2022 Audi A8 review: price, specs and release date
The Audi A8 luxury saloon has been given a new look and upgraded technology. We try the 60 TFSIe plug-in hybrid and S8 performance versions...
Price from £74,985 | On sale March
The Audi A8 has long been a familiar sight at red-carpet events – mainly because it’s frequently the vehicle of choice for chauffeuring around Hollywood A-listers and other VIPs. And now, like a lot of those stars of the silver screen, it’s had a facelift.
Visual changes include an even wider front grille, which ditches the horizontal bars of old for more intricate detailing. Plus, it’s flanked by more upright vents and reshaped headlights.
If you go for high-end Vorsprung trim, those headlights now incorporate digital matrix LED technology, which is said to allow a greater range of adjustment than conventional matrix lights. This helps them better illuminate the lane you’re in on a motorway and widen the pool of light they produce on dark rural lanes – all without dazzling oncoming traffic.
Other cutting-edge technology includes predictive air suspension that uses a camera to ‘read’ the road ahead and prepare the car accordingly, although sadly that's only fitted to the flagship Audi S8 model. If you like the sportier looks of the S8 but are put off by its £102,610 asking price, you can now order lesser A8s in S line trim, which gives you a similar aesthetic.
The S8 is powered by a 563bhp 4.0-litre petrol V8, while the engine options in the regular A8 are a 282bhp 3.0-litre diesel V6 (badged 50 TDI), a 339bhp 3.0-litre petrol V6 (55 TFSI) and a plug-in hybrid (60 TFSIe), which pairs the same petrol V6 with a 126bhp electric motor. The 60 TFSIe can officially travel up to 36 miles on electric power alone – eight miles further than its pre-facelift equivalent.
What’s it like to drive?
We started out in the 60 TFSIe, which can crack the 0-62mph sprint in less than five seconds, despite weighing around 2.3 tonnes. Most of the time its eight-speed automatic gearbox delivers virtually seamless shifts, adding to the sense of effortless performance.
The hybrid system is impressively intelligent, switching smoothly between petrol and electric power, and choosing the right moments to activate the car’s regenerative brakes.
Such braking systems – which effectively use the electric motors as dynamos to put some charge back into the battery as you slow – are standard fare on electric cars and hybrids. However, instead of forcing you to select a particular level, the A8 is smart enough to 'regen' strongly when you lift off the accelerator as you’re approaching a roundabout or junction, but just let the car coast when you’re on a long straight or descending a slight hill.
Every A8 has Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system, which provides impressive all-weather traction and reassurance. Four-wheel steering is an option on lesser models, and standard on Vorsprung trim and the S8. It turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at town speeds, making this huge saloon surprisingly manoeuvrable, while on faster roads the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts, which enhances stability.
The A8’s four-wheel steering manages to avoid the unpredictable changes in response to steering inputs that can be an issue with such systems. However, while this ensures the car feels surefooted, you’d never call it agile, because its big body leans quite heavily through bends, even when the standard air suspension is in its Dynamic setting. As a result, the latest Mercedes S-Class is more enjoyable to drive on a road with lots of twists and turns.
Of course, pointy handling is far from the top priority with luxury saloons, and the good news is that the A8 excels when it comes to ride comfort. It takes the sting out of all manner of lumps and bumps without ever feeling floaty – you just notice a tiny bit of shimmy at times.
In addition, the A8 is a quieter cruiser than the S-Class, keeping wind and road noise to an absolute minimum, even on a motorway. Only the engine disturbs the peace at times, because it doesn’t sound especially appealing when you put your foot down hard.
By contrast, you’ll want to rev the V8 in the S8 to hear it’s cultured growl. And while its steering doesn’t offer the feel you get from smaller performance saloons such as the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63, the way the S8 cushions yet controls over a winding, undulating road is seriously impressive.
What’s it like inside?
Not much has changed here, but then it didn’t really need to, because the A8 is beautifully finished inside, with superbly luxurious materials, lashings of soft leather and a standard of assembly that trumps even the latest S-Class.
True, the infotainment system is more distracting to use on the move than the one in the BMW 7 Series, but the A8’s is still relatively easy to interact with. It’s based around two large touchscreens that respond quickly to commands, and have logical menus and sharp graphics.
It also helps that you can operate many of the functions using steering-wheel-mounted buttons, and that the customisable digital instrument display provides a lot of information with admirable clarity.
You get acres of space in the back of the A8, too – especially if you go for the long-wheelbase stretched version. Plus, you can add two high-definition 10.1in screens to entertain back-seat passengers while the Relaxation Seats heat and massage their feet and bodies.
Finally, the boot of most versions is big enough to take your long-haul luggage without any trouble, although the BMW X7, Range Rover and other SUV alternatives offer more practicality with their big, hatchback-style boot openings. However, the TFSIe makes do with just 390 litres, because its batteries take up a good chunk of boot space. For reference, the much smaller Audi A4 saloon offers 480 litres.
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