AUDI A8 AND S8 REVIEW
What’s hot: Quality you can touch, see and feel… and riotously quick.
What’s not: Priced beyond all but a privileged few.
X-FACTOR: More than just an executive express, these biggest Audis have a Swiss watchmaker’s precision and craftsmanship.
Vehicle style: Large premium sedan
Price: A8 3.0 TDI $195,000; A8 4.2 TDI $249,900; S8 4.0 V8 TFSI $279,000
Engine/transmission: 3.0 litre diesel 190kW/580Nm; 4.2 litre V8 diesel 283kW/850Nm; 4.0 V8 petrol 382kW/650Nm; 8spd quattro tiptronic.
listed: 3.0TDI 5.9 l/100km | tested: 8.4 l/100km
listed: 4.2TDI 7.4 l/100km | tested: 8.2 l/100km
listed: 4.0TFSI 9.6 l/100km | tested: 11.4 l/100km
Ummm, you might not want a showroom filling with hugely expensive cars right now.
What with changes to the Luxury Car Tax designed to put an extra slug into premium buyers who clearly weren’t squealing loudly enough (“squeal like a pig boy...”)
And now a “tax on the rich” - well, no, not a tax, but… er, well, yes, a tax.
Yup, Australian politics is as loony as a box of frogs right now, and the head pobblebonk seems determined to scare blue-blood kiddies half to death.
Luckily, then, that Audi Australia only plans to sell 100 of its new super-premium and very expensive A8s this year.
The entry 3.0TDI is heading north of $200,000, the thumping S8 nudging $300,000.
But slide behind the wheel of any one of these superbly engineered saloons from Audi, and the rude noises and dust of the day will disappear in a sea of cosseting leather and precision dynamics.
Expensive, sure, exclusive, absolutely, but these are exquisite cars.
Engineered to a fault, superbly crafted, the A8 range will be enjoyed by the few.
Standard features of the A8 range:
- Adaptive cruise control and ‘Google Street View’ satellite navigation
- 22-way power adjustable and heated front seats
- Audi Drive Select and adaptive air-suspension
- Premium 14-speaker Bose audio, DAB+ digital radio
- Bluetooth connectivity and audio streaming
- Glass sunroof and woodgrain accent
- Power-assisted door closing and automatic boot-lid
- 19-inch 10-spoke alloys
A8 4.2 TDI adds:
- Matrix LED headlights
- Digital TV and head-up driver display
- Massage function in the front seats
- 20-inch alloys and sports differential
S8 4.0 TFSI adds:
- Sports-tuned adaptive air suspension
- Dynamic steering
- Electric sun blinds to the rear doors and window
- ‘S line’ styling pack inside and out.
Audi, surely, are masters of the craft of interior design and execution. The new A8 range is frighteningly well-built.
In the smallest details - the crafted metal-rimmed instrument bezels, the stippled soft-touch surfaces, the real wood garnishes (both polished and matte), and the way things open, close and turn - the finish and execution is all-but flawless to these eyes.
It is simply so beautifully done, it cannot fail but impress the fussiest buyer.
The leather is whole, not spliced and backed, and with the luxurious thick feel that only the best hides can provide.
The chronograph-style instruments look sensational and the thick-rimmed sports leather wheel, also with fine metal garnishes, is a delight to hold.
And every metal surface has the cold feel of real metal, as if carved, not cast.
Most appealing of all, again to these eyes, is the restrained elegance of this interior. It doesn’t try too hard; there are no lapses of taste here nor tacky ostentation.
And in this long wide body, there is legroom and headroom aplenty.
Sprawling room in the back, even more with the long-wheelbase 3.0TDI L, and superbly comfortable seats, add the optional Bang and Olufsen sound system, and this is an interior you’d happily live in.
Perhaps most surprising of all, when you notice the size of the immense wheels the S8 rolls on, is the sense of on-road refinement.
The distant growl from the tail-pipes, and the occasional slap over a road join or broken tarmac from the big, wide rubber down below, is the only accompaniment to the drive.
Wind noise is entirely absent and road roar attenuated over all but the coarsest of road surfaces.
ON THE ROAD
How hard do you want to hammer the nail? That’s the question here.
Each of these big saloons bolts like a runaway train; even the ‘base’ model 3.0 litre TDI will gather up its considerable bulk and sprint to 100km/h in just 5.9 seconds.
The thumping 4.2 litre V8 TDI diesel however is even more astonishing.
Once rolling, the 850Nm of torque (… just think about that figure a moment) nestled under the right foot unleashes like a hammer-thrower.
It simply dismisses the A8’s 2.0 tonne plus weight, and swallows the 100km/h sprint in just 4.7 seconds.
Like the 3.0TDI, you will only know it’s a diesel providing all this mumbo by the gruff growl from the tailpipes at the rear, and the low revs at which all this action happens.
Effortless doesn’t really quite describe it.
And then there’s the S8. At 4.1 seconds for the 100km/h dash, this big mother - packing 382kW and 650Nm - is Audi’s fastest S saloon.
It is hellish fast. More to the point, it is also liquid smooth through the 8-speed tiptronic quattro drivetrain slamming power to the tarmac through all four wheels.
You can paddle it yourself, but what’s the point. It’s pre-emptive downshifting is superb and up-shifts are lightning-fast.
There is however a matter of physics to contend with when cornering.
Notwithstanding the quattro system at work down below, put a head of steam behind all that bulk and there is a point at which it just wants to keep going straight.
It clings tenaciously but you will feel the mass shift as it hauls itself around. So this is not a car for Bathurst, but should the constabulary decide to give you a free run, it will get you there incredibly quickly.
There are adjustable settings for the shift-mapping, steering feel, suspension and engine response.
My preferred is a comfort setting for the suspension (German cars can be too firm on Australian secondary roads) and sports setting for everything else.
But, bulk aside, and a steering feel that can’t quite hide the quattro system also working through the front wheels, I’d defy anyone not to enjoy driving this car.
Like its premium German competitors, the big saloons from AMG and BMW’s M Division, Audi’s A8 range is simply a superior drive.
You pay for it, sure, but you get what you pay for.
ANCAP Rating: Not yet rated by ANCAP (5-Star Euro NCAP Rating).
Safety features: Common across the range are two-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for front and rear seats, side curtain airbags, stability control, traction control and electronic diff-lock, lane and side assist plus park assist with 360-degree surround view, among a range of premium safety features.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
So, super premium driver’s car for the well-heeled family, or uber-luxury transport for industry fat cats.
Both of these in fact. Each in the A8 range is ‘a driver’s car’. Each is immensely satisfying at the wheel and far, far quicker than they really need to be.
At the top of the tree is the S8. Buy that one and you get a limited edition bronze sculpture of the car (from master sculptor Clive Calder) hand delivered to your door.
But while the S8 is a monster, my choice (dream on kid) is the 4.2 TDI.
There would only be margins in it if you ever took leave of your senses and lined up the S8 TFSI against the A8 4.2 TDI on a race track, and the ‘hand of God’ wave of torque from the V8 diesel of the TDI is absolutely intoxicating.
But power, massive torque and handling aside, it’s the astonishing attention to detail and quality craftsmanship that is the defining character of the A8 range.
In this, Audi remains the benchmark.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- A8 3.0 TDI - $195,000
- A8 L 3.0 TDI - $206,900
- A8 4.2 TDI - $249,900
- S8 4.0 TFSI - $279,000
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