The Auto Trader expert verdict:
The Audi A8 is the manufacturer's flagship saloon. The Mercedes S Class, Jaguar XJ and BMW 7 Series rival is plush, sumptuous and befitting a car with such a hefty price tag.
Reasons to buy:
- Exquisite interior
- Impressive refinement
How good does it look?
The Audi A8 has had plenty of criticism thrown at it for its staid styling, that makes it look simply like a scaled up Audi A4 saloon. The Jaguar XJ, in contrast, makes a big impact thanks to its bold exterior, and makes the sober-looking A8 appear dull. Long wheelbase versions are 130 millimetres longer, giving rear passengers plenty of extra legroom.
What's the interior like?
The inside of the A8 is a revelation. It features a mixture of traditional wood, leather and more modern materials, such as aluminium. There are swathes of wood everywhere you look, but it is executed in such a finely crafted and tasteful way, that it looks fantastic. All of the controls are weighted, feel solid and built to last, with exquisite attention to detail.
How practical is it?
The A8 isn’t quite as spacious as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or BMW 7 Series, but is similar in size to the Jaguar XJ. Rear headroom in particular is at a premium for the tallest of passengers. In terms of boot space, there’s 510 litres of luggage room – more than the BMW 7 Series, but not quite as large as the Jaguar XJ and Mercedes S-Class. Towing a trailer or caravan is extremely rare with this kind of vehicle, however, all A8s can tow up to 2,300kg, with 3-litre V6 TDI models able to tow 100kg less. This is considerably more than the class average and approaching the kind of weight that a large 4×4 can haul.
What's it like to drive?
The point of a car like this is to transport your rear seat passengers serenely, with the minimum of fuss, and with all A8’s coming equipped with adaptive air suspension, the ride is pliant and supple at all times. Handling is good for such a large car, with excellent levels of grip thanks to the standard quattro four-wheel drive system. The steering lacks feel and could be more communicative, and it is in this department where Jaguar’s XJ trumps the A8. Engine refinement from all engines is absolutely top notch, with low levels of engine and road noise transmitted into the cabin thanks to the double-glazed windows.
How powerful is it?
With the benefit of lightweight aluminium construction, performance figures are outstanding on all A8 models. The petrol engine line-up has been pared back, with just the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 now on offer. It’s more than adequate however, with 286bhp. For more grunt, you’ll need to look to the diesel offerings, of which there is a 247bhp 3.0-litre V6 and a 345bhp 4.2-litre V8. The most popular is likely to be the 3.0-litre, as it marries prodigious performance (0-62mph in 6.1 seconds) to relatively low fuel consumption. A hybrid A8 will reach UK showrooms in 2013. Powered by a 2.0-litre TFSI engine coupled to an electric motor, it produces 242bhp. All A8 engines are mated to a smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox.
How much will it cost me?
The best selling 3-litre V6 TDI models come equipped with a stop and start system, as well as brake energy recuperation technology. This results in the A8 producing just 174g/km of CO2 and an average 42.8mpg. This is astonishing considering the size of car. Long wheelbase cars produce just 2g/km of CO2 more. The forthcoming A8 Hybrid will offer a petrol alternative to those looking for a frugal A8. It’s expected to achieve 44mpg with CO2 emissions of less than 148g/km. Insurance groups are also lower than its main rivals, model for model.
How reliable is it?
The A8 too new for the A8 to appear in reliability surveys. However, it’s exquisitely built with materials that feel like they will last a lifetime. It’s a complex car though, and Audi doesn’t always fare particularly well in reliability indexes and surveys, coming in around the midway point. The dealers provide excellent service though, and owners speak highly of them.
How safe is it?
The new Audi A8 hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP and neither has its predecessor. However, it is kitted out comprehensively with safety equipment including six airbags, electronic stability programme, traction control and an advanced pre-crash system that is designed to detect an imminent collision, where it tightens the seat belts, closes the windows and sunroof. There are also ISOFIX child safety seat fasteners for both the front and rear seats.
How much equipment do I get?
Entry-level SE models come comprehensively equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension, leather upholstery, electric and heated seats, sat-nav, digital radio and Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone connectivity, as well as air-con, front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights, rain sensor, double-glazed windows, cruise control and xenon headlights. SE Executive models add 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, and a power operated bootlid. Also available are long wheelbase models that boast heated front and rear seats, electric rear sunblinds, four-zone climate control and an electric sunroof.
Don’t be put off by the Russian doll style design, where the A8 just looks like a larger A4. Inside, the executive Audi is plush, sumptuous and befitting a car with such a hefty price tag.