Audi has achieved many things with this broadly impressive new A8. In every configuration it is quick, conspicuously well built, handsome, clever and quiet. It now competes at the highest level, even if Jaguar has taken a slightly different route and Mercedes-Benz and BMW have decided to lift the bar higher once again.
But so, too, is the Audi flawed. Our issues with its ride quality might be resolved by choosing standard suspension and wheels, but the lack of rear room can be fixed only by the purchase of a long-wheelbase version. We’d also have liked a bit more attention paid to how the car feels in the driver’s hands rather than seeing just how quickly it can get down a given stretch of road.
Much as the Audi cabin is a supreme example of craftsmanship, style-wise it leaves us a little cold, while the sheer number of controls to fathom is hardly the work of ergonomic genius. It’s impressive from the back seat, but the driver won’t enjoy it as much as in a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or 7 Series.
The Audi is marginally cheaper than an Mercedes-Benz S-Class, while there’s a much broader choice of engines. However, the Audi will also depreciate faster than its rivals, something that only time in this class will help cure; Audi is a relatively new player in the luxury field.
Overall, though, the A8 is a welcome player in the class — flawed, sure, but hugely capable, innovative and, once you’ve figured out how it all works, easy to live with. It’s not going to bust the class apart, as Audi might have hoped, but anyone in line for the keys to an A8 will surely be delighted by the prospect, especially if the S8 is factored into their thinking.