The renewal of the A8 luxury saloon is Audi’s first assault in a multi-pronged attack on the large car segment, with the latest A7 Sportback recently revealed and a brand new A6 saloon set to take the Geneva motor show by storm. But it’s the A8 that gets our attention in this issue, packed to the gills with hi-tech equipment that is set to filter down the Audi range over time. Audi says that it’s the first series production car in the world to have been developed for level three conditional automated driving, with a staged rollout of the technology later this year, including a self-parking system and artificial intelligence traffic jam pilot. More than 40 driver assistance functions are offered on this latest A8, making it the most featurepacked Audi ever made.
Every A8 comes equipped with 48-volt mild hybrid technology that not only enhances performance, but also delivers improved efficiency, too. Under the bonnet of our test car is a 282bhp 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine previously seen in the A5 range, and though Audi quotes an acceleration time of 5.9 seconds to 62mph, it doesn’t feel that quick. Instead, the A8 feels more stately and majestic, wafting along capably, rather than feeling fast. The eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission is silky in its operation, ably assisted by the refined and hushed powerplant that you can barely hear.
Even with the accelerator pedal fully down, you’ll be hard pushed to cause a murmur. There’s very little in the way of road or tyre noise, too, but you’re aware of some wind flutter along the flanks and around the door mirrors, though it’s hardly intrusive. Head off the main roads and along some twistier tarmac and the A8 feels nicely planted, with good body control and excellent grip from the quattro all-wheel-drive system. The steering is nicely weighted, feels accurate and precise and is utterly manoeuvrable even in tight parking spots. The standard fitment of air suspension ensures that the ride is every bit as sophisticated as the car looks, in a highly refined, wafty manner, and soaking up any kind of disgraceful surface that you can throw at it.
The cockpit of the luxury limousine is understated and elegant, with a cutting edge feel thanks to the large 10.1-inch infotainment and navigation screen, digital instruments and 8.6-inch lower touchscreen for the ventilation controls. Range Rover’s Velar has a similar arrangement, but Audi’s system is better resolved, easier to operate on the move, with graphics that are clear, concise and easy to read at a glance. There’s still the perennial problem of dirty fingerprints, but there’s little you can do about that. There’s also a full-colour head-up display as standard, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and wireless charging for your smartphone. The sunken gear lever is a delight to operate and is combined with tasteful wood appliqués and piano black surfaces. If we’re being picky, the standout niggles on this latest A8 are the upside-down door handles that look beautiful, but are awkward to use. Every conceivable interior function is electrically operated, with a driving position that is comfortable and cossetting, with decent lateral support from the amply stuffed armchairs. Headroom is plentiful both front and back, and in long wheelbase guise, as tested, there’s generous amounts of knee and legroom for you to stretch out, though a sizeable transmission tunnel runs through the centre of the car making it uncomfortable for anyone to use the middle seat. Move to the rear of the car, and boot space is marginally less than its BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class rivals, but 27 litres ahead of the Jaguar XJ. At 505 litres, it’ll still carry a pair of holiday suitcases with ease, along with associated hand luggage for a transatlantic trip.
On sale | Now In showrooms | Now
Prices | £69,100 to £73,095
Bodystyles | 4-door saloon
Engines | 3.0 (282bhp)
Trim levels | 50 TDI, 50 TDI L
Also consider | BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Model tested | 50 TDI L
Price | £73,095
Built in | Neckarsulm, Germany
Bodystyle | 4-door long wheelbase saloon, 5-seats
Layout | Four-wheel-drive
Powerplant | 2,967cc, V6, 24-valve, turbo diesel
Transmission | 8-speed automatic
Stop-start | Yes SCR | Yes
Max power | 282bhp @ 3,750-4,000rpm
Max torque | 443lb ft @ 1,250-3,250rpm
Top speed | 155mph
0-62mph | 5.9secs
CO2 emissions | 146g/km (Euro-6)
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) | 54.3/44.8/50.4mpg
Fuel tank size | 82 litres
Range | 909 miles
Insurance group | 45 BIK rate | 31%
Size (length/width with mirrors) | 5,302/2,130mm
Boot space | 505 litres
Kerb/max towing weight | 2,000/2,300kg