Making an impact in the luxury saloon segment is harder than ever. Jaguar's XJ made a splash with its revolutionary styling, BMW's 7-Series is consistently praised for it's involving drive and the Mercedes S-Class is the first word in luxury and futuristic technology.
So what does Audi's newest A8 bring to the floor? We took to the road to find out.
The German firm hasn't deviated too much from the understated but stylish look that has characterised A8's of the past. A bold shoulder-line and beautifully detailed LED head-lights give the A8 real presence, though for some it may be a little too low-key.
Step inside the cabin and you're greeted with swathes of leather and Alcantara that make the interior an incredibly comfortable place to be. Stylish touches including a yacht-style gear selector and ambient interior lighting round off a classy look.
It's packed full of innovative technology too. A touchpad changes appearance to resemble everything from a radio preset selector to notepad for inputting sat-nav destinations. Plus there's a night vision camera and navigation system that 'talks' to the gearbox and headlights to help them prepare for the road ahead.
Our test model was fitted with a 4.2-litre FSI engine, although a 4.2-litre and 3.0-litre TDI are also available. Combined with Audi's aluminium 'Space Frame', which is 6.5kg lighter than the previous A8, the petrol unit boasts class leading CO2 emissions and fuel economy of 219g/km and 29.7mpg respectively.
But, it doesn’t compromise on performance either. The FSI engine produces 366bhp and has the best power to weight ratio out of any of its competitors. That all adds up to a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.
It also boasts incredible refinement and is smooth and quiet, even at high speeds. The 8-speed automatic gearbox is slick and combines with air-suspension on all four corners to for a relaxing drive.
Audi's Drive Select system allows you to tweak the cars characteristics between Dynamic, Auto and Comfort modes. Go for the latter and the suspension becomes more supple, making the A8 the perfect companion for a long motorway journey, even more so if you specify the optional massage seats.
Opt for Dynamic mode and the throttle is keener and gear-changes quicker. Also noticeable is more weighty steering but, unfortunately it doesn’t offer any extra feel.
Combined with the quattro four-wheel drive system, the A8 offers plenty of grip and darts in and out of corners with surprising agility. In a back-to-back test with the 4.2-litre TDI, the petrol model did feel lighter on its feet but is more expensive to run in the long term.
If you’re in the market for a luxury car, the A8 should definitely be on your list. It’s the perfect blend of understated style and luxury but some people may be wanting something a little more quirky. Luckily Audi's A7, expected in November this year, offers buyers just that.
Rival: Jaguar XJ
Jaguar’s reinvented flagship has the kind of head-turning looks that the Audi’s missing. A luxurious cabin, high-performance petrol and diesel engines and a refined driving experience make the XJ Audi’s fiercest competitor.
* Price: £64,525
* Engine: 4.2-litre petrol, 366bhp
* Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
* 0-62/top spd: 5.7 secs/155mph
* Econ/CO2: 29.7mpg/219g/km
* Equipment: LED lights, leather, double glazing, parking sensors, Audi Drive Select, 18-inch alloys
* On sale: Now