Kylie Minogue rides around in one. So do Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp when they’re in town. If you’re an A-list celeb going to a posh do in the UK, the chances are you’ll arrive in an Audi A8. Even scruffy motoring journalists get the VIP treatment occasionally.
The trouble is, none of them actually own an A8. They just take advantage of the chauffeur cars Audi provides as upmarket taxis. The A8 has a high profile, then, but somehow that’s never translated into big sales. The Jaguar XJ is the dominant limousine in Britain. Globally, it’s the Mercedes S-Class.
A car for drivers, too
Audi reckons the new A8 can change that, and is especially confident of making inroads into the chauffeur market, but there’s a certain irony there. While it’s undoubtedly a fine thing to ride in, and will be even better once the long-wheelbase version arrives in December, what most strikes you about the new A8 is that it’s a car for drivers.
Its four-mode adaptive air suspension lets you set it up any way you want: supple and gentle to give Kate or Kylie a smooth journey, or taut and perfectly controlled if you find yourself in a rush to pick them up. Audi’s aluminium-bodied cars ride and handle so much better than its steel-bodied ones.
The electronic brain behind the suspension also adjusts the throttle mapping, auto-gearshift patterns and steering to keep the whole car in harmony. Even the seatbelt tensioners behave differently, depending on whether you’re charging or taking it easy, and the sat-nav reads the road for the gearbox and tells it not to upshift on the entry to a corner, for instance. Clever.
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