What is it?
The Audi A8 may be the executive limousine of the future but it’s also a car built like Ingolstadt used to make its flagship saloons. It feels like a true pioneer with an old soul.
This Mercedes-Benz S-Class rival, rolling out to its very first British owners in January 2018, is a car that seems to refocus its German maker’s philosophy absolutely dead-centre on its old ‘advancement through technology’ mantra. That mantra has felt like a vestige of Audi’s former self at times throughout the past two decades, while the firm’s management has been convinced that things like outstanding design appeal, dynamic handling, ‘quattro’ four-wheel drive and market-leading powertrain efficiency would sell its cars better.
But, having made its returning influence plain in last year’s second-generation Q7 SUV, ‘vorsprung durch technik’ is now back with a bang in the fourth-generation A8; as well, we might add, as with a fancy flash of tail-lamp and a bit of musical fanfare.
Longer and taller than the car it replaces, the new A8 has been developed on the Volkswagen Group’s ‘MLB-evo’ platform as used by the Q7 and Q5, as well as the Bentley Bentayga and the new Porsche Cayenne. But just like its forebears, the new A8 takes the luxury car into new territory in the multi-material mix of its body structure, which is comprised of aluminium, steel, magnesium and carbonfibre-reinforced plastic all joined using no fewer than 14 different techniques.
At launch, the car’s engine range consists of a 3.0-litre, 335bhp ‘55 TSI’ twin-turbocharged petrol option as well as the 3.0-litre, 282bhp ‘50 TDI’ diesel that we were loaned to test. Along later will be a more powerful petrol-electric plug-in hybrid model compatible with ‘wireless’ inductive charging, as well as higher-end V8 diesel and W12 petrol derivatives.
All A8s are 48-volt ‘mild hybrids’, however – the car having a sufficiently powerful electrical architecture to allow it to coast, engine-off, for up to 40 seconds at extra-urban and motorway speeds; to scavenge power more quickly on a trailing throttle than a car with a 12-volt electrical system could; and to run some highly sophisticated powertrain and suspension systems.