Audi A8 review
Flagship Audi A8 luxury saloon takes the fight to Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Jaguar XJ
The all-new Audi A8 flagship aims to steal the luxury car crown from the Mercedes S-Class. And with its lightweight aluminium construction, classy cabin and sharp driving dynamics, the newcomer certainly has all the raw ingredients. All versions benefit from the firm’s trademark quattro four-wheel drive system and eight-speed auto gearbox. Go for the diesel-engined versions and you’ll be rewarded with strong performance and surprisingly strong fuel economy.
Our pick: A8 3.0 TDI SE Executive
The A8 takes its cues from smaller Audi models and doesn't really stand out from the luxury car crowd as a result. From a distance it could easily be mistaken for an A4 or A6. It’s handsome and well proportioned, but the A8 can’t match the Mercedes S-Class and Jaguar XJ for kerb appeal. Climb aboard and it’s immediately clear that Audi’s designers have made more of an effort inside. It is beautifully built from top quality materials and features a logically laid-out dashboard – the touch pad that allows you to spell sat-nav instructions with your finger is a particularly neat touch. Generous kit includes leather trim, climate control and sat nav as standard while the vast options list includes everything from hi-tech safety kit like a night vision camera to heated massage seats.
Thanks to its lightweight aluminium construction, the A8 delivers strong straight line pace. There’s a choice of 3.0-litre V6 and 4.2-litre V8 petrol powerplants, but for most buyers the diesel versions deliver the best blend of performance and economy. The 3.0-litre TDI sprints from 0-60mph in 6.1 seconds, yet promises claimed economy of 42.8mpg. All models get quattro four-wheel drive, which delivers staggering traction and grip in corners. However, the price you pay for the Audi A8's sharp handling is a very firm low speed ride. Tyre noise also takes the edge off refinement compared to smoother rivals like the Mercedes S-Class.
The Audi A8 hasn’t been subjected to the tough Euro NCAP crash tests, but there’s no reason to doubt its safety credentials. A strong structure and six airbags are standard, as is the firm’s pre-sense system, which automatically tensions the seat belts and closes the windows if it detects an imminent collision. Further confidence inspiring additions include the standard-fit quattro four-wheel drive system, electronic stability control and tyre pressure monitoring.
Given its luxury car status it’s no surprise to find the Audi A8 features an extremely spacious interior. Even the short wheelbase model benefits from bags of head and legroom. Go for the stretched long wheelbase option and rear seat passengers get an extra 120mm of space to stretch out in. Opening the bootlid reveals a well-shaped 510-litre luggage area, although the absence of a folding rear bench limits the A8’s abilities as a versatile holdall. Still the added security of four-wheel drive makes the Audi the one to go for if you plan to use it in snowy or wet weather on a regular basis.
Given its huge dimensions and punchy performance, the Audi A8 is remarkably efficient. As you’d expect, the entry-level 3.0-litre TDI is best bet for keeping fuel and tax costs to a minimum. Stop/start technology and regenerative braking help achieve CO2 emissions of only 174g/km, while 40mpg returns at the pump should be possible. Servicing costs will be pricey on all models though and like any luxury limousine the initial depreciation will be eye-watering.