It turns out you can almost drift a 5,500-lbs SUV.

Audi is busy putting the finishing touches on its future range-topping SUV, the RS Q8. A team of German engineers and test pilots is currently at the Nurburgring for high-speed evaluations, and our talented spies have managed to catch a prototype of the model stretching its legs around the corners.

If you see a Q8 badge at the back, don’t let it fool you – those fat oval exhaust tips are used only on RS-badged cars, so this is clearly the flagship Q8 in the works. While it’s no sports car or anything close to that, the heavy SUV looks quite fast on the track with the driver behind the wheel showing some great cornering skills. For a brief moment, you can even see the BMW X6 M rival going sideways, suggesting some serious data collection is going on.

The RS badge will bring a substantially more aggressive body kit for the SUV, giving it a significantly sportier appearance than the regular Q8. At the front, larger air intakes with new mesh-type grilles, as well as a modified lower section of the bumper, will be installed. Slightly wider wheel arches and new side sills, as well as a beefier rear diffuser, will complete the package.

As you can hear from the video at the top, Audi also has big powertrain upgrades in the cards. The RS Q8 is expected to receive the hybrid system of the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, which means a 3,996cc V8 gasoline engine will be supported by an electric motor for a combined output of more than 600 horsepower (447 kilowatts) and a peak torque in the region of 626 pound-feet (850 Newton-meters).

While we don’t expect to see the RS Q8 this year, Audi will most likely reveal the lesser SQ8 in the next couple of months. According to recent reports, the absolute SUV flagship in the German company’s range should debut towards the end of the decade.

Gallery: Audi RS Q8 new spy photos