What is it?
An A8, driven by its front wheels only. Until recently, all third-gen A8s used four-wheel drive, but now there are two front-pullers in the range: the £61,500 petrol-electric hybrid and the 3.0 TDI tested here.
Starting at £53,685, the standard-wheelbase front-drive diesel becomes the cheapest A8, while the LWB car we drove adds 130mm in rear passenger space (and 50kg) for £3965. In either, foregoing quattro drive saves £3235 and 45kg.
But it’s not just about how many paws this A8 rakes the road with – the front-drive car’s 3.0 TDI engine also gives up 45bhp and 110lb ft of torque versus its Quattro counterpart. For both length variants, the performance discrepancies can be approximated thus: 2.0sec more to 62mph, 10mph less top speed, a 10g/km CO2 drop (one band lower), and a 3mpg economy gain.
What is it like?
The detuned engine sounds a little strained under acceleration, but yields peak power and torque 250rpm sooner and spreads both wider. Gunned from a standing start, there’s prolific torque steer and blinking traction control, but that almost evaporates once you’ve engaged the second of eight gears, and is therefore a relatively small bugbear. Kickdown can be hesitant, though. Once up to speed, the absence of rear drive is barely noticeable in most conditions, and the LWB car still handles with remarkable agility, even with standard-fit air springs in ‘Comfort’.
The primary ride is expertly controlled and secondary-ride chatter is well isolated, while brakes work strongly. Steering is typically lifeless, though, seeming either too heavy or too light when toggled between modes.
Should I buy one?
If you're after an A8 on a budget, then yes. For the most part, unearthing this car’s weaknesses is to drive it inappropriately, and while there’s no increase in cabin or boot space despite the idle rear axle, it retains most of the A8’s strengths at a tidy saving.
Audi A8 3.0 TDI SE Executive LWB
Price: £60,255; 0-62mph: 8.0sec; Top speed: 146mph; Economy: 46.3mpg; CO2: 161g/km; Kerb weight: 1845kg; Engine: V6, 2967cc, turbodiesel; Power: 201bhp at 3750-4500rpm; Torque: 295lb ft at 1250-3500rpm; Gearbox: 8-spd automatic