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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Good build quality, acres of cabin space and stunning performance

Against The Audi is badge too understated for the 'luxury' sector. Steering is imprecise, too

Verdict It's a luxury car for those with no ego to stroke. Build quality is always a strong point

Go for… 4.2-litre quattro Sport

Avoid… 2.8-litre petrol

Audi A8 Saloon
  • 1. The cabin is luxurious, with plenty of leg- and headroom throughout
  • 2. Pay attention to the brakes and steering rack - these are both prone to high wear
  • 3. Check the chrome-effect trims: if they're cleaned incorrectly, they turn a milky white
  • 4. Listen out for transmission noise - repairs can be costly
  • 5. It's hardly tight in the standard car, but you can get even more rear legroom in the long-wheelbase model
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Audi A8 Saloon full review with expert trade views

There are three engines, and each one of the 2.8, 3.7 and 4.2 is fantastically smooth and unflustered at high speeds. The cabin is luxurious, with plenty of leg- and headroom, and if you opt for a post-1999 model, there’s the option of a further five inches of rear legroom in long-wheelbase versions. There are also Sport variants, with stiffer suspension, bigger alloys wheels and electric seats.

Don't compromise on your expectations: the excellent build quality means high milers should still be in pretty good condition inside and out. There were numerous updates during the car's life, including a 19bhp upgrade and the addition of side airbags for the 2.8 Sport in 1996.

In 1999, reworked headlamp units, a reshaped bumper, a restyled radiator grille and improved suspension were introduced. The 4.2 quattro models also included a five-speed automatic transmission as standard.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Harder to sell than Avants so need to be well priced, but 1.9TDI SE good seller

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Sport models are extremely desirable, and worth the extra if you really are after total pampering. If you don't fancy paying this premium and are happy to 'rough it', you could plump for the basic 3.7-litre quattro. It has enough grunt and is plenty smooth enough.

The 4.2 Sport is more hairy, accelerating from 0-60mph in 6.9sec and with a top speed of 155mph, which gives you more of an engaging driving experience to go with all that refinement.

Compared to these two, the 2.8-litre is something of a let-down, though. Its V6 engine produces just 173bhp, and it has front- rather than four-wheel drive. All this is very disappointing in what is supposed to be a top-quality vehicle. If you can, pay a little extra for the 4.2 quattro, with its permanent four-wheel-drive system.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Frequent big repairs - watch for suspension problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

The good news is, residual values have been poor. After four years from new, Audi A8s lost 75% of their original value, so this is a great market for used car buyers. You’ll get a lot of car for a quarter of its original price, especially next to rivals like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class or Jaguar XJ. Opting for an A8 could save you thousands of pounds against a comparable Merc or Jag.

A 4.2 A8 is in insurance group 20, and don't expect much more than 20mpg. Servicing intervals are every 10,000 miles, but Audi’s labour rates are notoriously expensive. If something is seriously wrong, the parts costs will be similarly exorbitant.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Harder to sell than Avants so need to be well priced, but 1.9TDI SE good seller

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Have the car checked over thoroughly, and pay particular attention to the brakes and the steering rack - these items are both prone to high wear. Listen out for transmission noise and keep an eye out for any electrical gremlins. Any dings could be costly, unless, of course, you are prepared to put up with an 'imperfect' luxury car.

There have been recalls on a number of A8 specifications over the years, so it is important that you are satisfied that the problems have been fixed. Some 1999 A8s suffered premature ball joint wear and V6 1998 models had issues with throttles jamming open. The 2003 models needed their driver airbags replaced. Pay particular attention to chrome-effect trims that are actually made from aluminium. If they are cleaned incorrectly, they turn a milky white.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Frequent big repairs - watch for suspension problems

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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