Vehicle Style: Upper large luxury sedan
Price: $195,000 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 190kW/580Nm 3.0 litre diesel 6cyl | 8spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.9 l/100km | tested: 9.4 l/100km
Despite the relatively small Australian market, there is no shortage of luxury-laden options for buyers shopping at the premium end.
Dominating the market are the German stalwarts, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, but, not far behind is Europe's number one premium brand, Audi.
And now, following a recent series of updates, Audi would like to plead its case with the big A8 sedan.
Detractors may refer to it as a ‘bigger A6’, but in the metal there’s no mistaking the A8’s self-assured elegance for anything but a range-topper.
The story is much the same inside; yes, it’s certainly an Audi but one that offers even higher levels of quality.
We put in a plush week with the A8 to discover if it really does meet its high-end aspirations, and came away with a very favorable impression.
Quality: Audi has built a reputation for interiors that meld top-quality materials with clean lines and logical design. As expected, the brand-pinnacle A8 doesn’t disappoint.
Inside there are vast swathes of metal and wood trim, while the seats are lounge-like in their dimensions and trimmed in the best finely-grained leather.
Build quality is impeccable, alignment of intersecting panels and stitching is painstakingly executed and all moving parts have a solid but fluid motion.
The button-heavy centre console can be a little confronting however, and finding a desired function can mean taking your eyes off the road for a few seconds too long. When it comes to in-car controls BMW wins this round.
Comfort: Slide behind the wheel and the generously proportioned front seats feel absolutely lounge-like.
Trimmed in supple leather (and repeated on surface highlights), and with electric adjustment extending from the seats to the steering column, headrests and seatbelts, finding your ideal position should be a breeze.
Head to the rear and even in ‘short wheelbase’ guise the A8’s mammoth dimensions ensures plenty of stretching space.
Although the rear bench is fitted with three belts, the seat sculpting is designed for two, with a fold-down centre armrest containing rear cabin-controls where fitted.
The vehicle pictured here features (standard) rear climate controls, but it’s also possible to add rear media centre functions as well as electrically adjustable rear seats.
Equipment: The lengthy standard equipment list for the A8 includes, but is not limited to, leather seat trim, electric front seat and steering column adjustment, heated and cooled front seats, power door and boot closing, proximity key and push button start.
There’s also a 14-speaker Bose audio system with inbuilt hard drive, four-zone climate control, eight-inch retractable screen and Audi MMI scroll wheel.
Storage: In-cabin storage includes a shallow centre console - with dual adjustable armrests, cooled glovebox, door packets and bottle holders in each door, lidded front-door armrest storage plus assorted lidded bins in the rear centre console.
The boot is both wide and deep, but feels a little short front-to-rear.
You’ll still fit luggage for four, or the all-important golf clubs, with ease, and, if required, a load-through feature can be optioned.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: It’s not too long ago that a diesel engine in a big limo was completely unheard of in Australia, but that’s fast changing here with all except Lexus offering at least one diesel option. (Lexus took the hybrid route instead.)
The lure of a big diesel isn’t hard to see: the 3.0 V6 in the Audi generates 190kW of power between 4000-4250rpm and a truly massive 580Nm of torque from 1750-2500rpm.
It’s that V8-like torque figure, available early in the rev range, that makes the big Audi completely effortless.
That’s still no feather-weight, but compared to a steel body the A8 saves a few hundred kilograms with benefits to fuel consumption, acceleration and handling.
Tied to a traditional eight-speed automatic and Quattro all-wheel-drive system, the A8 barely breaks a sweat turning torque into forward momentum.
Audi claims the A8 3.0TDI can reach 100km/h from standstill in 5.9 seconds, and while drag racing isn’t the big limo’s raison d'être, you certainly won’t be left wanting for power.
Be it moving through city streets or mustering the urge to overtake, the 3.0 TDI engine delivers smooth and effortless momentum.
Refinement: As you’d expect, quiet and comfortable cruising in the A8 is a given.
Everything from the smooth idle, to hushed expressway travel is exceptionally well isolated from the cabin, as is befitting of the price tag.
Even the stop-start system fires the engine quickly and quietly back to life without hesitation. Likewise, gear changes are imperceptible unless you keep an eye on the tacho.
Ride and Handling: With comfort the primary focus, the A8 is set up to deliver a graceful and cosseting ride.
With self-levelling air suspension, imperfections in the road surface are almost entirely smothered.
We put it to the test and tried to unsettle the Audi at high speed on a hideous acne-riddled road, with a patchwork of failed repairs. It simply despatched what was happening below with the most imperious composure - this is a very serene car on even the worst roads.
The steering is light enough to make navigating the dimensionally immense limo much easier.
There’s a secure sense of road holding and a very linear relationship between the thick-rimmed wheel and the front tyres.
Braking: Four-wheel ventilated rotors take care of stopping duties, and the progressive pedal is able to gently wash off speed without being abrupt.
In an emergency stop, the braking is astonishingly good (for such a big heavy car), pulling the A8 up with genuine urgency.
ANCAP rating: This model is yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: There’s no shortage of safety technology bundled into the A8: eight airbags (front, front-side, rear-side, and curtain), ABS with brake assist and brakeforce distribution, traction and stability control, and electronic diff lock.
Lane assist (self centering and lane departure warning), blind spot assist, 360 degree cameras, adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go (suitable for city driving) and pre-sense collision avoidance.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: three years/unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Audi does not offer capped price servicing, however an Audi Genuine Care Service Plan can be purchased separately. $1900 covers the scheduled service costs of the A8 3.0 TDi for three years, of 45,000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW 730d ($206,200) - BMW’s big gun certainly isn’t lacking for class, but the Audi has it licked for standard equipment and interior quality.
Handling is where BMW excels though, and the 7 Series is more nimble through the bends. (see 7 series reviews)
Mercedes-Benz S 350 BlueTec ($215,000) - With this latest generation Mercedes-Benz has again taken its place at the top of the luxury sedan class, the design and finish inside the S-class is superb.
Some may find the baroque styling a little ostentatious, while others may not find the Benz’s seven-speed auto as cutting edge as they’d like. (see S-Class reviews)
Jaguar XJ Premium Luxury 3.0DT ($198,800) - While it may wear Jaguar’s fresh new exterior design, there’s still plenty of traditional British luxury inside - including the rich aroma of quality leather hides.
The XJ feels lively behind the wheel and is the right choice for anyone wanting to stand a little apart. (see XJ reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
High levels of refinement, as well as high levels of equipment (even at this elite level) put the big A8 in the rarified air at the top of the market. This is a very impressive luxury limousine on any measure.
The A8’s simple, minimalist style will also hold strong appeal for many buyers here.
While in our care, passengers, both front and rear, had nothing but praise for the space, the quality of the accommodation and softly-suspended ride.
We were also quietly amazed with the car’s acceleration, dynamics and road holding.
It may do battle against some very high-class competition in the premium sector, but this large Audi delivers on every front.
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
MORE: Audi News and Reviews