Audi A8 Review
A comfortable and well-equipped luxury car, the Audi A8 also has cutting-edge technology
Strengths & weaknesses
- Advanced partial self-driving technology
- High quality materials, fit and finish
- Excellent discounts, new and used
- Engine efficiency
- Not quite as comfortable as a Mercedes S-Class
- Limited choice of engines
Cars like the Audi A8 are designed as much around the passenger in the back as the driver in the front.
These long, low and ultra-luxurious cars are just as likely to be bought brand new for an executive’s chauffeur, as by someone who’ll actually drive them
They also tend to make excellent-value used cars, as they lose value fast. After three to four years, your toddler could be cocooned in the style of a captain of industry, for less than half the price of a new car.
You’ll need to wait a little while for bargain prices on the current A8, as it only went on sale last year, but there are cheap prices on the used market if you opt for the previous-generation Audi A8.
It’s clear that the current car is an all-new model, as it’s packed with cutting edge technology that’s even more advanced than the Mercedes S-Class, which tends to lead the way in this luxury class.
Most obvious is a feature called AI Traffic Jam Pilot, which can take over the driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 37mph (as long as a physical barrier separates the two carriageways). Drivers should be able to take their hands off the steering wheel because Audi says that the car can handle virtually any situation and give the driver ample warning if it they need to retake control.
It’s the most advanced partial driverless technology ever seen on a production car and the first that meets the criteria for what’s known as level 3 driverless cars, which don’t need human supervision in certain conditions - another step on he way to fully autonomous level 5 cars.
Unfortunately, it’s so advanced that the system is not yet legal in Britain. It’s deactivated on all A8 models at the moment and Audi doesn’t expect it to be approved until 2019. It’s not clear whether the system will then be turned on for cars that are already built, or if it will only be available for new models.
Set aside the cutting-edge system, though, and the Audi A8 remains an extremely impressive machine. The interior combines glossy screens with wood, leather and metal. There’s little obvious cost-cutting here. There are no less than three screens in the front, including one behind the steering wheel that replaces physical dials - such as the speedometer - as well as a haptic screen, which clicks and vibrates as you select functions, making it easier to keep your eyes on the road.
Audi’s in-car software also has a rotary dial that can be used to select options, and handwriting recognition, so you can spell out destinations in the sat-nav, for example. If you find yourself in a tight spot, then you can get out of the car and use a smartphone app to drive it into or out of a parking space at slow speed.
Rear passengers have a great deal of space, especially in the longer ‘L’ version, where passengers have a tablet computer - as they do in the BMW 7 Series - to control temperature and media. The 505-litre boot isn’t the largest in its class but it will accommodate a fair amount of luggage.
Instead of using metal springs to absorb impacts over bumps and potholes, the Audi A8 uses air suspension, which enables the car to ride smoothly over rough roads, but remain stable, without noticeable leaning, in corners. The Mercedes S-Class still has a slight edge when it comes to comfort, but neither will cause you to spill your tumbler of G&T when sat in the back.
Also aiding calm progress is the A8’s smooth adaptive cruise control, which adjusts the speed of the car to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front. It will also steer automatically to keep itself in its lane at all speeds (unlike the slower-speed AI Traffic Jam Pilot) but you do need to keep your hands on the wheel. A standard head-up displays helps you to keep your eyes on the road and four-wheel drive on all models offers more grip when accelerating and a little more stability in corners.
Should you want your luxury saloon car to feel more sporty, particularly when it comes to zipping through bends, then the BMW 7 Series and Jaguar XJ are better options, trading a little comfort for sharper steering response and agility.
The exterior design is a little conservative and can’t match the Jaguar XJ for style or the Lexus LS for eye-catching futurism: that said, if you want luxury without being ostentatious, then the car should remain under the radar, especially when compared with a taller luxury sports utility vehicle (SUV) such as a Range Rover.
In fact, compared with a Range Rover, the Audi A8 looks exceptional value. New car discounts often cut the starting price by more than £15,000 - to under £55,000 - with finance making it cheaper than a Mercedes S-Class, if not quite as cheap as some BMW 7 Series finance deals. Nearly new Audi A8s start at less than £50,000.
|Warranty||3 years / 60,000 miles|
|Boot size||505 litres|
|Tax||£515-830 in the first year, £450 thereafter|
Audi A8 Engines
50 TDI, 55 TFSI
There are currently two engines available with the A8, with more options due to become available later in its life, including an efficient plug-in hybrid model. All models have a smooth automatic gearbox.
Both existing options use what’s called mild hybrid technology - a battery with a larger capacity than normal, which is charged by the engine when it’s efficient to do so. it can power the car for short distances at steady speeds and bring the engine up to speed when stopped - at traffic lights for example. This saves fuel, but the heavy A8 remains thirsty.
The 55 TFSI petrol car has fast by any standards, let alone that of a two ton car. It accelerates from 0-62mph in just 5.5 seconds, but you pay for it: even the official fuel economy figure of 36.7mpg is optimistic. You’ll see around 26mpg in real-world driving, according to the Equa Index, which publishes fuel economy estimates based on public road testing. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 175g/km leads to expensive company car tax too.
The Audi’s diesel engine accounts for the vast majority of sales, thanks to much lower CO2 emissions for company car drivers (145g/km) and improved fuel economy figures for anyone buying their own fuel. It’s still expensive to run, though; the Equa Index suggests that you can only expect around 35mpg.
The diesel’s performance is little worse than the petrol car’s. Its 0-62mph acceleration time is only 0.4sec longer and it’s powerful without needing to be revved, so you’ll barely hear the engine when driving smoothly.
Audi A8 Trims
A8, A8 LWB, S line, S line LWB
Audi has kept things simple with just four trim levels. The level of equipment on most models is extremely high - as you would expect from a luxury car - but there are still plenty of optional extras available.
Standard features on the A8 include the adaptive air suspension for a comfortable ride, as well as adaptive cruise control, which adjusts the speed and steering to keep the A8 at a safe distance from the vehicle in front, and in the middle of its lane.
There are 18in alloy wheel, bright LED headlights and plenty of safety features, including headlights that switch main beam on and off to avoid dazzling other drivers; automatic emergency braking and speed limit detection.
Inside, passengers have leather seats, which are electrically adjustable and heated in the front; climate control; three screens in the front, which include sat-nav, digital radio, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; a head-up display; rear-view camera and a ten-speaker sound system.
The longer ‘L’ version aimed at the private hire/chauffeur market, adds heated rear seats, four-zone climate control; USB ports and music interface in the rear; electric sunblinds for rear window and rear door windows; and a 5.7-inch tablet rear seat remote to allow rear occupants to control climate, entertainment and seat functions.
Upgrading to S line adds 19in alloy wheels and useful matrix LED lights, which can remain permanently on main beam by closing off small sections of light to avoid dazzling other drivers. S line cars also have a sportier design (such as a front bumper that looks lower) and sport seats.
There’s an enormous amount of personalisation available, including custom paint colours; a range of alloy wheels; varying shades of leather; and different types of wood for interior panels.
A panoramic sunroof; Bang & Olufsen sound system; ventilated cooling seats; massage options; air ioniser; 36-colour mood lighting; rear cool box and night vision are among the optional extras that can add considerably to the cost of a brand new car.
Audi A8 Reliability and warranty
Cars such as the A8 sell in relatively few numbers so aren’t normally represented in customer satisfaction surveys.
However, reliability tends to be historically good with A8 models, with feedback from owners being positive on the whole. Electrical issues (starting, air conditioning and the dashboard software system being the biggest culprits) have been reported on the previous generation.
With so many electrical systems on the current model, there’s a great deal that could go wrong, but many issues won’t affect your ability to drive the car.
As a brand, Audi has a middling reputation for reliability; it was placed 18 out of 26 manufacturers for reliability in the 2018 Auto Express Driver power survey, with almost one in five drivers having some sort of issue. Electrics, paint and interior trim problems were the main complaints.
The warranty is relatively standard for the premium manufacturers, with faults covered for three years and 60,000 miles.
Used Audi A8
New car discounts of more than £15,000 and excellent new car finance rates mean that the Audi A8’s list prices bear very little resemblance to what anyone actually pays.
It’s immediately had a knock-on impact on used car prices, with nearly-new cars available for a starting price of less than £50,000.
The car’s high specification offers more than enough for most used buyers, so few will pay a great deal extra for optional extras - you could pick up a very well-specified car for a great price.