On first acquaintance, the Audi A8 presents a well ordered, high-quality and businesslike environment to the prospective punter. There’s glossily polished wood in here and brushed aluminium, as you’d expect. But the closer you look, the more bewildering it becomes. There is so much to try to understand as you delve into the capabilities of not just the navigation, entertainment, information and communications systems but also options like the sports seats.

As it is, the A8 is easy enough to operate at a fundamental level. The driving position is pretty much whatever you want and all-round visibility better than you’d expect, given the pillar thickness that usually comes with aluminium cars. But there is so much here to learn. 

Allan Muir

Allan Muir

Managing editor
The optional B&O audio system is pricey but has the wow-factor - speakers rise out of the dashboard when the system is activated

Nor is this the most spacious of luxury cabins, even taking into account the long-wheelbase version. The rear seat package, in particular, is surprisingly tight for tall adults, with barely adequate head room and marginal knee room, although at least there is good space under the front seats for your feet to rest comfortably. Likewise, it seems strange that a car this large should have such a relatively small boot.

But it is the ambience of the interior that will play such an important role in the long-term success of the A8, and the way it marries technological know-how with traditional materials so comfortably merits special praise.

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A pity for Audi, then, that Jaguar’s XJ has moved the goalposts to the other side of the field, before BMW and Mercedes-Benz decided to pick them up and take them with them. For all of its comfort and luxury, the A8 interior still feels like a place where you pass the time waiting to be somewhere you’d rather be. It's rivals interiors are destinations in themselves, cabins you might actually not want to leave

Expect the A8 to come with a wealth of standard equipment, especially as it has had its mid-life facelift, but also expect the options list to be extensive and expensive. There are three key trims - SE Executive, Sport and Black Edition, with the entry-level trim the only one available on the long-wheelbase versions.

SE Executive A8s come with adaptive air suspension, 18in alloy wheels, a sports differential, LED headlights, parking sensors, reversing camera, double-galzing and cruise control as standard on the outside, while inside there is Valcona leather upholstery, 22-way electrically adjustable and heated front seats, climate control, LED interior lighting, and Audi's MMI infotainment system complete with an 8.0in display, sat nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, media player connectivity and 20GB of HDD space. If you opt for the long-wheelbase model then you'll find outer heated rear seats, 4-zone climate control, and a sunroof included in the package.

The mid-range Sport models gain 19in alloy wheels, sports seats, a Bose sound system, Matrix LED headlights and sporty exterior details, while the range-topping Black Edition model adds 21in alloy wheels, sports air suspension and numerous exterior black gloss detailings.

For those wanting the barmy 6.3-litre W12 A8, expect to find all the equipment on the SE Executive L model plus 14-speaker Bose sound system, Matrix LED headlights and dynamic indicators, a CD/DVD changer, electrically adjustable rear seats, laminated windows and windscreen, and added leather upholstery. While those wanting a sporty large saloon will be well catered for with the S8, with the standard wheelbase car gaining a sport tweaked adaptive air suspension set-up, sports differential, and dynamic steering, Audi Sport bodykit, a 360-degree camera, a Bose sound system and active noise cancellation.

The S8 Plus is only available in long-wheelbase, and gains amore aggressive body kit, Alcantara and leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control and electric sunblinds. The S8 and S8 Plus both use the same 4.0-litre TFSI petrol engine, which produces 512bhp and 596bhp respectively, with the latter having an overboost function which produces an extra 37lb ft of torque - taking it to 553lb ft, as they aim to take chunks out of the AMG S63 and S65, along with setting the gauntlet for the impending M760Li.

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