Flagship luxury limos are something of a status symbol for manufacturers. Just five brands actually make such models with each serving as the ultimate example of what each nameplate is capable of. Audi’s latest A8 is one of the most technologically advanced cars to grace asphalt, but it will take more than tech to take on other red carpet favourites such as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series.
|Bodystyle: Saloon||Seats: 5||Price: From £69,100-£74,995|
Did you know? The Audi A8 was introduced in 1994 as a replacement for the Audi V8.
The A8 is a clear statement from Audi that it doesn’t want to settle for second best. It’s a well executed car with strong attention to detail and technology that begins to turn science fiction into science fact. The quattro all-wheel drive setup also means that no matter the weather, you’re going to get to the ball in time.
With level three autonomy and up to 43 driver assist systems, the Audi A8 is one of the most technologically advanced cars in the world.
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Some rivals are more fun to drive
This sort of car needs to strike a very fine balance between being a symbol of sophistication and success. You want people to know of your importance, but coating your car in bling would be uncouth.
The new A8 errs on the side of caution and delivers an understated design, but one that is undeniably Audi. Its family trapezoid grille has been magnified to assert this luxury limo as king of the Audi hill. Pin-sharp lines run from nose to tail carrying your eyes along its considerable length while intricate LED headlights are worn like jewellery.
A BMW 7 Series might have more character, but the Audi A8 knows the power of understatement.
Arguably the most important element of any luxury barge is the interior. You’re likely going to spend a lot of time in here, between the champagne receptions and movie premieres. This generation of A8 aims to take the fight to the dominant Mercedes S-Class.
It’s a very mature space where each element has been meticulously engineered. It feels like every stitch has been carefully considered before it binds these high-quality materials. Glossy finishes trim the console, fine Valcona leather upholsters the cabin and wood inlays add a real sense of class.
The Audi A8 is a long car, even in its standard form it rolls out over five metres, but that means there is plenty of space to stretch out. A long-wheelbase model is also available for those who truly want to travel business class.
More opulence can be added to the rear if you’re willing to splash some cash. Massaging footrests, heated and cooled seats, and TVs are all on the menu. For £500 you can even option a tablet to remotely operate most of the car from the back seats.
Wind noise is impressively suppressed, although some slight road noise does leak into the cabin, but we suspect that the optional larger alloy wheels have a lot to do with this. Overall, the Audi A8 is a wonderfully soothing thing to spend time in.
If you’re traveling vast distances for important meetings, you need some space for luggage, suits and other important business paraphernalia.
A blip of the key fob electrically opens the tailgate revealing a nice wide aperture and a decent 505 litres of space. That figure is competitive, but the BMW and Mercedes equivalents are a little larger.
Something you’re not going to be short of is passenger space. Head- and legroom is ample even for the tallest of folks, and if you go for the long-wheelbase version you can really stretch out.
From the driver’s perspective, visibility is good thanks to large windows and generous door mirrors. Essentials on such a large car.
Flagship cars such as the A8 don’t just serve as high watermarks for luxury and comfort. They are forerunners for future technology that will eventually trickle down into cars us mere mortals can afford.
Every A8 comes with Audi’s excellent 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit that blends satellite maps into the instrument binnacle. Each big Audi also gets the latest MMI touchscreen infotainment. What’s new? The system is now split across two screens, giving apps considerably more real-estate to play with. Its upper screen is full of rich graphics while the lower plays a supporting roll displaying submenus or acting as a giant touchpad. Haptic feedback allows the screen to vibrate like your phone when you hit a button. This means fewer moments of blindly stabbing at a featureless screen when on the move.
Luxuries such as dual-zone climate control come as standard, but you can upgrade to a four-zone climate system to really take control of the environment.
However, the car’s real technological showcase is its autonomy. Rated at level three, the A8 can drive without any human intervention at speeds of up to 37mph. It can navigate itself, turn, brake, take action to avoid accidents and park without help. Or at least it will one day. The problem isn’t the car, but the world around it. Currently it isn’t legal for the A8 to drive itself autonomously, but the systems have been demoed, and as soon as the law catches up with technology, this Audi will be ready.
Another impressive bit of tech that can be had on the A8 is Pre-Sense Side. In the event of a side impact, the car will flinch, raising the side of the car for increased shielding for occupants.
Initially the UK gets the choice of a 3-litre V6 diesel or petrol engine. A V8 diesel and a powerful W12 petrol will also be offered at a later date. In addition, Audi is promising a plug-in hybrid in the near future with an all-electric range of 30 miles.
Whichever A8 you go for, they all make the most of an eight-speed automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive.
The 282bhp 3-litre V6 TDI is known as an A8 50 thanks to the brand’s new, but rather confusing, naming convention. In short, numbers 25 to 55 are assigned based upon the car and its power output — although the number bears no direct relation to either. We feel that life was simpler beforehand.
The 443lb ft of torque on offer from the V6 TDI whisk the A8 along with very little effort. There’s a whiff of lag, but then a mild hum signifies the building wave of acceleration that you surf to your desired cruising speed. The 0-62mph sprint is done in 5.9 seconds, not bad at all for a car of this size.
The aforementioned eight-speed automatic gearbox does a great job of blending changes together. If you’re sipping champagne in the back, you won’t spill a drop. However, things aren’t quite so seamless when you request to change the gears yourself. Upshifts are responsive when using the wheel-mounted paddles, but downshifts are accompanied by a hesitation. You are better off leaving the car in Drive and letting it do what it does best.
Handling and comfort
The Audi A8, like many Audis, has four selectable drive modes; Dynamic, Auto, Comfort and Individual.
Comfort is primarily where this car belongs. Steering effort is minimal and the air suspension irons out even the worst imperfections in the road. The ride is as cosseting as a memory foam mattress and perfectly complements the tranquil nature of this car.
Buyers from mid-2018 get to improve the ride even further with Electronic Active Body Control. A camera system scans the road ahead and then alters the suspension setup in readiness. It’s similar tech to what Mercedes uses in the S-Class, but a head-to-head test featuring champagne and caviar is in order to find out which is best.
Auto Mode does exactly what it says on the tin, altering settings on the fly based upon how you are using the car.
It might seem unusual to use Sport Mode in a car like this, but it does serve a purpose. Need to be whisked away from an embarrassing red carpet incident? The increased throttle response and lessened body roll will serve you well. Driving the A8 at an increased pace really highlights its sure-footedness as quattro all-wheel drive nails each corner to the road giving you plenty of grip in all weathers. For a car over five metres in length, the big Audi actually feels pretty agile. This is amplified further if you option Dynamic All-Wheel Steering that also turns the rear wheels. Ticking this box will even reduce the turning circle of the car by over a metre.
The BMW 7 Series might be a bit more involving to drive and the S-Class a little more supple, but the Audi strikes a very good compromise.
Engine choice: 3-litre V6 TDI
The newest member of the Audi family has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, but considering the suite of safety tech onboard, we’d expect the full five stars.
Without spending a penny, every A8 comes with side airbags, lane departure warning, rear view camera, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise assist and automatic emergency braking.
Isofix points are plentiful with two child seats happily finding a home in the rear and another in the front passenger seat if you tick the option box.
However, there are a few more safety items you might want to spec, but they don’t come cheap. An ingenious 360-degree camera allows you to virtually look around the car when parking. It’s perfect for manoeuvring in busy urban areas. That said, it will cost you £725. The City Assist Pack includes a blindspot warning, rear seatbelt pre-tensioners and front Cross Traffic Alert. Yours for a princely £1,375. Night Vision might be perfect for unfamiliar country roads, but maybe not at £2,200.
Arguably the biggest safety feature of this Audi has yet to come online. The vast majority of car accidents are caused by human error, so taking the human out of the equation has the potential to make driving safer. We’ll have to put that theory to the test when autonomy level three can be used on public roads.
As you might expect, the A8 comes with a rather straight-laced colour palette consisting of greys, blacks and dark blue. The good news is that 11 of those shades are totally cost-free.
Want something a bit more extravagant? If you’re willing to throw resale values to the wind, Audi will let you pick any colour you like as part of its Exclusive Paint range. They say that you can’t put a price on happiness, but a bright green A8 will cost £3,400.
No need to get your head around various trim levels with the A8 as there’s only one. You just need to decide which engine and wheelbase suits your needs, then make your way to the options list.
There’s plenty of standard kit including 18-inch alloys, plush leather seats, LED lights, DAB radio, Virtual Cockpit, dual-touchscreen infotainment, cruise control, head-up display and so on.
Audi is a bit mean on a few things, like making you pay £250 for a heated steering wheel on this caliber of car. That said, it’s rivals do exactly the same.
The Audi A8 is undeniably well equipped and your average customer would be very satisfied. But those looking to buy an A8 are rarely described as average. They aren’t shopping for a car, they’re looking for a palace on wheels or a mobile office. A few choice options can make all the difference.
Additions such as privacy glass at £495 and all-around electric blinds for £900 are a must. As is the £675 acoustic double glazing to keep the hubbub out.
If you are being driven, then the rear-seat remote allows you to control everything from the air conditioning to the lighting via a touchscreen tablet. For those long journeys you’ll want the Rear Seat Entertainment Pack for £3k. That is a fair chunk of change, but it does integrate a pair of screens into the back that can also be removed and used as fully functioning Android tablets.
Those doing the driving are already well catered for, but the 360-degree camera is infinitely useful on such a large car. It’s well worth the £725 Audi ask for. Dynamic all-wheel steering might be £2k, but it could save you a lot of hassle, especially if you opt for the long-wheelbase model.
Size and Dimensions
Max towing weight unbraked - braked
The Audi A8 is offered with two engines for now, both of which are 3-litre V6s.
The 282bhp diesel V6 claims 50.4mpg combined, although in the real world it’s closer to 37mpg. That’s on par with a BMW 730d with xDrive and a Mercedes S 350d.
A 335bhp V6 provides a petrol alternative. It aims to achieve 37.7mpg thanks to its 48V system that allows the car to coast for short periods.
Don’t expect the 6-litre W12 to be terribly fuel-efficient, but 585bhp on tap will likely make up for that.
It’s the up and coming e-tron plug-in model that could save you some money at the pumps. Under the bonnet will be a 3-litre petrol V6 that works with an electric motor to produce 443bhp. This model will also introduce wireless charging for cars.
Nearly £70k isn’t an inconsiderable sum of money, so a PCP deal might be more appealing. We’ll have to wait until 2018 for full finance details, but expect them to be competitive thanks to strong residual values.
For those looking at an A8 as a company car, the BIK rate stands at 31 percent for 2017/18 on the A8 50. £27,500 at the 40 percent tax rate over three years makes it £3k more costly than the equivalent BMW, but about the same as a Merc S-Class.
Reliability and servicing
Audi does well on the reliability front. Surveys consistently show the brand to be amongst the best in the industry.
All new Audis come with a three-year 60,000 mile warranty, but there are extensions available for the A8. A four-year 75k mile warranty costs an additional £1,035 or £2,555 gets you a five-year 90,000-mile upgrade.
The Audi A8 is competitively priced amongst its chief rivals, the 7 Series and S-Class. The batting opens for the A8 at £69k, which might look costly next to the cheapest BMW 7 Series at £63k. However, the Audi comes as standard with all-wheel drive and costs nearly the same as the equivalent xDrive-equipped BMW. A Mercedes-Benz S-Class kicks-off at about £3,000 more and that model doesn’t get all-wheel drive.
Undercutting the popular S-Class is a savvy move by Audi that highlights that in the world of top-tier luxury cars, the A8 is actually good value.
You already get lots of kit standard, but optioning the rear media system and wireless phone chargers might appeal. Also go for the touchscreen remote for the back seats.
The good news is that there’s plenty of standard equipment, so don’t get carried away with the options list.
Get the long wheelbase, enough toys to embarrass a private jet and someone to drive you around.
One of the most comfortable ways to travel. The S-Class might be expensive, but it has a hard-earned reputation.
A better choice if you enjoy doing the driving.
Arguably the best handling car in this class, but it’s showing its age.
Tesla Model S
Silent and spacious, but nowhere near as plush.