£63,520 - £99,265 Price range
25 - 49 MPG
With its aluminium spaceframe construction and quattro four-wheel drive, the Audi A8 used to be the high-tech choice in a large executive class that includes the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series. High-tech no longer, though – the A8 can’t hide the fact that it’s a six-year-old design.
Old, but not unpleasing to look at, it’s a natural scale up from the A4 and A6 that sit lower in the range. Its imposing chrome grille and bloated wheel arches give it a sporty tinge, and being Jason Statham’s chosen wheels in the Transporter films franchise does nothing to dampen the cool factor.
With its sophisticated interior, it’s a perfect match for the Bond-style star. A sense of quality oozes from the A8’s every pore, with metal, leather and high-quality plastic combining into one glorious whole. That said, the A8’s technology is overshadowed by newer models – its age means that the likes of Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit display isn’t compatible, and some of the switchgear feels decidedly old hat.
The basics are there, though – there’s plenty of space for four people, but long-wheelbase L models increase rear legroom by a substantial 130mm. Whether you go for it or the standard car, the boot is big and there are multiple smaller storage areas scattered around the interior.
There used to be multiple engine choices to choose from, too, but unless you go for the fast S8, petrols have been consigned to the history books, leaving you to choose between V6 or V8 diesels. Neither costs the earth to run and even the V6 has plenty of power.
You’ll be tempted to call on that reserve more often than you might expect because the A8 is surprisingly fun to drive, with plenty of grip, afforded to it by the standard quattro four-wheel drive system. Comfort remains a priority, but that is guaranteed by the adaptable air suspension that comes fitted to every model.
It forms just part of a long list of equipment that comes fitted to the basic A8, which includes a leather interior, an eight-speed automatic gearbox, sat-nav and all round parking sensors.
It’s from the inside that the A8 has really started to lose its edge. The huge infotainment screens that dominate the fascias of the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class are notable only by their absence and no amount of polished aluminium trim pieces can hide this. Worse still, some of the switchgear looks like it has had a past life in the entry-level A1 and the confusing number of buttons take a little getting used to.
Despite this, there’s no getting away from the fact that the A8 feels extremely well built, doors shut with a reassuring ‘thud’ and finding cheap-feeling plastics proves a thankless task. A quick scan of the options list turns up various ways to make the car feel even plusher.
Want an extended leather pack with a choice of 15 colours? Try the £14,400 Audi Exclusive Leather Package 3 on for size. Fancy some high-end wood trim? Check out the £1,800 Audi Exclusive Inlays pack, which offers nutmeg, oak, ash or piano-black finishes. In short, you can have the A8 exactly how you want it, so long as you have the cash to cover it.
Audi A8 infotainment
Given the option, your money would be much better spent on a high-tech infotainment system, but sadly that’s not on the list. The basic sat-nav has an eight-inch screen and MMI touch, so you can write in postcodes with your finger. It’s fine in isolation, but the low-res graphics, slow processing speeds, and the fact that it uses Audi’s old operating system, mean it can’t cut it against newer models.
Audi A8 passenger space
You will be comfortable, however, all A8s come with 14-way adjustable front seats, and a handy graphic on the infotainment screen tells you exactly which buttons do what. Set up how you like them, they provide excellent support.
The rear seats are pretty good, too, although they’re a little unyielding compared to the ones found in the Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series. Legroom is fine in standard form (and even better in long-wheelbase L models), but headroom isn’t quite up to the standard of key rivals. Electrically adjustable rear seats cost an extra £4,600, but give the A8 limo-like luxury.
Audi A8 boot space
At least the boot is big enough to swallow the cash needed for a trip to the options list. It’s 520 litres in size – so bigger than the BMW or Mercedes – it’ll easily swallow suitcases, baby strollers, golf clubs and pretty much anything else you care to put in it. It’s also got the handy features you’ll find in a family SUV, such as a 12v power socket, luggage hooks and even a clip for your umbrella.
Out on the road the A8 reveals its trump card – it’s good to drive! The Audi is unerringly accomplished at feeling much smaller than it actually is, so you soon forget about its huge dimensions and start to enjoy its far-reaching limits.
The steering helps with this. A throwback to 2010 when the A8 was launched, it’s hydraulic and gives a more natural feel than the electric systems fitted to newer models. It’s quicker to react than the steering in the Mercedes S-Class and weighs up nicely as you enter corners, giving the confidence to fully exploit the grip of the wide tyres and quattro four-wheel-drive system.
The hydraulic power steering doesn’t come without its drawbacks, though. It isn’t compatible with the autonomous driving systems that are available in rivals, although things like active cruise control (£2,000) and lane assist (£500) are options.
Even without that kit specified, the A8 makes for an excellent cruiser. Standard double glazing helps the miles roll by almost unnoticed – there’s no wind noise and barely any tyre rumble.
That good work isn’t undone by an overly firm suspension setup, set to Comfort the adaptive air springs float over bumps and crests like they have a marshmallow filling. Select Dynamic and there’s less body roll and a firmer edge to the handling balance but, overall, it’s still pretty cosseting.
Enclosed areas don’t suit the A8 quite as well as the motorway. Through town, there’s no disguising the car’s vast dimensions. Single maneuvers turn into three point turns and parking can be tricky – the back windscreen seems awfully far away, a rear-view camera is a cheeky £500 option, and self-park isn’t available.
Purists might lament the loss of the big petrol engines originally offered with the A8, but their huge running costs (the W12 returned just 20mpg and the V8 wasn’t much better) meant they never appealed to enough buyers. Anyway, if you want crazy performance in your A8 saloon, there’s always the S6.
But there’s little point bothering – the diesels have all the performance you could ever need, their effortless power delivery matches the A8’s smooth shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, and their running costs sit well within the realms of affordability.
Audi A8 diesel engines
The A8 engine range comprises of just two – a 3.0-litre V6 and a 4.2-litre V8. Tempting as it is to spec the top-of-the-range model, there really is no need – the V6 does just fine. Its 258hp might not sound like much in a car this big, but thanks to having four-wheel drive and eight forward gears, it’s enough to rocket the A8 from 0-62mph in just 5.9 seconds.
Horsepower figures tend to carry more weight, but it’s the A8’s 428Ib ft of torque – and the fact it’s available from just 1,750rpm – that’s more worthy of mention here. In the real world, those figures translate into effortless acceleration at far beyond legal speeds. The best part is the fuel economy, because despite its size and performance, the 3.0-litre can return fuel economy of close to 50mpg and costs as little as £145 a year to tax.
If you crave for even more readily accessible oomph, the 4.2-litre V8’s door is well worth knocking. Its 626Ib ft of torque is nothing short of astonishing, bearing in mind a top-of-the-range Audi R8 coughs out a mere 413Ib ft. Acceleration is mind blowing – the 380hp saloon sprints from 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and top speed wouldn’t be far off 200mph were the car not limited to ‘just’ 155mph. Fuel economy drops to around 40mpg and road tax starts from £230, but neither of these is excessive.
It's not an especially bad engine - the 2.0-litre TFSI unit develops 245 bhp in conjunction with the electric motor, and healthy torque. So while the output may seem small, performance is respectable at 7.7 seconds to 60 and a top-whack of 146 mph. It'll do around 3 miles on electric power alone, replenished when braking.
But the hybrid system isn't perfect, several testers saying it slips uncomfortably between electric and petrol power, spoiling refinement. It also makes a bit of an uncouth noise under hard acceleration. But it's biggest failing is that the large battery pack occupies too much space in the boot, and as a car often used by the limo market, that's just an unacceptable compromise.
In an Audi A4 this would be considered a near range-topper, but it’s the baby of the A8 engine range. Even so, it’s no less impressive than it is in any other Audi.
Mechanical refinement is very good indeed - this is one of those “you wouldn’t know it’s a diesel,” diesels. Critics are also positive about the 8-speed automatic gearbox that partners the diesel. It’s smooth, quick, and helps deliver impressive economy thanks to long gearing - up to 42.8mpg combined.
Performance is also very good, helped by the A8’s aluminium structure, reducing the weight of what could otherwise be a very heavy car. 0-60mph takes little over 6 seconds and it runs into the limiter at 155mph. Testers describe a “surge of acceleration” and there’s plenty of in-gear and through-the-gears performance to help you make progress. Relatively low running costs should make this a popular engine choice.
Not that the 3.0 TFSI is a bad engine - critics say it's smooth and refined, and ultimately a little quieter than the diesel. It's also reasonably quick, taking around six seconds to reach 62 mph and hitting the limiter at 155 mph.
31 mpg economy isn't all that terrible either, but the 3.0 TDI is no slower and does 44.1 mpg combined. It simply makes more sense.
Thanks to huge fuel costs big petrol engines in big cars are declining in popularity, but Audi still offers its impressive 4.2 petrol V8 in the A8 range, mainly as such engines are still in demand overseas, where you don’t need to re-mortgage for every fill.
All that said, a shade off 30mpg is hardly poor for a large petrol engine, particularly one that does 60mph in 5.7 seconds and produces 372bhp. It’s also incredibly smooth and quiet, and feeds its power through Audi’s slick 8-speed automatic gearbox, so testers find making progress very relaxing.
Great engine though it is, most reviewers would still go for the diesel options - either 3.0 or 4.2 TDIs - as running costs are lower, and they lose little, if anything, in refinement.
Most of the Audi A8 reviews on carwow are for the 4.2 TDI, and reading testers’ opinions of the V8 diesel, it isn’t hard to see why it’s been so popular. For a start, despite being a diesel, the car is essentially inaudible. Not only can drivers barely hear it, but they can’t feel it in the cabin either. That’s a measure of how far diesels have come, but also how much the V8 configuration helps. Some testers do describe a faint V8 growl when you’re really pushing on, but it’s certainly not an unpleasant noise.
Performance is very, very strong too. With 350bhp and a huge wallop of torque, it’ll propel you to 60mph in virtual silence, and in only 5.5 seconds of your day. Top speed is limited to 155mph.
For a car with such refinement and performance, a 37.2mpg combined economy figure is simply icing on the cake.
The problem is that the critics say it's not much fun to drive and that a normal Audi A8 will be just as suitable for more people. It's expensive to buy too and the depreciation will be horrendous. Unless money is no object then we'd give it a miss.
It takes a strong will to describe a 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 luxury saloon as disappointing, yet that’s exactly how several testers describe the S8. It’s not really the engine’s fault either, since most are incredibly impressed by the performance on offer. It swipes away most of the competition, with a 4.2-second 0-60mph time.
It’s also relatively fuel-efficient, not least because of a clever piece of technology. When cruising above 15mph, between 930 and 3,500rpm and in third gear or above, the engine has the ability to shut down four of the eight cylinders to save fuel. It’s not noticeable to the driver at all, but allows the S8 to manage 27.7mpg combined. It’s a pity the S8 isn’t a particularly fun car to drive, because the engine is a peach.
For those with plutocratic tendencies, the W12 could be the A8 engine for you. It could be unfairly - but accurately - described as two V6 engines joined by a common crank, but that doesn’t do justice to the enormous work of engineering beneath the bonnet.
It’s direct-injected, makes 493bhp, and 460 pounds-feet of torque at its peak. It sends all that through Audi’s 8-speed automatic transmission. Testers say it’s deceptively quick - mainly because despite the performance, it’s so refined and progressive that you never feel like you’re driving it hard. You might notice at the pumps though (if you care about such things), as Audi quotes a combined figure of 22.8mpg.
The W12 is a car to be driven in, rather than to drive.
Being based on an old design restricts the technology available on an A8 and that’s a problem in a model that is supposed to represent the very best Audi can do. It means that automatic park and the widescreen display that comes standard on a Mercedes S-Class isn’t even an option.
Audi A8 SE
While the entry-level A8’s standard kit list is far from basic, it won’t blow you away either. Auto lights and wipers, electrically adjustable seats, and cruise control come fitted to high-spec family hatchbacks these days. Even the A8’s standard double glazing is an optional extra on the Audi A4, which costs a third of the price.
Audi A8 SE Executive
SE Executive models do little to help, only adding larger 19-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking cameras (a 7 Series can park itself without you even being in the car), keyless entry and a power-operated boot.
In a funny way, it’s the A8’s age that is both its biggest strength and its most noticeable weakness. Coming from an era when luxury saloons were more sporty, it offers a driving experience that rewards better than rivals, with the possible exception of the Jaguar XJ.
But the things that make it a rewarding steer also restrict it when it comes to technology – and there’s no denying the A8 feels like a bi-plane in a supersonic world.
If that doesn’t bother you then the A8 still does lots of things really well – its stylish body effectively masks its years, it’s very comfortable and the all-diesel lineup promises affordable running costs. And, let’s not forget, buy your new A8 via carwow and you stand to make a mammoth average saving of £15,960.