If you would think luxury sedans are somewhat less breathtaking nowadays, then just slide behind the wheel of this latest A8. Its style, panache, technical refinement and uncanny agility will astound you. The Audi engineers have build here a car which strikes an ideal balance between comfort, driving pleasure and stylishness. It embodies all the magic of driving and enjoying a motor car, where everything is engineered to perfection. It handles, performs, drives just as you expect from a superb automobile. It wears its four ringed badges proudly, and this is well earned…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The latest edition of Audi’s flagship sedan breathes the clean smooth and pure styling language we have seen in recent models, with some angularity thrown in too. Proportions of this “L” version are very well maintained, and the big 20 inch wheels suit it very well, adding elegance as well as a hint of dynamic boldness.
The same refined elegance is found in the interior. The digital instrumentation shows in normal configuration two very readable clocks for revs and speed, with in the center console a shiny black touchscreen for navigation, infotainment, with driving modes and airco/ventilation settings also embodied in the same unit. The central armrest houses the usual USB slots and a wireless charging pad for your phone. Everything is very logical, comfortable and intuitive.
The large, sweeping surfaces and dashboard contours are accentuated by thin, elegant LED lighting strips, with color schemes to suit your mood. The seats were executed in Valcona leather and whirred in your chosen position as soon as you pushed the starting button.
The V6 3.0 TDI is well known to your servant as I own an A5 V6 3.0 TDI cabrio, and its sound and feel made me immediately feel at home. In the A8, this engine develops a very healthy 286 HP between 3750 and 4000 rpm and is coupled to a marvelous 8 speed automatic with tiptronic manual shift mode. The A8 is a full time quattro, with default torque split 40/60, variable between 70/30-15/85.
Torque is of course abundant, with 600 Nm being available over a very wide rev range between 1250 and 3250 rpm. Performance of this 2 ton car is – as you can expect – rather superb, with 0-100 acceleration being absolved in 5,9 seconds, and the top speed is an electronically governed 250 km/h.
The bare figures tell nothing about the absolutely effortless way this performance is achieved, and indeed the abundant and always available massive torque makes the A8 feel agile and nimble in all driving situations. Just for the record, accelerating through the gears from 80 to 120 km/h costs only 4,6 seconds, doing this in fifth gear for instance costs merely 6,1 seconds. Need we say more?
The V6 engine note can please even sporting drivers, and is of course never unduly harsh or stressed.
The engine is quite efficient, and coupled to the velvety and clever gearbox even slow city driving will deliver very reasonable consumptions in the range of 8 liters/100 km, on the open road during a tour through Holland including relativele dense traffic we reached effortlessly an average consumption between 5,6 and 6 liter/100 km. We also appreciated the coasting function when lifting the throttle at speed, and this added further to the very relaxing experience this A8 offers on the Autobahn. For a two ton automobile with this performance and smoothness, Diesel engines are impossible to beat when it comes to achieving low fuel consumptions, there is simply no way around it. This is certainly true under partial load and slow driving conditions. CO2 emissions are a very reasonable 152 g CO2/km. Considering what Bosch has in store for reducing Nox emissions drastically in the next Diesel engine generations, in my opinion, the Diesel engine is far from dead, and will continue to play a role in our mobility.
Combining velvety comfort with impeccable handling
Besides the well-honed drivetrain, perfection is also achieved when it comes to the suspension, translating in superb comfort and precise handling.
Audi continued the tradition of making the A8 a true drivers’ car, and indeed, one can throw it with spirit through fast or slow corners, the electronically controlled damping settings holding just the right value in milliseconds. In the dynamic mode, the A8 steers totally flat through corners, with the steering offering every bit of responsiveness you could whish for. Our test car also came with the dynamic four wheel steering. It has to be experienced to be believed. It is controlled by the electronic suspension platform (ESP). The new steering system approaches the steer angle and directional stability as separate issues, once again probing the boundaries of the physically possible.
At low speeds and on tight bends, steering effort is greatly reduced. But this is never allowed to unsettle it. The A8 is even unruffled by an abrupt lane change at high speed. The driver always feels intensive, finely differentiated feedback from the road.
The optional dynamic all-wheel steering combines two distinct high-tech steering systems. The dynamic steering on the front axle incorporates what is known as strain wave gearing where the ratio changes as a function of speed. The rear wheels are turned by a spindle drive and two track rods – at low speeds by up to five degrees against the direction of steering, to facilitate maneuvering and reduce the turning circle by about one meter to 11.4 meters (37.4 ft) on the A8 or 11.8 meters (38.7 ft) on the A8 L.
At medium and high speeds, the wheels are turned by up to two degrees in the direction of steering, for increased stability. Dynamic all-wheel steering matches the steering ratio optimally to the driving situation, adjusting the ratio across a range of 9.5 to 17. At the limits of driving dynamics or on surfaces that are slippery under one side of the car, dynamic all-wheel steering again stabilizes the new A8 by manipulating the steering at the front and rear axles. Wow!
We were impressed by the amount of comfort the “comfort” mode offers you, when driving at slow speeds through ancient urban cobblestoned streets and squares.
Of course, the seats are up to the task, offering excellent support and are of course electronically adjustable to suit your taste in seating comfort.
With the L version, rear leg room is of course massive, with boot space still being a quite creditable 505 liters.
Driving in this A8 is of course also a quite formidable sound experience. Our test car came with the optional Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System, and God knows we enjoyed listening to Chet Baker for instance, “in a soulful mood”, or “Secular Hymns” from Madeleine Peyroux… or “Islands” – the Essential Einaudi, suiting the refined character of this Audi at best. The DAB radio will also spoil you with formidable clarity.
Maneuvering the A8 in town is made a breeze with the comprehensive driving aid systems. Camera’s fore and aft will guide you, and as our test car came with the Audi side assist package, it will also warn you when you steer the car with its beautiful alloy wheels close to kerbs. Of course there is a 360° surround view of the car on the central screen when you park it…You even can see your car in 3D from any angle on the screen. With the optional park assist systems, you can not only let the Audi park itself, it does this even remote, via your smartphone!
Every gramme of this big sedan is well styled, honed, clevery engineered, beautifully finished and built with a sense for perfection and true craftmanship. Yet it never feels ponderous, imposing, it just breathes refined elegance. That’s what many people like about the Audi products, and this A8 strikes a very fine balance, and translates this design and engineering philosophy to the highest levels for those who want comfortable, yet refined and dynamic transport. And what’s more, the chassis and platform takes many future driving technologies, of which soon more in these columns…
Hans Knol ten Bensel