“That’s CLASS!” exclaimed the man at the motorway services; My wife and I had just pulled in as he got out of his car near us.
“My wife or the car?” I shouted to him. Short pause. “Both!” he managed. The perfect car? Audi’s very clever A8? Very near and not so far...
Tom Scanlan enjoys a week in the super sumptuous AUDI A8 50 TDI Quattro
Forget the political climate about fossil fuel (and some experts say that is a misnomer and no real issue) and that diesel is now the bête noir (even if more than one research facility says that dirty diesel emissions can quite soon be reduced by 90%).
On my journeys, 45mpg was the figure displayed by my test A8 after 450 miles of varied driving on a variety of road conditions; yes, a significant distance was on motorways, and this part was averaged at 60mph.
It’s not difficult to work out, then, that some of the drive would have been at speeds more than eighty mph (especially when I had to follow about ten old hot hatches each with four young people aboard. The cars were straddling the M4 between Bath and Bristol, swopping lanes and even, at one lunatic moment, passing a hat from one car to the next). Bottom line: given the opportunity of a clear space in the outer lane, I floored the A8’s pedal and a few seconds later I was well clear. That great reserve of 'Quattro' power is precisely where your £90,000 outlay (including loads of options) pays dividends in safety.
It would not be a wild surmise to reckon that 50 mpg would be within the A8’s grasp on long motorway journeys...900 miles in the tank! In the city, 25-30 would also be entirely feasible. We are talking here of the version with the 285 bhp 3.0-liter 6-cylinder diesel power unit. And it’s a ‘mild hybrid’, with the electric motor helping out. You can see this, and not feel it, only by spotting the rev-counter needle dipping down to zero revs every so often at cruising and higher speeds. The official combined consumption figure on 19- and 20-inch wheels is 48.7 mpg and emissions an impressively-modest 150/152 g/km. This A8 is shod with 18-inch wheels; the figures improve slightly.
Apart from a typically-pleasant gentle growl as the car moves off in the lower gears, very soon silence descends. Almost. You can hear the tyres on the road surface. Just. Acoustic double glazing (£675) helps.
Gear-changes in the eight-speed auto box are aurally and sensually indiscernible.
If you select Dynamic in Audi’s Drive Select system, then you do get what you want, more noise (well, a bit) and gear-change feel. Just.
You also get tauter handling and more wow-factor that a big car like this can handle twists and bends so sportingly: hardly any lean-over and no pitching on hard braking. The car can also ‘see’ irregularities in the road ahead and the Active Suspension will adjust to minimise any jolting. If a side-impact crash situation is detected, the A8 will automatically lift up the endangered side a little to help absorb any impact.
The A8 is stacked with personalisation capability. This may well be what owners want. It could also be that owners have chauffeurs. It’s these people who need to go on an intensive course of owner’s manual study. Simple things such as opening the door to get out can become something of a test; for a start, the (nicely-sculpted) door handles open, counter-intuitively, by grasping them from underneath as opposed to from the top. And, the automatic door-lock system can stop you from opening them at all. You get a warning on the instrument display, but you should not have to go into the system to restore simple normality. The lane-crossing warning system pre-sets to on — it should be the other way round.
The touch-pad lights-on/off will be new to some and heralds the way that technology can completely change what we have become used to. A nice touch, however, is that the doors will pull themselves properly and quietly closed should you not manage that yourself. The car is very impressive to see from the outside...plenty of presence. The interior is no less so.
The seats ooze quality, apart from being extremely comfortable and equipped with a wonderful back-massaging feature (but £1600!): switch it in and a series of rollers and squeezers work their magic from the bottom of your spine up between your shoulder blades over and over again. It’s what you might pay a lot of money for at your weekend luxury spa (I imagine!). Passengers in the rear will also find their ride very comfortable and cosseted and the boot is as capacious as you’d expect, with a space-saver wheel under the floor.
During the dark hours, the A8’s interior ambient lighting provides a very smart touch, with fine lines of light extending along the door panelling.
All in all, you can be forgiven for thinking that, despite minor niggles, that massive financial outlay is actually worth it. Anyway, is there such a thing as the perfect car?
P.S. You will, of course, compare notes with the big BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S Class...not forgetting Jaguar, Lexus and Tesla.
Car reviewed: Audi A8 50 TDI Quattro - Price on the road £69415 with options tested £TBC 0-62mph 5.9 secs Top speed 155mph Fuel Economy combined 50.4mpg CO2 emissions 145g/km Engine 2967cc 6-cylinder diesel EU6 Max Power 286PS@3750rpm Torque 600Nm@1250rpm Transmission 8-speed automatic with manual mode
The classiest of luxury saloons
A sporty Quattro drive
Fantastic on-board technology
The options list can get pricey
What the others say on YouTube...
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