Audi A8

What do you give to the car that’s got everything?

Around £400 buys a decent home stereo, so the A8’s £4,500 in-car system is undeniably expensive. But it’s also exquisite. Only when you hear the clarity of a CD or digital radio station will you understand where the money goes. And, compared with the price and running costs of a V8-powered luxury car, B&O’s entertainment system for the Audi seems close to reasonable.

What do you give to the car that’s got everything? Coming up with a fresh and desirable optional extra for an Audi A8 is like buying a birthday present for a wealthy relative – it’s virtually impossible to find anything that will make an impression.

However, Audi has added an extra to its luxury saloon range that’s sure to be a hit. By enlisting the help of Danish hi-fi specialist Bang & Olufsen, the marque has created what it reckons is the ultimate in-car sound system.

Although you normally see the B&O badge on premium home entertainment and stereo set-ups, it has turned its attention to the A8’s interior and given the car an acoustic makeover.

The shape of the cabin has been precisely mapped and the textures of the materials used throughout noted to ensure B&O’s sound engineers have all the information they need to create the ideal audio environment. Wind and road noise were also accurately measured at a range of speeds.

Armed with all the data, the team came up with the perfect formula. A total of 14 active speakers have been fitted, delivering more than 1,000W of power. Each one has its own amplifier and is housed in an individual aluminium case. The fit and finish are sublime – for example, two tiny high-frequency speakers slide up out of the top of the dashboard when you turn the hi-fi on. It’s controlled through the same MMI dial as the standard A8’s stereo, but the sound produced by the Bang & Olufsen system is simply staggering.

Listen to a CD on the multichanger or to the digital DAB radio and you will hear absolute clarity of sound, no matter what the music is or how high you turn up the volume. Your ears will also cry for mercy before the speakers reach maximum output. With the sounds filling the cabin, however, it’s easy to forget just how capable the rest of the A8 package is. While the large alloy wheels take the shine off the ride quality, the Audi hides its size with nimble handling and impressive performance.

Our test car was powered by a 4.2-litre V8, but buyers of any model can specify the B&O set-up... yet it’s not cheap. The £4,500 price tag might seem hard to swallow, although adding DAB radio costs an extra £345.

The A8 we drove was fitted with an incredible £22,690-worth of other optional extras, but it’s the sound system that leaves the biggest impression. For the luxury car buyer who demands the best of the best, it’s a must.

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