Driving report: Q8 e-tron Edition Dakar: Audi wants to show what electric SUVs can really do

Since 2022, Audi has been trying to take home the victory trophy at the Dakar Rally.

Driving report: Q8 e-tron Edition Dakar: Audi wants to show what electric SUVs can really do

Since 2022, Audi has been trying to take home the victory trophy at the Dakar Rally. So far without success. After all, the toughest marathon rally in the world is no walk in the park. Especially not when you're digging through the sand with an electrified drive in combination with an efficient energy converter. Apparently they in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm are confident that they will triumph in the desert chase of 2024. With the Audi Q8 e-tron edition Dakar, a special edition of the E-SUV is being launched.

Wanting to be different from others is rarely good. So the Audi Q8 e-tron Edition Dakar, which will be available from the beginning of 2024, costs around 120,000 euros. For comparison: The basic variant Q8 advanced 55 e-tron quattro is in the price list for at least 87,300 euros. So around 32,700 euros less. Money for which you get a VW Golf 8 in the basic configuration. If you then take into account that both the capacity of the lithium-ion battery with 114 kilowatt hours (net 106 kWh) and the drive train of the all-wheel drive with 300 kW / 408 hp (in boost mode) and a torque of 664 Newton meters are identical , the question remains what you get for the extra charge.

For product manager Maximilian Eberwein, the answer is clear: “the emotional flagship of the e-tron family.” It starts with the look. The Dakar Q8 e-tron is available in Magnet Gray and Siam Beige Metallic paintwork. Another color is called Mythos Black Metallic. If you want something very special, you can also order the partially transparent foiling in addition to this paintwork, which emphasizes various elements of the vehicle and gives the Q8 e-tron edition Dakar a powerful appearance. However, this variant is limited to 99 units and costs around 10,000 euros extra. We are sitting in one of them, the Omani desert for us.

On all variants, the single-frame radiator grille is painted in the vehicle color. A light strip is available upon request. The add-on parts on the wheel arches allow the body of this Q8 e-tron to grow to the width of the SQ 8 e-tron. A real Dakar racer has a roof basket that can carry 40 kilograms. Audi also knows this and installs it as standard. The Q8 e-tron edition Dakar also comes with eight tires, including the General Grabber AT3 all-terrain tire that was fitted to our test vehicle. In the Dakar Rally, the hills are steeper and the water fords are deeper. So the body of the Dakar Q8-etron is 65 millimeters higher than the road version. 30 millimeters come from the spacers (so-called spacers), 35 millimeters are contributed by the air suspension.

This means that the Dakar Q8 e-tron has a ground clearance of 220 millimeters even in the basic setting. At higher speeds, the body gradually lowers in order to be able to drive quickly and stably even on asphalt. If the structure nestles closer to the road surface, this also helps the range, which is up to 450 kilometers according to the WLTP cycle. Not entirely unimportant for a Stromer. At 85 km/h the body whizzes 15 millimeters closer to the asphalt, from 100 km/h a further 17 millimeters and from 120 km/h it is another 13 millimeters. The Audi Q8 e-tron edition Dakar reaches country road speed from a standstill in 5.9 seconds and has a maximum speed of 200 km/h.

Today we're going off-road and the front approach angle (21 degrees), the rear approach angle (28 degrees) and the ramp angle of 19 degrees are important. As we would soon find out, the wading depth of 300 mm also plays a significant role. The tour through the desert begins, which will bring us different surfaces. Something from everyone. That's how it should be. First the classic gravel road to get used to. The Audi Q8 e-tron edition Dakar is a joy to drive from the first meter. We travel fast and relaxed. Fits.

Now comes the sand. That doesn't upset the Stelzen-Plus electric car either. The Audi confidently digs through the deeper terrain. It is important that we make course corrections with a gentle hand. We also have to cross a sandy field with a lot of effort to avoid getting stuck. However, that is not the rule. The fact that full torque is immediately available on an electric vehicle usually requires a sensitive right foot off-road. All the more so since we now have to fight our way through steep ramps.

So activate the off-road mode so that the E-Kraxler stretches its legs by 15 millimeters. The principle of off-road driving on these passages is identical for an electric car and a conventional SUV. Accelerate gently and let the technology do the work. We stick to it and notice how the Q8 e-tron Dakar masters all obstacles with flying colors. Then comes the last hurdle: the water! But even that doesn't lure Audi out of its reserve despite the bow wave. Nevertheless, despite all the fun, the question remains whether it is worth the extra cost. Certainly for contemporaries who want to stand out from the crowd. It's also really cool when the student takes his satchel out of the basket before school.