What is it?
Audi has reacted to the launch of the facelifted BMW 7-series, the all-new Mercedes-Benz S-class and the on-going tweaks to the Jaguar XJ with a subtly updated version of the firm’s range-topping A8 saloon.
Among the styling tweaks are a new bonnet featuring more defined creases, a lightly reworked grille, a less-rounded front bumper and flatter headlights – the latter of which now support a matrix-beam LED function comprising 25 diodes that can be switched on and off independently in combination with information from an on-board camera.
This allows the headlights to react more quickly to oncoming vehicles by automatically blanking out high beam, as well as providing other safety features.
At the rear, the aluminium-bodied A8 gets a new boot lid and a more crisply styled bumper with trapezoidal slots for the exhaust pipes.
A new range of alloy wheels, which are available in sizes from 17 to 21 inches in diameter, and added brightwork around the windows and within the door handles complete the visual makeover.
As with its predecessor, the Audi A8 comes with the choice of six different engines – four petrol and two diesels, ranging from a 242bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine to a 493bhp 6.0-litre W12. Above this is the new S8, which continues to run a 520bhp version of Audi’s twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8. With all the power units, the focus has been on improving efficiency so they comply with upcoming Euro 6 emission rules.
The 3.0-litre V6 diesel driven here is expected to continue its domination of UK A8 sales. Its engine gains 8bhp and 22lb ft, pushing its output up to 254bhp and 428lb ft.
Like all A8s save for the entry-level 2.0 TFSI, drive is channelled via an eight-speed automatic gearbox and Audi’s quattro torque-sensing four-wheel drive system. Another standard feature is Drive Select, which allows the driver to tailor the mapping of the throttle, gearbox, steering and damping characteristics.
Along with the mechanical changes, moves to improve engine isolation through the addition of new sound deadening materials has clearly paid dividends, endowing the strongest-selling A8 with even more impressive mechanical refinement, which is now at or near the levels of the luxury car competition.
Despite its aluminium construction, the A8 3.0 TDI weighs 1880kg – some 40kg more than BMW claims for its more conventionally constructed 730d. This is evident in the A8’s 0-62mph time and combined economy figures of 5.9sec and 47.9mpg respectively. Neither betters the BMW, but they at least improve on the previous 3.0-litre diesel A8 by 0.2sec and 5.1mpg.