From £55,7008
This 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

Our Verdict

Audi A8

The Audi A8 is a highly capable and desirable luxury saloon that's very easy to live with, despite its flaws

18 October 2013

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 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. 

What's it like?

Audi describes the A8 as being the sportiest car in its class, and certainly the driving position, with its low set seat and high centre console, suggests this.

Just don’t expect it to dazzle with its dynamism. The new electro-mechanical steering system is quite direct and responsive off-centre, but it has uninspiring and feel with little true feedback or genuine weighting.

Despite detailed changes to its suspension, the big Audi’s ride and rolling refinement also continue to disappoint. There is less fidgeting over minor imperfections and smaller ruts than before.

However, the standard wheelbase A8 continues to have difficulty ironing out nasty expansion joints and larger potholes, which are often relayed into the otherwise tranquil cabin with a thud – at least on the optional 19-inch wheels of our test car. I suspect we will hear similar complaints once the car arrives in the UK early next year.

This said, there is a clear improvement in the area of body control, with less tendency for the front end to dramatically lift under hard acceleration and reduced levels of dive under hard braking. It also corners in a tidier manner than before, with changes to the damping characteristics bringing lower levels of lean when you’re charging on over winding back roads.

The addition of four-wheel drive as standard does at least provide the A8 with superb traction, and its ability to carry big speeds through fast corners without premature intervention of the stability control system, even on damp roads, is impressive.

And what of the cabin, traditionally one of the A8’s biggest drawcards?

It is now even more desirable, with new materials and detailed weighting of the controls providing an even more imposing level of richness than before. As well as providing outstanding levels of comfort and accommodation, the new Audi is also bestowed with a genuinely intuitive operation of its Multi Media Interface (MMI) system. Our only real criticism  of the interior is the fiddly operation of the stubby gear lever.

Should I buy one?

The new A8, although little different in appearance, is a clear step forward, but despite big changes to its suspension set-up, it still fails to match the competition for dynamic finesse and its ride is best described as ordinary.

What it does have going for it, though, is one of the best interiors and highest perceived quality of any large-scale production car.

Audi A8 3.0 TDI

Price £58,800; 0-62mph 5.9sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 47.9mpg (combined); CO2 192g/km; Kerbweight 1880kg; Engine V6, 2967cc, turobdiesel; Installation Front, longitudinal, 4WD; Power 245bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 428lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 8-speed automatic

Join the debate

Comments
13

18 October 2013

If I bought a ten year old one, would anyone know the difference? Not saying that's a bad thing.


19 October 2013

Not mentioned in the article but it's a petrol-electric hybrid so not as compromised as it sounds. A sort of 'budget' Lexus LS600h, then. But you have to assume the 3.0 TDI is the only one you're ever likely to see on the road.

19 October 2013

Performance and economy behind the best in class and the test concludes "it still fails to match the competition for dynamic finesse and its ride is best described as ordinary", yet the A8 3TDI is still awarded 4 out of 5 stars. How come? Because it has a nice interior?

21 October 2013
Overdrive wrote:

Performance and economy behind the best in class and the test concludes "it still fails to match the competition for dynamic finesse and its ride is best described as ordinary", yet the A8 3TDI is still awarded 4 out of 5 stars. How come? Because it has a nice interior?

I don't know anyone in their right mind who would chose this over the S-Klasse or 7 series, heck even the compromised looks and interior of the Jaguar seem better than this. Still, the 'ordinary' ride is a vast improvement over the fidgety skateboard it was before. And you can bet a million Deutsch Marks that the interior pictured has every conceivable option thrown at it in true VAG style. It just doesn't look like a £90,000 vehicle ( I mean it loos like a very well specced A6). And as for Audi pretending that this is a sports saloon, please leave that to BMW and Maserati. Audi have a slight image crisis at the moment, they are purely sold on the A3 and A4. Moving up the scale is futile since their image and product presence cannot sustain it unlike Mercedes and BMW where the 5/E-Klasse and S-Klasse rule. The original aluminium A8 at least was elegant and had an amazing interior for the period. This is just a very expensive A4.

19 October 2013

Audi really is stuck in a rut design-wise.

19 October 2013

I looked at the pictures before I read the article, and other than the LED lights (which I thought were an option on the old model anyway) I could not identify a single change!

19 October 2013

Question... Who on earth buys the W12 over the S8? Less power, slower, sounds worse, more thirsty, and its nearly £15,000 more!

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19 October 2013

... that I happen to like. But it does lose its value quick which makes it a great second hand buy but pretty suicidal first-hand buy and the 3-litre diesel lump is a gem.

20 October 2013

I thought the 'old' A8 only came out about 2-3 years ago. I'm sure it did. I though it quite ulgy and deritative then and I still do, just a bigger version of other Audis in essence, and still with that hideous squared-off rear end line. So this is a small update of that model, suggesting it was out-gunned or unloved. Odd then that the article states that the old one was well received. I thought it got beaten by its competitors in general. Nice interior, but boring to look at.

'...against competitors like the BMW 7-series and the 5-star Mercedes S-class'

EU Referendum now. Let the people speak.

21 October 2013
SirSidneyRuffdiamond wrote:

I thought the 'old' A8 only came out about 2-3 years ago. I'm sure it did. I though it quite ulgy and deritative then and I still do, just a bigger version of other Audis in essence, and still with that hideous squared-off rear end line. So this is a small update of that model, suggesting it was out-gunned or unloved. Odd then that the article states that the old one was well received. I thought it got beaten by its competitors in general. Nice interior, but boring to look at.

'...against competitors like the BMW 7-series and the 5-star Mercedes S-class'

Because Jaguar are still seen by many as a poor man's BMW. Also, the XJ is still a very compromised car. It has awkward looks especially from the rear, poor interior packaging and they have lost the one USP they were famous for, the magic floating ride. I would lump the XJ in the same boat as the Quattroporte, if you are loaded, go for the Quattroporte, but if you haven't quite made it, plump for the XJ. They are both charming cars but a bit left of centre as choices.

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