2023 Audi RS Q8 Review: Will It Dog?
This is a high-class hot rod with a high-tech dash and great interior materials. Your dog will probably like it too, so start saving up.
The 2023 Audi RS Q8 is one of those cars that, to a classic performance purist, is almost annoyingly good. It's exceptionally comfortable, feels extremely fast and safe, and does it all while being pretty darn practical. Even our dogs, who aren't huge fans of big speed, were able to nestle in nicely while I sliced up mountain roads. This tier of transportation doesn't come cheap, though.
Welcome to Will It Dog, The Drive's car review series for canine owners. Here we'll look at what an Audi RS Q8 is like to live with if you have dogs and point out any specific aspects that help or hurt its case as a dog taxi. We'll focus on the car's physical attributes when it comes to carrying animals rather than driving dynamics, but provide insights there too.
Our main test dogs Bramble, Indi, and Silas are littermates; half Golden Retriever (dad) and half Australian Shepherd (mom). Bramble's the smallest at 40-odd pounds while her brothers are about 60 pounds apiece. They're energetic animals but comfortable with car rides, harnesses, and travel.
Audi RS Q8 Specs for Dog Owners
While the RS Q8 is a high-performance model and will be the best-driving Q8, the general dimensions and quality comments here should carry over to more modest variants of the Q8 as well.
- Base price (as tested): $122,800 ($140,445)
- Seating capacity (people): 5
- Seating capacity (dogs): 5 medium-size breed, if you’re ambitious
- EPA fuel economy: 13 mpg city | 20 highway | 16 combined
- Observed fuel economy: 19.2 mpg over 523.5 miles
- Cargo volume: 22.5 cu. ft. (behind rear seats)
- Rear seat to ceiling height: 35 inches
- Rear seat to ground height: 24 inches
- Door sill to ground height: 18 inches
- Trunk opening to ground height: 30 inches
- Cargo area interior height: 40 inches
- Rear cargo width (main usable area): 44 inches
- Quick take: High-class hot rod and fun for the whole family, turns fuel into noise faster than your dog can fart.
- Will It Dog Score: 8/10
Interior Materials and Layout
This is a large-medium crossover SUV, similar in size to a Mercedes-Benz GLE, Porsche Cayenne, or Volvo XC90. Aggressive exterior angles and slopes make it look a little tight, but the cockpit, passenger area, and cargo bay are quite expansive. The rear window is decently sloped which abbreviates your storage room behind the rear seat a little, but there's still plenty of space for packing.
The interior is set up as two deep bucket seats up front with a tall and broad center console between and a rear bench with supportive seats on the sides. This is a high-performance vehicle designed for passenger comfort at speed, so human occupants will feel a pretty firm grip and dogs will be able to nest easily. Non-RS versions of the Q8 will be slightly less aggressive.
The front seating area is wide and there's plenty of headroom above you. A broadly adjustable driver's seat provides a lot of customization options for your posterior comfort, and the massage function (part of a $1,500 Luxury Package) is the best I've ever experienced from a machine. Every surface you can see and touch is elite—the steering wheel's perforated leather is oddly invigorating, hard surfaces feel like spaceship components.
The special Dinamica headliner (also part of that Package) is gorgeous and seemed to resist dog hair better than Alcantara or felt. The floor carpet, however, is another story. It looks and feels great, but after just one week of driving my dog around, it had pretty much taken on her merle fur coloring. Plan on a lot of vacuuming.
But the leather has real robustness to it that I bet would withstand a lot of dog claws (though of course, I use and recommend a pet-proof seat cover).
Climbing In and Out
Most dogs will be able to leap from the ground up to a Q8's back seat without too much difficulty, and if you need to make the jump even easier you can lower the vehicle slightly with the flick of a switch. Interestingly, the rear door doesn't open super wide, so larger animals might have an easier time entering through the rear hatch. There isn't much of a lip at the bottom of the tailgate, so reasonably limber animals will be able to hop themselves into the cargo area without too much trouble.
Driving With the Dog
The rear seats are far enough back from the front row that our animals couldn't easily get their paws up on the center console. That's a good thing—it's cute to get a nuzzle while you're driving, but you really want your animals secured and stuck in the back seats just like kids or adults even if you're just puttering around.
Between the bucketed back seats and substantial rear legroom areas, our dogs could get calm and curl up easily in this thing.
Bramble doesn't love driving fast, but I was able to carry a lot more speed in the RS Q8 than I have in other vehicles for the same reason I could link turns without my wife lifting her eyes from her book in the passenger seat. This vehicle simply does an incredible job isolating its interior from the violence of intense maneuvering—the real magic is that it's still a hoot to drive.
Driving in General
Active roll stabilization, all-wheel steering, sport adaptive air suspension, a sport rear differential, all-wheel drive, and an eight-speed paddle-shiftable transmission all come together to let you wield almost 600 horsepower with confidence and comfort. There's a lot of Jekyll and Hyde energy to this thing, but the RS Q8's real killer app is that it also offers you everything between extremes. The most comfortable settings are not what I'd call soft, but they are certainly smooth. Even with this test car's optional 23-inch wheels, ride quality remained tolerable on rough roads and was super nice everywhere else.
Drive aggressively and the exhaust note alone is enough to awaken evil spirits. Even at idle, in its aggressive setting, burble off the 4.0-liter boosted V8 sounds like a damn helicopter. My iPhone mic hardly did it justice, click here for a taste though:
In RS mode, an open-throttle acceleration was enough to knock my wife's sunglasses off her head and up over the seatback. And no matter how fast you're going, the dramatically different gauge cluster designs you can cycle through are all very cool-looking and fun. My fave is the dual vertical-line tachometer—an unusual layout with strong Star Trek vibes.
You could carry quite a few animals in a Q8 in relative comfort. If you have two children, one large dog will be able to ride in the cargo bay. If only two humans need to ride in the car, you can fit three decently big dogs across the back seat without getting uncomfortable. There might be some fighting over who gets the window seat, though.
Speaking of windows, they don't roll down completely but many dogs will be able to get a snoot out through the slot at the back of the window or just over the glass. Interestingly, the armrests on the rear passenger doors are so broad that dogs can comfortably place their paws on them to get a better view of the outside. You need to watch out for this—if your dog's a jumper, they may try to vault themselves out off of these.
In fact, I would recommend keeping the passenger window controls deactivated if you have dogs in the back. Bramble was able to roll her own window down with her paw, which I had never seen happen in a car before.
But speaking of rear window controls, there are retractable shades in the back that can be useful not just for keeping animals cooler but also as a soft shield against dog snot window art.
Small animal carriers will load in here no problem, and many larger ones will fit as well. The slope of the rear window does encroach on cargo space a little and the biggest hard kennels may not fit with the back seats in use, but if you're able to fold them down you unlock loads of room.
Inflatable and packable kennels that compress down will fit easily.
Audi RS Q8 Dog-Friendliness Verdict
This is an absolute beast of a car that's physically well-proportioned for dog transportation. It's a blast to drive and manages to feel high-tech and comfortable without being bland. It can carry dogs comfortably and easily; its biggest detractors are how much hair gets clogged in the seat carpet and the astronomical amount of money you're going to spend on fuel and tires driving around in this thing.
The EPA says to expect 16 mpg in combined driving (20 highway, 13 city) which is brutal. If you take full advantage of the V8 and its twin turbos, expect single-digit mpg with some fill-ups.