Richard Webber
14 November 2012

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

Join the debate


Don't get it..?

2 years 2 weeks ago

Why would you want FWD in this type of car? Seems genuinely odd to me. 

It also doesn't seem to improve the car in any way? Slower, torque steers.. all for 45kg saved weight and slightly lower emissions? If you were in the market for one of these, I'm sure you could afford the extra 4k for seemingly a more rounded car.

What's the point in type of

2 years 2 weeks ago

What's the point in type of car full stop! An A6 does the job just as good.

Autocar wrote: Should I buy

2 years 2 weeks ago

Autocar wrote:

Should I buy one?

If you're after an A8 on a budget, then yes.

If you're after an A8 on a budget then buy a 3 month old demo and save yourself £30k depreciation.

sounds a boring way to lose £40k

2 years 2 weeks ago

does not have any soul for that price, quite boring would be a great second hand buy,with 70% loss over 3 years minimum

Fair point

2 years 2 weeks ago

Marc wrote:

What's the point in type of car full stop! An A6 does the job just as good.

Good point.

The likes of A6, 5-series, E class etc have got so large and roomy, not to mention very refined and comfortable in their own right, that justifying going for the A8, 7-series and S class is getting very hard now. Might be a case of own goal by the manufacturers here. I guess, the (even) bigger cars sell well in markets like US and China, but in the UK I'm not so sure.

What the manufacturers should do (but haven't) to make the larger cars more desierable is make them cars more attractive, styling wise, inside and out. But even there, the A8 looks very similar to the A6, and the 5-series looks a damn sight better than the ungainly 7.

Front wheel drive?

2 years 1 week ago

No thanks, if want an Audi saloon i'd have an A6. They are identical after all.

Chauffeurs Choice

2 years 1 week ago

I doubt many people with £50k to spend will want the base model, but this will go head to head with the S250 CDI for the high mileage private hire driver. A detuned V6 diesel should gobble up the miles.

A8 3.0 Tdi

2 years 1 week ago

Well why not.

In a previous job I used to get chauffeur-driven lifts to Heathrow and this would have fit the bill - the neighbours would not have been impressed by any A6!

Better still were 730D, S Classes or Range Rovers.

It surely fits a certain niche, but is never aimed at the user-buyer.

two words come to mind 1.

2 years 1 week ago

two words come to mind

1. souless

2. understeery

either try and get a few grand off the current S or wait for the new one that will secure top dog status for another 7 years!

twitter @anikadamali, @notPCnairobi

or save another 15k and go

2 years 1 week ago

or save another 15k and go for an A4, you would be none the wiser

twitter @anikadamali, @notPCnairobi

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Our Verdict

Audi A8

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

Driven this week