The Audi A8 has a wide range of petrol and diesel engines. Most are V6s and V8s, but there’s also a hybrid version that combines a four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor, and a rip-snorting W12. All have an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Our favourite engine is the lower-powered 3.0 TDI diesel, which, like the hybrid, has front-wheel drive. The rest of the range gets four-wheel drive. Even the least powerful versions are swift; the others are seriously quick.
Every A8 has adjustable air suspension that provides a pretty supple ride when you select Comfort or Auto mode. However, sharp bumps can still send the odd shudder through the cabin (and those onboard). In most settings, body control is good for such a big car, but while the steering weights up with speed, it is devoid of feel.
The A8 lets in a bit of road noise over coarse surfaces, but standard double glazing keeps wind noise to a minimum and the engines sound polished at all times. The 3.0-litre diesel models have an unobtrusive engine stop-start system that cuts the engine when you come to a standstill and then restarts it as soon as you lift off the brake pedal. The hybrid model has the same, and is whisper-quiet in electric mode, but the four-cylinder engine is far too noisy when it kicks in.
Prices undercut those of key BMW and Mercedes-Benz rivals, but the Audi A8 still isn't cheap and, like any big limo, it will suffer heavy depreciation. The V8 engines are respectably efficient given their power, although the V6 diesels make far more financial sense, averaging mid-forties mpg and attracting a relatively low company car tax rating. The most efficient BMW 7-Series model emits less CO2, however.
Audi has a reputation for outstanding cabin quality, and the A8 shows it's well deserved. All of the materials are beautifully textured, the onscreen graphics look great and the interior panel gaps are all millimetre-perfect. The JD Power customer satisfaction survey suggests that Audi's reliability doesn't always match its standards of assembly, though.
You won't want for safety kit. Every A8 comes with eight airbags, stability control and Audi's pre-sense system, which automatically activates the hazard warning lights, closes the windows and tightens the front seatbelts if an accident looks unavoidable. A more sophisticated version that also brakes the car is available as an option, as is a night-vision system that's capable of identifying pedestrians. Security kit is comprehensive, too.
A huge range of electric seat and steering wheel adjustment makes it easy to get comfortable in the Audi A8, while Audi's MMI control system keeps clutter to a minimum by letting you access most functions via onscreen menus. The A8 also has a touchpad that lets you write your destination into the sat-nav so you can programme it without taking your eyes of the road. However, some of the MMI menus can be a bit distracting.
The standard A8 isn't as roomy as a BMW 7 Series, or even some family hatchbacks, but there's plenty of space for four six-footers, and all the seats are comfortable and supportive. The boot is a decent size at 510 litres, although it's a bit short. The ‘L’ long-wheelbase version has more rear legroom and makes a comfy four-seat limo.
The long list of standard equipment includes climate control, leather upholstery, a DAB digital radio, satellite-navigation and xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights. SE Executive trim adds electrically operated boot closing, a rear parking camera and larger alloys. Buyers can also specify anything from massage seats to a 1400-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo.
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One of the least pricey ways into long-wheelbase A8 ownership is also one of the best. This engine has all the power you need and still offers the refinement and luxury that car buyers expect.