Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Audi A8's 50 TDI diesel engine is smooth and quiet, if not quite as refined as the 400d engine of the rival Mercedes S-Class. It's not as powerful as that engine, either, although performance is more than adequate and there's a healthy swell of acceleration from low revs.
If you spend a great deal of time in a city or you’re simply worried about the future implications of buying a diesel, the 60 TFSI e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is a convincing alternative, allowing you to complete many of your urban journeys on battery power alone. If plugged in regularly enough, it could be far cheaper to run than its petrol and diesel stablemates.
Whichever engine you choose, you get an eight-speed automatic gearbox. In the petrol and diesel, it can be rather slow-witted. Whether you’re at a standstill or on the move, there’s often a delay between you pressing the accelerator pedal and the A8 gaining speed. This isn’t a problem in the PHEV, though: the car always saves enough battery so you can pull away using the electric motor, which responds immediately.
Every A8 has Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system, providing impressive all-weather traction and reassurance, while range-topping Vorsprung models also get four-wheel steering.
At low speeds, this steers the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts, improving manoeuvrability and making the A8 feel shorter than it is in tight spots, such as multi-storey car parks. At higher speeds, the wheels move in the same direction for greater stability when, for example, changing lanes on the motorway. It’s especially useful on the long-wheelbase model and if you spend a lot of time in urban environments.
While the A8 is easy to drive and is very surefooted thanks to huge reserves of grip, its big body wallows on its standard air suspension through bends, although not to the same extent as the latest S-Class, even in that car’s firmest suspension settings.
The A8, on the other hand, has a much tighter grip on body movements, especially when Dynamic mode is engaged. Engaging that mode doesn’t transform the A8 into a pointy handler, but then pointy handling isn't really the, er, point of this big Audi and other large luxury cars.