Audi A8 4.2 TDI

2 Feb, 2010 11:30pm Sam Hardy

We get to grips with 345bhp 4.2-litre diesel version of all-new flagship saloon. Can it beat the class leaders?


There's no doubt that the new Audi A8 is a technological tour de force; a brilliantly engineered flagship that offers incredible performance, build quality and innovation. By managing to make its brilliant aluminium spaceframe chassis even lighter, Audi has produced a large luxury saloon that's amazingly efficient too. We wish the firm had been a little more daring with its styling, but on the basis of this first drive, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes should be worried.

MEET the car that Audi says sets the tone for its brand... This is the new A8 – and Auto Express has driven it! The fourth generation of the firm's flagship, deliveries start in May and Audi is hoping it'll be a big hit, beating the BMW 7-Series, Jaguar XJ and Mercedes S-Class in the process.

In the development of the new model, Audi has left no stone unturned. As well as a new body the A8 gets a fresh aluminium spaceframe chassis that's lighter than before, a totally new cabin with a touchpad, infrared nightvision camera and internet access, a revised air suspension system, updated engines, and a new eight-speed automatic gearbox.

So does it feel every inch the range-topper? Well, when you first lay eyes on it, you could be forgiven for feeling a little underwhelmed. Whereas the Jaguar XJ has reinvented itself, the A8 is more of an evolutionary step. However, the more you spend time with it the more its styling subtleties start to grow on you, such as the sharp shoulderlines and beautiful all-LED headlights.

Jump inside and you can't fail to be impressed by the ambience and the space on offer. In comes a wraparound dashboard complete with a gear selector that looks like it's come from a multi-million pound yacht and some gorgeous ambient lighting. Legroom and bootspace are vast while innovation is everywhere too, from the updated MMI system – complete with a touchpad that allows the driver to 'write' his destination into the satnav and boasts a Google search function – to the infrared nightvision system that can spot pedestrians in the dark and help to avoid collisions.

Thanks to an aluminium spaceframe that's some 24 percent lighter than the old car, the new A8 weighs an incredible 200kg less than its rivals. Together with a new eight-speed automatic gearbox and energy recovery, it's remarkably efficient  – come September there'll be a 3.0-litre V6 TDI with stop-start that emits just 159g/km of CO2, while even the range-topping 345bhp 4.2-litre V8 TDI diesel we tested emits 199g/km and returns almost 40mpg combined.

With 800Nm of torque it offers phenomenal acceleration too. While the 0-62mph time of just 5.5 seconds is impressive, it's the response from 50mph-70mph – and indeed at much higher speeds –  that makes this luxury saloon feel as fast as a supercar. Factor in a super-smooth note that offers barely a whisper on the motorway, and it's clear that this is a deeply impressive all-rounder.

As you might expect, comfort and mile-munching ability are superb. Thanks to a revised air suspension system, the A8 floats along yet feels pleasingly taut at the same time. Only small imperfections like ruts in the road highlight the stiffness of the car's big alloy wheels.

High-spec models like the 4.2 TDI and 4.2 FSI petrol get Audi's active sport differential as standard, and together with Audi's Drive Select system, which allows you to tune throttle response and steering assistance, plus Auto, Comfort and Dynamic modes, the A8 can play sports saloon one moment, cruiser the next.

Backed up by quattro four-wheel drive, grip and security are brilliant – and the only flies in the ointment are the steering, which weights up artificially under load and offers very little feel, and the sheer size of the car, which just can't be disguised. The brakes come in for no criticism though, offering stunning stopping power.

Does the A8 set the right tone for Audi though? Well, it's a subtler prospect than models like the R8 and recent e-tron electric concepts.This is car that hides its considerable light under a bushel. If you want to stand out, you might want to wait for the upcoming A7 – but in the meantime, it should definitely be on your list if you're in the market for a luxury car. 

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A Very disappointing looking car...Lacking what used to be the neat and understated but classy Audi design flair!

Maybe its the hearing aid cashmere beige colour of these pics...But wow totally underwhelming!

BMW,Mercedes,Lexus and Jaguar can all breathe easier...

Maybe the colour does not help, but this new A8 gives everything I want in a high class cruiser. As a long time Jaguar fan, the new range do nothing for me. The present B.M.W. team have lost the plot in both style and over complicated electronic gadgetry. Lexus? And you say the A8 is boring? No, to my eyes, this new Audi flagship is still understated elegance which shouts " I've made it, and I'm comfortable with it, and I don't need to be crudely obvious about it."

...I blew up the A4!

No wonder VW bought Porsche. They are into almost imperceptable updates to bland looking cars.

No wonder VW bought Porsche. They are into almost imperceptable updates to bland looking cars.

Well I don't do standing out in a crowd, it doesn't suit me so this A8 would be perfect for me. Personally I like it. BMW, Jaguar (while I do like the XF), can be slightly OTT for me so the Audi would suit me very well.

VW bought Porsche??

Doesn't Porsche own 35% of VW?

So, once we all learn how to spell PORCHE, let's get the story right. Porche tried by some nefarious means, to buy Volkswagen. This was stiffled by the credit crunch. Comments by Porche family members? OUCH. So the management of V.W. to save some face of the Porche senior speculators, who I believe are still under investigation by the German authorities, have been allowed to have a little stake in the VOLKSWAGEN empire. Get your spelling and your facts correct please. Thank you.

Look at this, then look at it's predeccesor. Is it just me, or has this lost some weight? It seems to have lost that trademark A8 "Shift your arse, this is my road" Attitude, it used to look intimidating in a handsome, cool and sophisticated way. Now it looks like an A6 under a rolling pin, or a an A8 that's been given a new year's resolution. Either way, its not the car it used to be. It would seem the Germans, all of them, BMW(My favourite marque), Mercedes and Audi seem to be playing too safe and have lost their nerve. Which is a tremendous shame. There was a time, a few years back when they didn't care, but now they seem to have lost their flair, their passion and their brialliance in not giving a toss. Please Audi, butch it up. Please BMW, be sporty, and elegant, not one or the other. And Mercedes, grow up. Get out of the corner with Smart and make more cars like the SLS. That way, the pride of the Automotive industry will ride again, in style, in comfort and in peace of mind. Style, Soul and Beauty= BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz.

I think you need to learn how to spell. Because while you may have a little 'stake' in Volkswagen. You still cannot spell the name of one of its associated companys. Sorry, one of the companies in its' ownership. Porsche is how to spell it. I am a Motoring Journalist, I recommend that before you critisize others' spelling, you first research your own.

Matt2093 and justeddie should both do 100 lines for spelling errors but Matt should stay in after school to learn not to CRITICISE other people's spelling errors without first checking for their own before posting comments.

Hey Ho

I have never claimed to be an academic, nor a spelling expert, but if Matt2093 would care to disclose what motoring journal has the audacity to publish his articles, then I know which ones to avoid. Or just maybe, they correct his spelling mistakes before publication. I have NEVER until this little spat seen Porche spelt in the way this supposed "expert" has deemed it should be. In all the manufactures' litrature and even, should I dare suggest it, on the cars, it is not spelt "PORSCHE". To cass1esdad, I am truly sorry if I have offended your sensibilities on spelling, but maybe you could put me right on my errors, and I will certainly, dutifully, do my 100 lines.

Just as an added point Matt2093, I do not, nor have I ever had any "stake" in the Volkswagen company, but if you are as you claim to be a "motoring journalist", you should be well aware of the situation regarding the back door purchase of VW shares that led to the near demolition of the Porche company, as they could not finance the moves they had made to try and dominate Volkswagen. This was well reported in the financial press, but this might have been a bit to advanced for someone in the motoring press who cannot read a car badge on the back of a car! / / porsche owners club'll find Porsche is with an s.
I'd be interested to know where you have seen it shown as Porche.

rarely feel the need to comment on here, but
@ justeddie: struggle to comprehend how you can get your facts very right regarding Porsche/VW financials yet fail to know how the former is correctly spelt! Suggest you may need some glasses next time you try and read the badge on the back of a car!

where's those 100 lines? ;-D

Let's have a little sanity here, may I ask a technical question?

I'm getting a new Porch next week, should I put the nameplate above or below the letterbox?

How did this turn into a discussion of Porsche v VW??
As for the A8, has anybody SEEN one yet? Let's reassess then (ditto XJ)...
PS Having seen a few of the new 7-series, it definitely has that "Shift your arse..." attitude - biggest gob on the block!

@ justeddie: go to and tell me what colour Panamera features on the homepage.

@Matt2093: I couldn't agree with your first post more. On the strength of these pics the A8 has lost all the road presence of its predecessor. The new one didn't have to look outrageous but it's not even stuck with handsome. I think some of the details actually don't help - I don't understand why they have novel headlamps then put them behind very ordinary shaped glass, and I don't understand why they've started fitting what appear to be last generation Volkswagen door handles. Audi's old flush handles may no longer be fashionable on mainstream cars, but they were distinctive and I'm sure very well engineered. If they felt they had to change I'm sure they could have managed something less generic looking than these.

Brilliantly understated elegance!! Only my mere opinion, but for heavens sake........there is no acounting for taste. In what mystical rule book is it stated a new model must bear NO resemblance to the car it replaces??? Nowhere!!! Hey-zeus, look at Porsche.....that boring 911 shape has been round for eons, yet they bring out a slightly more stupid model [still fighting to re-invent physics] and the world swoons. Pah!! The fight between Porsche and VW was a grotty underhanded ploy by Porsche to rescue its corporate CO2 emissions from the great polluters it makes. They commited huge hari kari, but will oddly still arrive at the same point in respect to average CO2 emissions, thanks ONLY to the spread VW can muster and shield them with. But I digress.
This V8 diesel looks phenomonal - huge mpg, power, and low emissions, clad with a body [weight] that mocks any other big luxury car maker, INCLUDING Jaguar. I may not wish to have this car in a metallic bronze, [as pictured], and suspect its looks could easily change in a darker hue. And once again Audi is leading the world with LED-only headlights. Didnt take MB long to just copy Audi, and get them on the front of some Benzes, and how the bleeters screamed when Audi first introduced LED's.
Oh that I could afford to walk into a showroom and order one!! Anything else in this class is a no brainer!

What would it take to make this my perfect car? In 2 words, Hybrid technology. Mate a considerable electric motor with the capability to operate independently on light throttle openings and stop-start from the upcoming 3.0TDi. Perfect!

Key specs

* Price: £63,690
* Engine: 4.2-litre turbodiesel, 345bhp
* Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
* Top speed: 155mph
* 0-62mph: 5.5 seconds
* Econ: 37.2mpg
* CO2: 199g/km
* Equipment: LED headlights, leather seats, Bluetooth, double glazing, parking sensors, Audi Drive Select, 18-inch alloys
* On sale: Now