What's the used Audi A8 saloon like?
Venture anywhere near central London and you’ll notice the sudden proliferation of large, black luxury limousines – of the sort regularly used by the rich and famous to ferry back and forth between important meetings and swanky gala dinners. Among these, if you keep track for a while, you’ll spot that the Audi A8 is one of the most popular.
Now in its fourth generation, the A8 is probably the most discreet among its luxury limo rivals – that is to say, the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Jaguar XJ. But don’t mistake discretion for indifference; beneath the skin, this A8 is a true techno-fest, with a host of advancements that maintain the model’s reputation for groundbreaking technology.
There’s a choice between a 282bhp 3.0-litre diesel (confusingly badged ‘50’) and a 335bhp 3.0-litre petrol (equally bizarrely badged ‘55’), both turbocharged. All of these engines have mild-hybrid technology that provides a boost from an electric motor, and all can cut out completely while you’re coasting, leaving the car running on pure electric power for up to 40 seconds at a time. If you do want a full hybrid, then a plug-in one was added to the range in the form of the 443bhp 60 TFSI e and has an electric range of 28 miles. Or, if you care little about fuel-saving, there's always the 563bhp 4.0-litre V8 in the hot(ish) S8 available from 2020 onwards.
As far as the model range goes, there were initially just two versions to pick from: the entry-level A8 (that had no additional badging) or the sportier S Line. As you’d expect, the basic car is very well equipped, with climate control, heated electric seats, leather upholstery, sat-nav, LED headlights and air suspension all coming as standard, among other features. S Line then adds larger wheels, adaptive high-beam headlights, LED rear lights, sports seats and privacy glass.
You can also opt for your A8 in long-wheelbase ‘L’ form, in which case you also get heated rear seats, a tablet-style remote control for the infotainment system, four-zone climate control and electric rear sunblinds.
Later A8s adopted a Sport, S Line, Black Edition and Vorsprung line-up, which echoed the earlier trims, with the latter Black Edition additional styling tweaks, and the Vorsprung adding all sorts of goodies you might want including 21in alloys, front seat cooling, all-wheel steering and, the best bit, integrated washer jets in the windscreen wipers. Phwoar!
Granted, the A8 doesn’t have the precision of a Mercedes S-Class when it’s hustled along a back road quickly, but few – if any – A8 owners are ever going to drive their cars in this way. No, these cars are all about relaxation – and driving an A8 is about as relaxing as driving gets. The air suspension wafts you over bumps seamlessly, while engine noise is all but absent – and disappears altogether when you coast and it shuts off to run on electric power alone. There’s a faint whisper of wind noise and perhaps a background hum of road noise but, other than that, all is silent inside the A8.
And indeed, inside the A8 is a marvellous place to be. It can’t quite match the glitz of the Mercedes S-Class, but the A8’s more understated furnishings are nevertheless deeply appealing, with slivers of open-pore wood, top-quality materials, and glossy touchscreens and touch switches everywhere.
That latter point is a bugbear in use, mind you, for while these touch-sensitive controls look snazzy, they’re a pain to use, as you can’t work out where they are by feel alone – meaning you have to take your eyes off the road to do so. What’s more, a few greasy finger marks render them grubby.
A key component of a luxury car is space, and in this regard, the A8 delivers in spades. In fact, it’s questionable whether you’d really need the extra room of the long-wheelbase model, so spacious is the rear of the standard car. Up front, all’s well too, with lots of useful cubbies and big, deep door pockets, while the boot is one of the biggest in its class, with almost as much volume as some small estate cars. However, if you do go for the plug-in hybrid 60 TFSI e, the additional batteries eat into the available boot capacity to make it less capacious than that of the much smaller Audi A4.
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