From £55,7008
UK drive confirms that this facelift improves the A8, but doesn’t make it a class leader

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

Jim Holder
27 January 2014

What is it?

The facelifted Audi A8 has a tough job ahead, since it arrives arrives shortly after the latest-generation Mercedes-Benz S-class. The new S-class, though, has shaken the establishment to the core and reasserted its dominance over the rest of the field, which also includes the BMW 7-series and Jaguar XJ.

The facelift is best summed up in terms of the technology gains – chiefly matrix beam LED headlamps that can shut off or push on combinations of its 25 diodes independently, either to avoid blinding oncoming traffic or to highlight potential hazards – a line-up of all-Euro 6 compliant engines and its maker’s claim that the A8 is now the sportiest car in its class. 

There are styling tweaks, too (new bonnet, grille, bumpers and so on) but for all the hoopla surrounding these modifications, it’s still unmistakably an A8, which is no bad thing, everything considered.

Here, we test the A8 on UK roads for the first time, powered by the 4.2 TDI. It’s the least modified engine in the line up, thanks to its already competitive figures that strike a decent balance between good performance and running cost claims.

What's it like?

Climb aboard and, in isolation, the cabin is a wonderful place to be, although that hardly sets it apart in this class, and the vast array of buttons surrounding the low-slung driver’s seat offer a vast array of controls in a surprisingly intuitive manner. The small, stubby gearlever is a fiddle to work initially, but this is only a minor quibble.

The LED matrix lighting system is as as impressive as it sounds, providing incredible vision and effectively and automatically sensing and adapting to what's on the road ahead in fractions of a second. It is a genuine leap forward for lighting technology, although it is unlikely to swing the votes of many buyers on its own.

The V8 is a powerful, torque-laden unit that is beautifully effortless for town cruising and impressively sharp yet refined under hard acceleration. What’s more, quattro is now standard on all A8s, and the traction benefits are obvious, especially in the rain-sodden country lanes we chiefly road tested in. It’s refined, too, and the claimed economy is noteworthy against competitors.

The tweaked suspension offers some cause for hope as well. The ride is far more controlled than on the pre-facelifted car with pitch and dive under acceleration and braking reigned in and body control in corners decent, if not class-leading. The overall impression is that this a fast but secure car in which to make progress.

But these positives are undone by lacklustre steering feel. The electro-mechanical system is direct, but the weighting rarely transmits a true sense of what’s going on at the wheels. There is also an issue in dealing with larger road imperfections, which sends everything from an irritating patter to occasional thuds in to the cabin. Wind noise is also a minor issue at motorway speeds.

Should I buy one?

Those shortcomings are enough to leave the Audi in a bit of a hinterland for would-be buyers. This is not, as claimed, the sportiest car in its class (the soon to be facelifted Jaguar XJ is), and nor is it the finest riding or refined (which you suspect matters more to buyers anyway, and is an area where the S-class excels).

Ultimately, there’s no escaping that this facelifted Audi A8 sits in the same class as the new Mercedes S-class, which we recently declared the best car in the world alongside the incomparable Rolls-Royce Phantom. Where the S-class is an all-rounder par excellence, the Audi’s attributes hit too few highs and too many lows.

Even in revised form, the A8 is not a match for the S-class. Undoubtedly a good car though it is, in some areas it is not even close to the class leader.

For many buyers at this rarified end of the market that is where the discussion will begin and – swiftly – end.

Audi A8 L quattro SE Executive 4.2 TDI

Price £75,970; 0-62mph 4.9sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 37.7mpg; CO2 197g/km; Kerb weight 2095kg; Engine V8, 4134cc, diesel; Power 380bhp at 3750rpm; Torque 627lb ft at 2000-2750rpm; Gearbox 8-spd auto

Join the debate

Comments
34

27 January 2014
...A depreciation nightmare worse that nearly anything else you can buy, in a class full of cars whose used values drop like a stone. It makes it a great used buy though, and discounts get really big really quickly.

Nice headlights, but it's still far too easy to confuse with an A6 / A4 from any sort of distance though - you'd never struggle to tell an S Class from a C Class over the same distance.

28 January 2014
Orangewheels wrote:

It makes it a great used buy though

Yeh, as long as nothing goes wrong outside warranty and you don't ask VAG to service it. Cars like this depreciate for a reason. In a sector where people buy cars to make a statement over anything else, the A8 was always a donkey. Even if we ignore the competition, the most ardent Audi fanatic would choose an A7 over an A8. .

31 January 2014
I'm interested in the 385 CZO reg plate on the A8, are the DVLA now issuing old Republic of Ireland registrations ?

31 January 2014
Well observed, could imagine that plate in black with silver letting on an 'An Post' delivery van.

27 January 2014
If everyone doesn't mind I'd like to say A8 is built on Skoda values. It's quite a lot of executive saloon for the money.
If Audi offers a decent lease deal which I'm sure it does then I can see myself in one. Heavy depreciation, firm-ish ride, anonymity of Audi design language which means you can't tell it from a smaller Audi and a relative lack of desirability further kill its case though.

27 January 2014
"The new S-class, though, has shaken the establishment to the core and reasserted its dominance over the rest of the field, which also includes the BMW 7-series and Jaguar XJ." I'm sorry, but as good as the new S-Class is, the Jaguar XJ is still the better car. Just for pre-requisities it handles better, has a soothing ride which equals, if not betters, the S-Class and has excellent refinement. But to add to its class leading virtues and reaffirm what is also important in the luxury class, the Jaguar is simply more desirable and stylish inside and out compared to the dour and soulness nature of the Mercedes, while the luxury and materials used is far better than the Mercedes and simply exudes class and a sense of occasion. In fact, only the Bentley Flying Spur and Rolls Royce Ghost can really rival the Jaguar in delivering the essential ingredients which make a great luxury class car.

27 January 2014
Roadster wrote:

"The new S-class, though, has shaken the establishment to the core and reasserted its dominance over the rest of the field, which also includes the BMW 7-series and Jaguar XJ." I'm sorry, but as good as the new S-Class is, the Jaguar XJ is still the better car. Just for pre-requisities it handles better, has a soothing ride which equals, if not betters, the S-Class and has excellent refinement. But to add to its class leading virtues and reaffirm what is also important in the luxury class, the Jaguar is simply more desirable and stylish inside and out compared to the dour and soulness nature of the Mercedes, while the luxury and materials used is far better than the Mercedes and simply exudes class and a sense of occasion. In fact, only the Bentley Flying Spur and Rolls Royce Ghost can really rival the Jaguar in delivering the essential ingredients which make a great luxury class car.

You should mention at the beginning or end that your post is satire. However, I do agree that the Jaguar is very stylish, and perhaps my favourite car in this class. But not the best,

27 January 2014
Roadster wrote:

"The new S-class, though, has shaken the establishment to the core and reasserted its dominance over the rest of the field, which also includes the BMW 7-series and Jaguar XJ." I'm sorry, but as good as the new S-Class is, the Jaguar XJ is still the better car. Just for pre-requisities it handles better, has a soothing ride which equals, if not betters, the S-Class and has excellent refinement. But to add to its class leading virtues and reaffirm what is also important in the luxury class, the Jaguar is simply more desirable and stylish inside and out compared to the dour and soulness nature of the Mercedes, while the luxury and materials used is far better than the Mercedes and simply exudes class and a sense of occasion. In fact, only the Bentley Flying Spur and Rolls Royce Ghost can really rival the Jaguar in delivering the essential ingredients which make a great luxury class car.

Anyone in the market for such a car who chooses the Jaguar over the Mercedes needs boiling.

27 January 2014
kraftwerk wrote:
Roadster wrote:

"The new S-class, though, has shaken the establishment to the core and reasserted its dominance over the rest of the field, which also includes the BMW 7-series and Jaguar XJ." I'm sorry, but as good as the new S-Class is, the Jaguar XJ is still the better car. Just for pre-requisities it handles better, has a soothing ride which equals, if not betters, the S-Class and has excellent refinement. But to add to its class leading virtues and reaffirm what is also important in the luxury class, the Jaguar is simply more desirable and stylish inside and out compared to the dour and soulness nature of the Mercedes, while the luxury and materials used is far better than the Mercedes and simply exudes class and a sense of occasion. In fact, only the Bentley Flying Spur and Rolls Royce Ghost can really rival the Jaguar in delivering the essential ingredients which make a great luxury class car.

Anyone in the market for such a car who chooses the Jaguar over the Mercedes needs boiling.

Ok, so the Roaster might be somewhat, err, over exuberant in his flag waving, but that "boiling" comment is a bit below the belt, don't you think?

27 January 2014
Overdrive wrote:

Ok, so the Roaster might be somewhat, err, over exuberant in his flag waving, but that "boiling" comment is a bit below the belt, don't you think?

Only if everything one reads is taken literally. And who does that?

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK