Audi A8 Review

Find out more about the Audi A8 in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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4
Out of 5

Pros

  • Excellent build quality
  • Very well specified
  • Good range of engines

Cons

  • Expensive to run
  • Rapid depreciation
  • Pricey options list
  • MPG

    35 - 50

  • CO2

    151 - 182 g/km

Model Review

First introduced as Audi's flagship vehicle in 1994, the Audi A8 is the brand's interpretation of the modern executive car.

It had a fairly memorable debut when, as a concept car, it was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show with a highly-polished aluminium finish, to highlight the fact that it was the first car in the world to be constructed around an all-aluminium chassis in order to save weight.

From the start the car was available as either the regular saloon or a longer 'A8L' limousine. This bodystyle adds more than a metre to the car's wheelbase – so the car is often referred to as a 'long wheelbase' or 'LWB' variant – for even more legroom for the rear seat passengers.

A performance-oriented S8 model has been available since 1996, while a version that uses an unusual 'W12' engine, with three banks of four cylinders, has been sold since 2001. These versions have had starring roles in a number of films, most notably Ronin and the Transporter series and the vehicles are favoured by security forces for moving high-value passengers, with Audi creating armoured, high-security versions specifically for the task.

The A8 is now in its third generation, with an all-new car expected to come to market later in 2017.

Latest model

Although face-lifted in 2014, the current Audi A8 has been on sale in its present form since 2010. Aside from the sheer size of it – particularly the LWB cars – the A8 rather resembles the smaller A6, which is no bad thing as Audi seems to have nailed down the saloon car form.

Trim levels are typical Audi fare, with Sport and Black Edition grades above the 'SE Executive' trim, which is exclusive to the A6, A7 and A8 four door models, to set the cars apart from the rest of the range as the brand's executive cars. It's based on the Audi MLB platform ('Modularer Längsbaukasten' – or 'Modular Longitudinal Matrix') which you'll also find under a number of other Audi vehicles and the Porsche Macan.

The A8 is all about rapid wafting, whether driver or passenger, and all vehicles have air suspension, an eight-speed automatic gearbox and quattro four-wheel drive. No matter what variation you choose, the A8 will hit 60mph in under 6 seconds, despite a kerb weight of at least 1.9 tonnes, and every car is limited to 155mph.

Like every Audi, the A8 has a high-quality interior with the best fit and finish in the business.

Value for money

An 'entry-level' A8 – the 3.0-litre diesel in SE Executive specification – will cost £64,875 but, unlike some other Audi models, does not miss out on any equipment you'd think should be standard. Leather seats – heated, of course - are fitted to all models, with electronic 22-way adjustment function for driver and passenger. Satellite navigation, DAB, multimedia interface with touchpad technology, LED lights with high beam assist and a drive mode select are all standard. The 130mm extra rear leg room of the A8L is available for another £4,625.

For the amount of car and technology you get, it's actually not that steep. However, the higher specifications are a little harder to justify – it's £10,900 to upgrade to the V8 diesel alone and £7,400 to go for Black Edition over SE Executive. Avoid the options list too as, although it may be hard to imagine there's too many things missing from the car's specification to need optional extras, Audi is quite famous for a pricey set of add-ons. A panoramic sunroof is a £1,635 extra, rear seat entertainment system costs £2,370 and there's a £1,340 head-up display – it wouldn't be too hard to spend £100,000 on an A8.

Engine and trim choice will affect your first-year road tax too. A 3.0-litre diesel SE Executive would only cost you £200 in year one due to its emissions rating. The same car in Sport specification would cost £500, and the V8 diesel Sport £1,200. All but the entry-level diesel car are in insure group 50 too.

Looks and image

Audi has become quite a cool brand recently, by association with major feature films and a lot of motorsports success. The A8 in particular has a fairly desirable vibe to it, as the car of choice for Jason Statham's put-upon professional driver in the Transporter series of films, among others. Nevertheless, Audi drivers themselves do have a particular reputation for extremely high-speed tailgating and you might find it rarer that you're let out of a junction while driving an Audi.

The car has very understated lines that means it doesn't stand out, so if you have spent a small fortune on your A8 it won't look like you have – which is a good thing if you're not a fan of ostentatiousness. It doesn't really fade into the background either, although the similarities between the flagship car and the smaller A6 are enough to mix them up with one another.

Space and practicality

As it's a saloon car, the A8 misses out on practicality to some degree compared to a hatchback or estate. Boot space is impressive though at 520 litres, but it's all width and depth and very little height. As the rear seats don't fold down, there's no way to expand this space, although a 'through loading system' – a ski hatch in the centre back rest – means that you can accommodate longer things if necessary.

Cabin space though is unimpeachable. Even if you don't opt for the LWB A8L, which boasts an extra 130mm of rear leg room, it's a vast space and there should never be any complaints about it being a tight squeeze.

The A8 itself has never been physically crash tested in Europe, but similar vehicles using the same platform test well – the Q5 recently scored five stars at EuroNCAP – and the car is equipped with a number of safety systems both as standard and as optional extras. All vehicles have Pre-Sense Basic, which mitigates collision damage by preloading seatbelts and closing windows in the event of a collision being detected, while more exotic, quasi-autonomous driving systems like active lane assist are also available.

Engines

Four engines are available with the Audi A8 – two for the regular vehicle, one only available in the A8L and one, in two states of tune, for the performance S8. In all cases the engines are paired to both an 8-speed automatic 'tiptronic' gearbox and 'quattro' four-wheel drive.

The entry level engine is a 3.0-litre, 6-cylinder turbodiesel, which produces 258hp. In the standard car, this will push the A8 to 60mph in 5.7s (0.2s slower for the A8L) and hit a combined fuel economy of 49.6mpg (48.7mpg in the A8L), while top speed is limited to 155mph. It has a CO2 rating of 149g/km, though the long-wheelbase A8L is 4g/km worse off and shunted into a higher tax band as a result.

A 4.2-litre, V8 turbodiesel is also available, with 380hp. With this engine, the differences between the standard car and A8L are far smaller – both will hit 60mph in 4.5s, with a top speed limited to 155mph, but the 1g/km difference in CO2 ratings (189g/km to 190g/km) means that both sit in the same tax bracket. Both cars rate at 47.1mpg combined.

Exclusive to the A8L is a W12 petrol engine. This 12-cylinder unit produces 493hp, but is only fractionally quicker than the V8, with 60mph coming up in 4.4s. Economy and emissions are significantly poorer, with 254g/km and just 25.7mpg combined.

The sporty S8 is equipped with a 4.0-litre V8 turbocharged petrol engine, getting 513hp in standard trim and 597hp in 'plus' specification. Both will hit 60mph in less than four seconds, with emissions at 216g/km and 231g/km respectively and 30.1mpg for the regular S8 compared to 28.2mpg for the plus model. Like all of its siblings, the S8 is limited to 155mph.

Running costs

The A8 is a big, heavy, executive car and you should expect the running costs to reflect that. In fairness, the diesel options are not tremendously expensive to run day-to-day – depending on specification, you could see nearly 50mpg.

Indeed the running costs as a whole are very much specification-dependant, with higher grade cars experiencing poorer fuel economy and emissions. You will need to choose carefully to avoid a high first-year tax rate as a result, with the six-cylinder diesel costing £200 or £500 for year one, the V8 diesel costing £800 or £1,200, and the S8 costing £1,200 or £1,700, depending on which specification you opt for.

The W12, rating at just 25.7mpg and a £1,700 first-year tax rate, is an extremely pricey car to run. The intricate and complex engine means that servicing costs are typically much closer to that of Audi's R8 supercar than to the rest of the A8 range, and second and third owners will need very deep pockets once the warranty has expired.

Generally, insurance costs for the A8 range are rather high too. Most are in the very highest insurance group, with only the 3.0-litre diesel models in groups 47 and 48.

Things to look out for

There are no major concerns with the A8 series, with the only recalls that affect the current car involving a handful of vehicles with a loose sunroof. Some older cars have seem a number of issues regarding airbag deployment, but again not on a significant number of cars. The aluminium construction also minimises the possibility of rust. Generally Audi's vehicles are well-made and the A8 isn't an exception to the rule.

They are rather complex vehicles – none more so than the W12 versions – so secondhand models will need to be checked to ensure that everything is as it ought to be with the automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive system. Long wheelbase cars are likely to have been used for chauffeur duties and seen a few hard miles and sportier versions may have been put through their paces.

Rivals

As with almost any Audi, there's rivals from elsewhere in the German triumvirate of premium car manufacturers, and BMW's 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class are the alternatives here.

Looking beyond these obvious choices, a key rival would be the Jaguar XJ, while the Tesla Model S would also merit consideration. Those looking for a limousine might also consider the Range Rover, which is technically a different class of vehicle but no less well thought-of when it comes to the passenger experience.

Depreciation warning

While the Audi brand is pretty robust when it comes to secondhand values, executive cars are not and the A8's values plummet to around a third of the new price after three years. Again, this is a situation made better by choosing specification carefully, with the more frugal engines but higher trim levels performing better.

The one to avoid is the W12, which sees almost catastrophic depreciation, to the point it may be worth less than lower specification cars at three years, despite being at tens of thousands of pounds more expensive when new.

Which A8 to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

50 TDI Quattro Sport 4dr Tiptronic

Most MPG

50 TDI Quattro Sport 4dr Tiptronic

Fastest Model (0-60)

55 TFSI Quattro Sport 4dr Tiptronic

Trims Explained

There are six different specifications of the Audi A8, comprising three in the regular range, one specific to the long wheelbase A8L and two for the S8 model.

SE Executive

SE Executive starts the range off, but is equipped with satellite navigation, DAB, 22-way electric adjustable leather seats, air suspension with four driving modes, a four-spoke multifunction steering wheel, LED rear lights and headlights with main beam assist, privacy glass, pre-sense collision avoidance and mitigation and even power closing doors.

Prices start from £64,875

Sport

Sport adds larger, 19-inch alloy wheels and a Bose surround sound system, changes the four-spoke steering wheel for a more familiar three-spoke design, upgrades the headlights to Audi's Matrix LED system and adds a sports exterior styling package.

This is not available for the A8L.

Black Edition

Black Edition is also unavailable for the A8L, but includes a black styling package for both interior and exterior trim, sports air suspension with electronic damper control and huge, 21-inch alloy wheels.

Prices start from £71,275

A8L

This is broadly similar to the Sport trim, but includes individually adjustable rear seats with a 12-way electric operation, extended leather and Alcantara, advanced parking system with 360° view, laminated glass and unique interior trim.

Prices start from £101,380

S8

The S8 model resembles the Sport trim but is more sports-oriented. This comes with S Sports air suspension, enhanced braking system, S Comfort front seats, S-specific trim pieces, carbon fibre inlays and dual oval exhausts.

The plus variant extends on this in a similar way to the Black Edition, with a black styling package including a carbon fibre diffuser and darkened tail lights.

Summary

  1. Available as A8 saloon and long-wheelbase A8L
  2. Standard car is diesel only
  3. No manual gearbox option
  4. Quattro four-wheel drive is standard
  5. Expensive, as prices start at £64,875 (£69,140 A8L)
  6. S8 performance model
  7. Poor residual values
  8. High insurance costs
  9. 130mm more legroom in A8L
  10. Rivals may offer more

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