From £55,700
Excellent, whichever of its three chassis tunes you opt for

Our Verdict

Audi A8
The third generation Audi A8 is the best yet - and by some margin

The Audi A8 is a highly capable and desirable luxury saloon that's very easy to live with, despite its flaws

3 February 2010

What is it?

Despite the fact that it’s not the most expensive car it builds, Audi says the new A8 is its ‘new flagship’ which ‘takes an even more responsible approach to luxury’.

Rather than being an extensive overhaul of the outgoing A8, the fourth-generation model is pretty much all-new. It’s based around Audi’s new longitudinal powertrain layout (which sees the engine sitting a little further back, between the front wheels) and new aluminium spaceframe chassis, which the company says is 24 per cent more rigid. The engines have been re-worked and hooked up to a new 8-speed autobox.

The A8 still rides on aluminium suspension but gets re-designed adaptive air-suspension. Indeed, all of the new A8 models get Audi’s clever ‘Drive Select’ electronic chassis tuning package. The driver can select from ‘comfort’, ‘auto’ and ‘dynamic’ modes, each of which alter the steering response and weight, the damper settings and the transmission shift points.

This model comes with a sports differential as standard, which can selectively divide the engine’s torque between the rear wheels, considerably increasing the car’s appetite for corners.

Inside, aside from the company’s usual fine attention to detail and exemplary build quality, standard equipment includes a hard-drive sat-nav with a touch pad, allowing the driver - searching for a sat-nav destination - to sketch out individual letters with a forefinger. Xenon headlights and double glazing is also standard.

What’s it like?

On paper, this revised 4.2-litre V8 turbo diesel looks very impressive. It is good for 346bhp and a driveshaft-twisting 590lb ft of torque from just 1750rpm. Even hooked up to a quattro drivetrain, Audi is claiming an average of 37.2 mpg and CO2 emissions of 199g/km. It can also hit 62mph in just 5.5 seconds.

What the paper specifications can’t communicate, though, is the extraordinarily refinement delivered by this unit. The combination of the huge wave of torque, the under-bonnet hush and almost complete lack of mechanical intrusion into the cabin, lifts this particular car close to the super-luxury sector, in terms of the drivetrain at least.

Defining this car’s handling prowess if not so easy. Thanks to the ‘Drive Select’ adaptive chassis kit, this A8 wears three quite different characters depending on the chassis setting selected. The good news is they all pretty impressively resolved.

The ‘comfort’ mode is very good on good roads. The smoothly-surfaced A7 on Spain’s southern coast showed this setting in its best light, the car running extremely serenely and very quickly. If there’s any criticism is that the steering is little slow in this mode and seemed to be slow to self-centre.

However, if the driver wants smooth progress on more cut-and thrust roads, ‘auto’ mode seems to succeed in combining a compliant ride and little more edge in the steering and damping, which gives the A8 the kind of unruffled briskness which is ideal for demolishing a series of roundabouts. If this mode can be criticised, it would be a slight sense of distance between the car and driver. But then this is a limo, not a coupe.

In ‘Dynamic’ the changes to the chassis are quite aggressive, but convincing. The steering weighs up considerably, the damping is much firmer (though the ride is not much less comfortable) and the car turns into corners with an enthusiasm bordering on aggression (partly thanks to the sports differential coming on song). It does, though, allow the driver to drive right up to the limit of the front tyre’s adhesion without much prior warning. The electronic chassis aids come smoothly to the rescue, but it was a surprise to be momentarily sliding sideways on a slippy, clay-soaked, road.

Other honourable mentions should go to the overall refinement, lack of road noise, the superb ‘yacht-style’ gear lever, fine interior ambience and seamless shifts.

Should I buy one?

It would be sensible to hang on a few months until the new Jaguar XJ, the A8s most direct rival, appears in showrooms. However, early reports suggest that the rakish Jaguar is more of peformance orientated car, where the triple-personality A8 can be effectively tuned to the driver’s mood. What’s more Jaguar, or any other rival, will have a job matching this car’s amazing powerplant.

Overall, a very fine car.

Join the debate

Comments
17

6 February 2010

Sounds like the new A8 has improved dramatically over the old model and that v8 diesel is amazingly powerful. But the exterior styling is very dull, if reasonably proportioned. A luxury car should look more appealing than that.

6 February 2010

[quote Overdrive]But the exterior styling is very dull, if reasonably proportioned. A luxury car should look more appealing than that.[/quote]

What appears dull to some may come across as restrained & discrete to others... which is exactly what some people want in a luxury car, people who want a car which gets them from A to B in maximum comfort & luxury but from the outside doesn't shout ostentation & wealth.

(personally I would buy the new XJ because I think it looks amazing, Im just playing devils advocate lol)

currently a happy owner of a Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin :)

6 February 2010

It looks nice inside but on the outside it just looks like an A4?

To the average person, your £65,000 luxury saloon may as well be a £25,000 A4. It doesn't lok special enough. BMW seem to be having the same problem as well at the moment although Mercedes are holding it together, the S-Class is clearly different from the lesser models.

But if I was spending that much on a luxury saloon, I'd want it to exude class - so I'd buy the new XJ.

6 February 2010

At first I too thought the car looked terminally dull, ugly even, but now after seeing pics in many sites I finally get the design. It looks good, and is simply more than a big A4 - it looks more cohesive.

The front is a masterpiece of subtlety.

6 February 2010

I understand what your saying about some people not wanting to draw any attention evden though its blindingly obvious you have a bit of wonga if you've got a car this size lol.

I livde near the Jag plant in Cov and have seen quite a few XJ's and would definately buy one just for the looks over all its competitors. The A8 is nice but unlike Merc Audi never seem to make their flagship stand out enough and you hardly ever see nay on the road.

6 February 2010

"Overall a very fine car " Cant argue with that but where is the soul the head turning looks the panache .

Sorry but it is just too bland on the outside to work for me. I understand the Germanic need for understatement but I still think you can have a car that other people like to admire and feel good about without being brash....enter the new Jag XJ.

Oh but I bet the A8 will be a very wise buy for the thinking man after 3 years. Once the doubtless savage depreciation has clobbered it. With the way Ford keeps putting its prices up you will be able to get it for top range Mondeo money.

I often think depreciation reflects more about how good and desirable a car really is as a complete package. Reliability dealer service looks engineering quality etc.

6 February 2010

[quote fhp11]

To the average person, your £65,000 luxury saloon may as well be a £25,000 A4. It doesn't lok special enough. BMW seem to be having the same problem as well at the moment although Mercedes are holding it together, the S-Class is clearly different from the lesser models.

But if I was spending that much on a luxury saloon, I'd want it to exude class - so I'd buy the new XJ.

[/quote]

wheather you like the XJ or not ( I do) people aren't going to think it' ans X-type

6 February 2010

Good car. But it looks boring and it's disappointing that Audi can match Jaguar with their use of Aluminium. Indeed from what I've read recently they actually asked Jaguar for help. Personally I think the new XJ is amazing (and it's cheaper by the way). So that's won my heart and my mind as you can probably tell.

6 February 2010

I'm not a fan of this car but i notice that you've only compared it to the new XJ, how does iot compare to the S-Class?

6 February 2010

[quote rosstopher]I'm not a fan of this car but i notice that you've only compared it to the new XJ, how does iot compare to the S-Class?[/quote] Good point I suspect the S class will stuff it too. Actually this Audi looks quite weak. At first I though the interior was nice, but looking more closely that wood is more than a little fake. The S Class is rammed full of technology it's as if Bill Gates designed it. But personally I value the tech that goes into handling and the all aluminium bodies. And once Jag launch the series hybrid version, then actually Mercedes will have a car that can see in the dark (night vision), park itself, etc but Jag will have a car that can 'save the planet' and handle much better in the real world. That's going to help them much more with the tax man and that's important when choosing a company car.

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