It was back in 1994 that Audi’s A8 luxury saloon first appeared on the scene. Boasting an all-aluminium body and a resulting low kerb-weight, it made waves in the luxury car segment.
Since that first groundbreaking model, the A8 has of course evolved, and the 2014 facelift of the third-generation model sees an increase in power and efficiency from both petrol and diesel engines – this 3.0 litre diesel Quattro crucially dropping under the 160g/km Capital Allowances threshold.
The A8 range also comprises six other engines, with an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission changing the gears.
Understated elegance has always come as standard with the A8, so, the visual changes reflect this. There’s a slightly resculpted bonnet, new grille bumper and high-tech MatrixBeam LED headlights, while a new bumper and LED lights complete the rear changes.
Inside the A8 is arguably more impressive. You’re left in absolutely no doubt that you’re in a seriously prestige machine. The elegantly styled dashboard houses beautifully crafted instruments, surrounded by gorgeous fine grain wood veneer, while the switchgear operates with impeccable Germanic precision. Rear occupants are also treated to large, supportive leather seats, although for limo levels of space, you’ll need the long-wheelbase version. At 510-litres, the boot is certainly large, but the A8 isn’t the sort of car for hauling luggage, as the rear seats are fixed in position.
Equipment wise this mid-range SE Executive is well endowed with all the usual premium touches, such as 18-inch alloys, electrically adjusted leather seats and suitably sophisticated infotainment system – but like all German cars, the A8 does have an extensive options list. The additional safety and convenience of Adaptive cruise control (ACC) will relieve you of £1,330, while the equally necessary Head-up display – helping to keep your eyes on the road – costs £1,330. If you are a bit of an audiophile, then the excellent sounding BOSE® audio system (£1,175) is an absolute must, too.
Once under way, the woofly sound of the six cylinder diesel motor remains in the background, until a dose of hard acceleration has the 254 bhp 3.0 litre TDI break out into a satisfying growl. 0-62 mph takes 5.9 seconds, with a 155 mph top speed, yet an impressively frugal 47.9 mpg can still be achieved.
Coming equipped with full-time Quattro system helps the big Audi round the bends, while also providing the security of extra traction when available grip deteriorates. On the road, the A8 has a fluidity and response that belies its considerable bulk – quattro full-time all-wheel drive providing huge amounts of traction and grip, even in wet conditions.
Ride comfort is very good, if not class leading – the A8’s air suspension effectively ironing out road bumps and rough surfaces. Audi’s drive select system allows you to change the car’s characteristic, to emphasise either comfort or to sharpen things up for more press-on driving, by making the throttle more responsive, stiffening the suspension and weighting up steering resistance. However, just like many systems of this ilk, it does nothing to actually improve feedback to the driver.
Compared to any other class of car, the refinement levels of this A8 are very good indeed, with virtually undetectable amounts of wind noise, although there is some tyre rumble present.
By any standard, the A8 luxury saloon is a very capable car, but unfortunately for Audi, Mercedes and Jaguar have been breaking the luxury car mould over recent years with their exceptional S-Class and XJ.
However, 2014 revisions bring the Audi A8 bang up-to-date on emissions and advanced active safety systems, so it’s now a more convincing rival than ever.
Audi – A8 3.0 TDI SE Executive quattro
Car as tested: £70,940.00
Specification 3.0 TDI
Engine size 3.0-litre diesel
Torque 428lb ft
0-62mph 5.9 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 47.9mpg
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