The Audi A8 is a technological showcase for the famous ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ slogan and offers a host of class-leading technology in its battle against rival luxury limousines.
The current model, which arrived in Australian showrooms in 2010, is the third generation of the uber-Audi and takes the mantle as the brand’s flagship. Quite simply, this is as good as a car with the four rings on its grille get in terms of luxury, comfort and technology. So can it take the heat from its rivals that include the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class?
You won’t mistake for the Audi A8 for any of its rivals with its styling that conveys its position as the most opulent Audi. There’s the familiar trapezoidal grille, detailed LED headlamps and intricate touches such as the integrated bootlid spoiler and chrome valance that stretches across the rear bumper. Sitting on 19-inch alloy wheels, the A8 oozes sophistication with its understated, elegant lines and long wheelbase.
Perhaps it’s a little too understated, in fact, as it lacks the visual fanfare of its rivals with its more conservative look, and you could easily mistake it for the lesser, smaller and cheaper A6 saloon. While it can’t match the Jaguar XJ or the S-Class for street appeal, there’s no denying that it’s handsome and well-proportioned, with an imposing stance and strong presence on road.
The outside may lack drama, but the interior more than makes up for it. It’s beautifully crafted with swathes of high quality leather on the doors, dash and the seats with fittings that are exquisitely matched to the surface that they butt up against. Superb inlays, such as brushed aluminium, carbonfibre or polished wood surround switchgear that’s both elegant and robust, while the old-world craftsmanship is complemented by class-leading technology.
As well as the haptic touch memory board (below), that gives your finger feedback as it hovers over each pre-set command, there’s handwriting recognition for sat-nav input – and it actually works.
The A8 also has the ability to produce its own WiFi hotspot through a mobile phone network for Internet access on the move, as well as updateable maps and even its own apps.
The audio system in the A8 is exceptional, whether you stick with the standard Bose system or opt for the 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen set-up. There’s also more conventional tech, such as a proximity key, adaptive headlamps as well as ultrasonic parking sensors.
Being a premium limousine, rear passengers aren’t left out, with masses of rear legroom, individual climate controls in the centre armrest and masses of headroom, too. Adjustable rear head restraints are an option along with memory settings, as the outer rear seats are electrically adjustable.
If this isn’t enough, there’s a longer wheelbase version that adds a 120mm of space to make the A8 feel luxurious from wherever you sit. There’s an electronically operated bootlid that gives you access to a 510-litre luggage area, however the fixed rear seatback limits its flexibility.
The A8 is offered with either a silken 184kW 3.0-litre V6 diesel or a more potent 258kW 4.2-litre V8 turbodiesel. There’s also a petrol 4.2-litre V8 with 273kW, but while it’s 5.7-second 0-100km/h time is only 0.2 second slower than the diesel V8, it also drinks more fuel, at a claimed 9.5L/100km.
The diesel offers 7.6L/100km, but we’d go for the smaller of the two diesels for all-round drivability and running costs. It can still crack 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds yet outperforms the V8 models with a massively impressive 6.6L/100km thanks to stop/start technology.
All three engines are so refined that your passengers won’t be able to tell which of them you’re chosen.
All are equipped with quattro all-wheel drive and use an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all offer good handling that belies a car of the A8’s size.
This – and the impressive fuel economy – is boosted by the A8’s lightweight yet rigid aluminium body. This makes it far from floaty and ungainly like fat-cat saloons of the past, but composed and precise from the driver’s seat as it soaks up bumps with responsive steering and strong brakes to help driver confidence.
The A8’s tight body control befits a car that’s designed to be both fast point-to-point all while cosseting its occupants, with the quattro offering tremendous grip levels.
There’s a trade-off in ride quality, though, with a firmness that rivals such as the Mercedes S-Class, which has air suspension, easily surpass.
The impressive efficiency is matched by equally high safety standards, with the strong aluminium structure and six airbags as standard, as well as technology including Lane Assist and radar cruise control.
The Audi A8 is more than a match for the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes Benz S-Class in terms technology and sophistication. It doesn’t ride as well as the Mercedes, nor have the drama of a Jaguar, but it’s impeccably made and offers class-leading technology and fuel efficiency as well as impressive resale value.
It may be bland to some, but the Audi A8 is a rational choice in the world of super saloons.