Kylie Minogue rides around in one. So do Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp when theyre in town. If youre an A-list celeb going to a posh do in the UK, the chances are youll arrive in an Audi A8. Even scruffy motoring journalists get the VIP treatment occasionally.
The trouble is, none of them actually own an A8. They just take advantage of the chauffeur cars Audi provides as upmarket taxis. The A8 has a high profile, then, but somehow thats never translated into big sales. The Jaguar XJ is the dominant limousine in Britain. Globally, its the Mercedes S-Class.
A car for drivers, too
Audi reckons the new A8 can change that, and is especially confident of making inroads into the chauffeur market, but theres a certain irony there. While its undoubtedly a fine thing to ride in, and will be even better once the long-wheelbase version arrives in December, what most strikes you about the new A8 is that its a car for drivers.
Its four-mode adaptive air suspension lets you set it up any way you want: supple and gentle to give Kate or Kylie a smooth journey, or taut and perfectly controlled if you find yourself in a rush to pick them up. Audis aluminium-bodied cars ride and handle so much better than its steel-bodied ones.
The electronic brain behind the suspension also adjusts the throttle mapping, auto-gearshift patterns and steering to keep the whole car in harmony. Even the seatbelt tensioners behave differently, depending on whether youre charging or taking it easy, and the sat-nav reads the road for the gearbox and tells it not to upshift on the entry to a corner, for instance. Clever.
The A8 goes on sale in July with two corking 4.2-litre V8s a 368bhp FSI petrol and a 347bhp TDI diesel. The TSI is the smoother of the two and sings the sweeter song, but it doesnt have the twanged-from-a-catapult pick-up of the TDI hardly surprising when you compare their torque figures.
The most important A8 will be the 3.0-litre V6 TDI that comes along in September, though. Therell also be a turbocharged 3.0 V6 TFSI. The V6 TDIs class-leading CO2 emissions of 174g/km are what give Audi such big sales expectations. Eventually therell be a front-wheel-drive version bringing CO2 down to 159g/km.
Time off with the tech
To get to grips with all the technology in the car youd need to take a couple of days off work, but lets just say the A8 is now far more than just the other German limousine after the S-Class and BMW 7 Series. Kylie, Kate and Johnny will definitely approve.
What Car? says
Turns the limo market into a four-horse race