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

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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

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NY_69 29 January 2014

Thank God the people that

Thank God the people that moan about the model line ups looking the same aren't in charge of these companies. Each model needs to be consistent, it adds to brand identity and prevents the lineup from looking messy.
warren_S3 28 January 2014

Disappointing

I really dislike the side profile of the outgoing A4, it's not a pretty car. It looks like a typical rep barge and has an awkwardness about it that wasn't present in the preceding models.

Why Audi have chosen to photocopy enlarge this new A8 from that design DNA when the A4 is just about to be face lifted is a mystery to me. A wasted opportunity, and the net result is a car that looks somewhat ugly and ungainly.

ballyblack 29 January 2014

All Photocopies

warren_S3 wrote:

I really dislike the side profile of the outgoing A4, it's not a pretty car. It looks like a typical rep barge and has an awkwardness about it that wasn't present in the preceding models.

Why Audi have chosen to photocopy enlarge this new A8 from that design DNA when the A4 is just about to be face lifted is a mystery to me. A wasted opportunity, and the net result is a car that looks somewhat ugly and ungainly.

So BMW and Mercedes models look unalike then and Audis all look the same? In case you hadn't noticed, all the German manufacturers saloons look like each other from Compact Exec up to Luxury saloon and are indistinguishable without closer scrutiny i.e. checking the model badge...

warren_S3 29 January 2014

ballyblack wrote: So BMW and

ballyblack wrote:

So BMW and Mercedes models look unalike then and Audis all look the same? In case you hadn't noticed, all the German manufacturers saloons look like each other from Compact Exec up to Luxury saloon and are indistinguishable without closer scrutiny i.e. checking the model badge...

Get away! Fortunately as I moderate on one of the UK's largest Audi forums and I get to see the press releases as they trickle in I'm very aware of this and still hugely disappointed by it. I don't care how many manufacturers do the same thing, it's a high risk strategy as if a manufacturer settles on a concept which isn't wholy successful in the eyes of potential buyer they risk upto a decade of reduced sales as it filters out of the cross platform DNA. If people weren't so giddy about DRL's Audi may not be in such a privileged position. Do you own an A4 perchance?

ballyblack 1 February 2014

Confused by my own car identity.

warren_S3 wrote:
ballyblack wrote:

So BMW and Mercedes models look unalike then and Audis all look the same? In case you hadn't noticed, all the German manufacturers saloons look like each other from Compact Exec up to Luxury saloon and are indistinguishable without closer scrutiny i.e. checking the model badge...

Get away! Fortunately as I moderate on one of the UK's largest Audi forums and I get to see the press releases as they trickle in I'm very aware of this and still hugely disappointed by it. I don't care how many manufacturers do the same thing, it's a high risk strategy as if a manufacturer settles on a concept which isn't wholy successful in the eyes of potential buyer they risk upto a decade of reduced sales as it filters out of the cross platform DNA. If people weren't so giddy about DRL's Audi may not be in such a privileged position. Do you own an A4 perchance?

No I don't own an A4. I own a BMW 3 Series M Sport touring in black (2013 model) which one day managed to hide itself away in the supermarket car park five cars away from a 5 Series M Sport touring, also in black, of which I tried to gain access frantically clicking on the key fob for 5 minutes, until it was pointed it out that it had grey leather seats, unlike mine which are black. Needless to say I felt a complete fool but the similar design, indeed, fooled me!

Halfabee 28 January 2014

Summary

If you want to look like you are a chauffeur, or a third-world dictator, buy the S-Class (in silver for the limo-car look, in black for the unelected-leader look).
If you want the same badge as Justin from Sales, then get a 7-Series.
If you want the best drivers car in this class, and something distinctive, then it's an XJ.
And if you want to look like you've just wasted £75k, then get the Audi.
Simples, no?
NY_69 28 January 2014

VAT

I agree in principle with what you say about colour, to me black is a no-no as you could give the impression you're a chauffeur....or if we're talking about an S-Class with AMG alloys, a drug dealer (awful look though surprisingly common). Silver is silver... best off with grey in my opinion. Remember that the vast majority of people that purchase these cars new are business users and not liable to the ridiculous amount of VAT applied to would be regular owners.
The 7-Series...surely that's due for replacement now? Looks a bit old, darkening the rear tail-lights and throwing on some side mirrors with indicators has to be the laziest facelift I have ever seen- oh and a different style steering wheel. The XJ, forget it. The S-Class is the only way to go if you're spending your own money on a 70k luxo-barge.
marj 28 January 2014

Halfabee wrote:If you want to

Halfabee wrote:

If you want to look like you are a chauffeur, or a third-world dictator, buy the S-Class (in silver for the limo-car look, in black for the unelected-leader look).
If you want the same badge as Justin from Sales, then get a 7-Series.
If you want the best drivers car in this class, and something distinctive, then it's an XJ.
And if you want to look like you've just wasted £75k, then get the Audi.
Simples, no?

Or you could buy a Quattroporte and look like you are from the Mafia (Chinese, Sicilian or Serbian)

NY_69 28 January 2014

Quattroporte

Completely forgot about the Maserati, it can even come equipped with a diesel. touche!

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