Audi A8

Audi cleans up its big business-class A8

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The new 2.8-litre FSI offers the refinement, quality and comfort you would expect from the big Audi, plus excellent performance. But it’s the class-leading CO2 emissions that make this latest model so important – as it opens up the prospect of A8 ownership to a whole new group of business users.

What to do about CO2? You can’t see, smell or feel it – but its existence is driving car companies potty.

A raft of new laws is making vehicles that emit lots of the gas expensive to own – yet for the time being, the technology to solve the problem has proven even more costly, partic-ularly in the luxury car sector.

However, things are beginning to change and a new breed of models is being produced which is beginning to address the problem.

Audi’s latest 2.8-litre A8 saloon is a perfect example. Developed as part of a facelifted range, the big limousine gets a subtly updated look – and a brand new engine under the bonnet.

Cosmetic improvements include a reworked grille, along with new wing mirrors and LED tail-lights. And under the skin, the power-steering and standard adaptive air-suspension have been reworked to provide sharper driving responses. What’s more, the sound-deadening is enhanced to improve the A8’s already famed refinement.

Easily the most important news for UK buyers, though, is the fresh entry-level 2.8-litre FSI petrol engine. With CO2 emissions of 199g/km – very low for the class – it makes this A8 not only one of the most affordable executive company car choices, but also one of the least polluting.

The V6 is impressively smooth at constant revs, although under hard acceleration there’s a strangely diesel-like sound. Still, while it’s neither as tuneful nor as quick to rev as sportier six-cylinder powerplants, it delivers its torque from as low as 3,000rpm. And, helped by the lightweight aluminium chassis, the unit delivers more than enough straight-line performance.

The CVT gearbox provides smooth changes, but drivers who want manual control will be pleased to learn that the model is fitted with steering wheel-mounted paddles. Yet whichever mode of the transmission you choose, the cabin is superbly refined at motorway speeds, as you might expect from the uprated noise insulation.

Meanwhile, new hi-tech options include blind spot and lane departure warning systems – the latter was first seen on the Q7 SUV. Fresh colours and materials provide even more choice inside, although the layout is largely unchanged from the pre-facelift car.

The new 2.8-litre FSI is available in Sport and SE trims, and thanks to its low emissions and impressive fuel returns of 34mpg, it’s as affordable as a diesel luxury saloon. You pay for the privilege, with even entry-level models costing nearly £50,000. But if you take a longer-term view, choosing this clean and efficient A8 is certain to pay dividends, both at the filling station and come resale time.

RIVAL: MERCEDES S280 The cheapest S-Class has a 20bhp advantage over the A8. But with CO2 emissions of 237g/km, it sits eight tax brackets higher, and so is more costly as a company car.

 

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