This is the 2024 Audi e-tron Q8 edition Dakar, and you’re probably thinking what I was when I first laid eyes on it: “cool sticker pack, wheels and roof rack… all show and no go”. But there’s a reason I’ve traveled 20 hours to get to the middle of the Omani desert, and that’s because this Audi can cash the cheques the visual impressions suggest.

I was expecting a dirt track, a water splash to take pretty splash photos in and then an hour or two of lunch before heading to the hotel for a swim. I was partly right, I left the confines of the swanky coffee stop based in a hotel lobby, off the drive way an onto a dusty track. I got my brain into gear and started to consider the changes and what I should be looking out for, here are the enhancements that set the edition Dakar from the can upon which it is based.

The Audi Q8 e-tron edition Dakar, modelled on the Q8 advanced 55 e-tron quattro, features a net battery capacity of 106 kWh (gross: 114 kWh) and a quattro drivetrain. This system, equipped with two motors, delivers just over 400 horsepower in boost mode alongside a torque of 664 Nm. As a result, the vehicle can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds. According to the WLTP, its range is 450 kilometres, and its top speed is capped at 200 km/h.

Distinguished from the standard model, this electric SUV is fitted with General Grabber AT3 all-terrain tyres and boasts a ground clearance enhanced by 65 millimetres, making it more adept at navigating loose terrains like gravel or snow. Initially, the vehicle’s ground clearance stands at 220 millimetres. However, at increased speeds, the vehicle lowers itself incrementally – by 15 millimetres at 85 km/h, 17 millimetres at 100 km/h, and 13 millimetres at 120 km/h. This adjustment enhances driving stability at higher velocities by improving aerodynamics and range efficiency. With a front approach angle of 21 degrees and a rear approach angle of 28 degrees, the electric SUV is suitably equipped for mild off-road challenges. It also features a ramp angle of 19 degrees. The air suspension’s control strategy has been updated to cater to the demands of off-road driving. Furthermore, the SUV is capable of wading through water up to 300 mm deep.

Enough of the technical details, why was I so surprised? Well, the photos will give you an idea of just how capable a car this is, and it was all in achieved in relative comfort. The ride is exceptional, a combination of the revised suspension and the all terrain tyres. It’s no off-road hero to replace a Land Cruiser or even a Land Rover with, but the comprehensive and challenging test run in southern Oman proved that this is car you can take on some very testing terrain in.

When driven at speed on loose gravel with the ESC & TC off, its propensity to slide provided real entertainment. In steeper terrains, the car remains poised, and the immediate availability of 490lb ft of electric torque is effective in swiftly overcoming steep inclines or navigating small boulders. This torque is more than sufficient to offset the significant heft of this 2.5-tonne vehicle, powered by a large-capacity battery. But with no under-body protection, I was conscious of puncturing a battery or two, although in reality, this was unlikely to happen.

With all Dakars being delivered with a second set of 20-inch wheels with summer tyres, and with a healthy price premium over the standard Q8 e-tron (the Dakar comes in at €120,000), I suspect it is unlikely that you’ll see a customer dune bashing or river wading in their edition Dakar. The Siam Beige metallic, Mythos Black metallic (just 99 in this colour will be available with this Audi Dakar Rally style wrap for €10,000), or Magnetic Grey cars are more likely to be seen stunting as a one-car family solution, albeit a very cool one.

Having not driven it on the tarmac, it is hard to conclude just how good the edition Dakar is, but I can comment on just how impressive it is off-road. It exceeded expectations and was genuinely entertaining. I’m not sure exactly who this car is for, but it is a way to stand out from the crowd and own an EV with a difference, even if that means you’re see reaching for you kids kit bags from atop the standard with a roof rack.

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