First DriveUK drive confirms that this facelift improves the A8, but doesn’t make it a class leader
First DriveThis third-generation luxury saloon offers mild styling changes and a new suspension set-up, but the big Audi fails to keep pace with its rivals
Audi’s A8 TDi V8 was one of our office favourites last year. We loved its style, titanic torque and peerless build quality, and fought among ourselves for the keys whenever the opportunity arose. Nevertheless, affection didn’t blind us: in our group test the Audi suffered precisely because of the V8’s drawbacks in terms of list price, handling, frugality and emissions relative to the six-cylinder opposition. Choosing the V8 TDi meant putting heart before head.
Now there’s an A8 with the Audi’s ‘new generation’ 3.0-litre TDi unit. Also available in the new A6, the twin inter-cooled turbo V6 features common-rail technology with piezo injectors that allow fine control of the fuel delivery – improving power (230bhp) and economy while cutting diesel clatter.
Refinement is immediately apparent: from outside it’s hushed at idle, and inside, whether murmuring on part throttle or smoothly spinning to its red line, the V6 is a sophisticate. Performance is more than adequate: Audi claims 0-60mph in 7.8sec, and 332lb ft of torque means the step-off to 30mph is performed with authoritative ease.
The lighter engine has allowed Audi to fettle the air suspension, and the result is an improvement in ride quality – the A8’s main weak point. Although it still can’t match the serenity of the Mercedes S-class, the nagging intrusion of surface detail imperfections that blight the eight-cylinder car is reduced. Without the anchor-like iron V8 slung out front, the A8 is more resistant to understeer and keener to change direction. Lifeless steering still denies it genuine sporting status but it responds well to smooth, accurate driving, shrinking around the driver in the process.
With improved fuel economy over the V8 (32.8mpg versus 28.8) and cleaner emissions (231g/km and Euro4 compliance), the V6 should keep you on friendlier terms with your accountant. Those in the 40 per cent tax bracket can expect to pay £537 pcm – the same as for a BMW 730d, if more than for a Merc S320CDi.
At £47,380 the 3.0-litre TDi is a bargain compared with the £58,600 V8 TDi. That it is also the nicest A8 to drive means this time, heart and head can be satisfied.