If seamless performance is expected of any good limousine, the attribute by which it lives or dies as a concept is ride quality. Unfortunately, even the 45-section sidewalls of its tyres and the sophisticated air springs can’t hide the fact that the A8 60 TFSIe makes more of a meal out of lumps, pockmarks and corrugations than we would expect. The car’s ability to manage its ride height is excellent.
The issue is secondary ride, which is too reactive and prone to ‘bump-thump’ whenever one of the struts is asked to absorb a sudden load. British roads ask these kind of questions of cars constantly, so whether the plug-in hybrid A8’s suspension has been materially retuned to cope with the added weight of the battery pack (some 140kg) or the model line is in general set up for smooth German autobahns, the result is disappointing.
The A8 does better elsewhere. The light steering – speed dependent but lazily geared in general and yet precise enough – is perfectly in keeping with the car’s role. The handling balance is undeniably nose led, even with the permanent four-wheel drive slightly biased to the rear axle, but it’s good enough that should you ever need to properly hustle the A8 in Dynamic mode, you can do so without any fear of losing control.
Beyond the long suspension’s propensity to shimmy momentarily when both vertical and lateral control is required at the same time – through a mid-corner crest or trough, for example – the big aluminium body is also kept on a reassuringly short lead.
However, overall the A8 lacks the detached elegance of an S-Class on the move, and neither does it trouble the 7 Series for driver appeal. It leads us to believe that, far from lacking the engineering talent to execute a world-beating limousine, Audi is still struggling to pin down exactly what it wants the A8 to stand for.