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Used test: Audi A8 vs Mercedes S-Class

Buy either of these two superb luxury cars at a couple of years old and you'll save yourself a fortune. But which one should be top of your list? We have the answer...

Used test: Audi A8 vs Mercedes-Benz S-Class

The Contenders

Audi A8 50 TDI quattro L

List price when new: £73,095

Price today:  £35,800 

Available from: 2018-present

The A8 has the refinement and the muscle to shake up the S-Class’s dominance

Mercedes-Benz S-Class S350d L AMG Line

List price when new:  £75,505

Price today: £34,500

Available from: 2018-present

The Merc has long been the big-barge benchmark, but has it met its match in the A8?

Price today is based on a 2018 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

The Mercedes-Benz S-Class has been the default choice in the luxury car class for what seems like decades. Its opulent and spacious interior, cosseting ride, composed handling and air of indomitability mean few can touch it, and if you’re looking for a luxury limo to drive - or even one to ride in the back of while you waft to business meetings or black-tie balls - the S-Class has always been the one to beat. 

Buy it used and it becomes even more tempting, as you can put your bottom where only millionaires usually sit for considerably less than you’d need to buy one new: the two-year-old car we’re testing here will save you £41,000 on the price of a new one. 

But there are some who say its reign is over, and the latest high-tech, long-wheelbase Audi A8 has it beat. Buy one of those at a similar age and it too looks like a bargain. 

So which is the best used luxury limo? Read on to find out.   

What are they like to drive? 

Both cars’ engines pump out 282bhp and produce the same amount of maximum pulling power at identical points in the rev range. It’s hardly surprising, then, that they accelerate similarly briskly, although Audi’s standard quattro four-wheel drive helped the A8 to get off the mark more effectively on our damp test track.

Audi A8

There isn’t a bad gearbox here. The S-Class’s nine-speed automatic is marginally less hesitant feeding in power from standstill, but both are superbly smooth and quick to respond to manual changes (by pulling paddles behind the steering wheel) once on the move. There’s a bigger difference in engine noise: the A8’s diesel sounds more gravelly at idle and makes itself heard more when accelerating, although it’s still a million miles from fractious.

New Audi A8 vs Mercedes S-Class

The S-Class is the more enjoyable car to drive. Its steering is more naturally weighted and the willingness with which it turns in to corners and keeps its body under control is deeply impressive for such a large car. The A8’s steering is precise but numb, while its four-wheel drive provides better traction in damp corners and more predictable handling.

But the most important area of all has to be ride quality – and here the A8 is the more comfortable for both front and rear passengers. Despite both cars riding on optional 20in alloy wheels, the A8 smooths over ruts and potholes with less shimmy through its body in town and remains more settled on the motorway, too.