social properties of the automobile.

Photo (c)

It’s difficult to determine where to start with the Audi Q8. How about the name? Yes, there may be a ton of planet-saving batteries hidden underneath its gargantuan sheetmetal somewhere, but still: just the car’s appearance and its onomatopoeic, mineral oil-related name set a rather strange tone.

The Q8’s styling continues this antagonising theme. It may not be as cack-handed in terms of surfacing and proportions as the Mercedes GLE Coupé (the current gold standard for misbegotten crossover concoctions), but the sheer air of aggression it exudes is simply breathtaking.

It seems to elude car designers and executives that the automobile is at a crossroads – and that it is fighting for acceptance on an immense scale. With this fierce, antagonising creature, Audi is doing the automobile in general quite some disservice.

Cars have become too large for our streets. Cars have become so unfriendly that it is difficult to warm to them on a subconscious level. And Audi’s answer appears to be to make the angriest, most intimidating car for the road yet.

Photo (c)

This approach will obviously work for ‘enthusiasts’, i.e. people who don’t mind to be seen behind the wheel of a GLE Coupé. But how today’s five-year-olds are supposed to become enamoured to cars if they look like towering monsters from the eighth dimension, and turn into the Audi customer of 2035 is hard to see. Cars are emotional products, after all.

The acceptance of the motor car may be at an all-time low. And the answer to this isn’t to flip the bird at the naysayers. Audi’s head of styling, Mark Lichte, may disagree about this though.

The author of this piece happens to be running an obscure motoring site of his own, which you may or may not choose to visit at

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

3 thoughts on “Geneva 2017 Reflections: Audi Q8”

  1. This sort of thing beggars belief. I look at the SUVs, many of which have four litre engines or larger, that are increasingly common on Britain’s roads and wonder if I imagined the fuel crises of the 1970s. It turns out oil is an infinite resource after all.

    At least the “screw you” supercars from that era were sleek and usually beautiful. This is just tone deaf aggression. It’s hard to believe it’s from the same company that brought us the thoughtful and progressive C3. I guess they’re just providing what the market wants. It’s depressing.

  2. Of recent years we, in Europe, have come to accept that, in many cases, we’re no longer the primary target market for European manufacturers. As such we get used to recycling received wisdom like ‘they like large saloons in China’ and ‘Mercedes are no longer styled for the European bourgeoisie’. That might be true but the next step is looking at things like this and accepting the received wisdom that the wealthy in other parts of the world really enjoy rubbing their fellow’s faces in their excreta. That too might well be true. But Audi then occupy that same grey moral area as arms manufacturers. Sure, it’s not their business what people do with their products but, in the end, if they use their talent and ingenuity to produce decadent, thuggish things like this, they are helping screw things up even more than they are. Can’t wait for Kourosh Mansory to get his hands on a Q8.

  3. Certainly, a large proportion of the output from the ‘premium’ brands is now too big for European roads. And Kris has absolutely nailed the problem with this endless pursuit of ‘aggression’.

    Mind you, it appeals to the mindset of the SUV buyer – and women are very much included in this (indeed, female buyers are driving the SUV boom). They wish to project assertiveness and success – get out of my way, I am more important than you.

    What other traits might one wish to convey from your motor car of choice? How about intelligence and conviviality? How much more attractive is that? I believe Tesla is successful partly because it has captured something of this (albeit their SUV is a simply huge blob of a thing).

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