From £55,700
How less can mean more

Lower-powered versions of luxury saloons are often the most neglected. The point of view of the chooser, usually a top manager, is easy to understand: if his company will pay for a Ritzmobile, why not choose the one with the biggest inventory of smockets and frippets?

Well, biggest is not always best, as shown by the new entry-level Audi A8, the 3.0 V6 Multitronic. In its basic but well-equipped state it costs £46,175; that’s around £9000 less than the most powerful 4.2-litre V8 versions, and £13,000 less than the various long-wheelbase versions. And here’s the key point: when you drive the A8 V6 you don’t feel as if you’re missing anything.

The 3.0-litre V6 pumps out a thoroughly decent 217bhp at 6300rpm, more than enough to punt you along briskly (top speed 150mph; 0-60mph 7.9 seconds). And how does a real-world average of 26-28mpg sound?

More important, the V6 is powerful enough to waft you along as effortlessly as a limo should, not least because this is the lightest A8, weighing just 1680kg unladen. That makes it 200-600kg lighter than all rivals except Jaguar’s XJ.

The A8 V6 feels smooth, refined, sophisticated and thoroughly limo-like, aided by the fact that it puts its power through a continuously variable transmission called Multitronic that ensures the car is invariably in the right gear for the job.

The asking price is about par against German rivals, but Jaguar’s XJ6 opens just below £40,000. Audi calculates that its business-backed clientele won’t miss a few grand, and they’re probably right. But in this field, the bargain is made in Coventry.

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