The Audi A8 is a full-size luxury sedan packed full with high-tech gadgetry and luxury features. It boasts lightweight components, the all-weather traction of Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system as standard and can be had in extra-spacious A8 L (long-wheelbase) form.
For the latest model year, the A8 gets a pair of new engines - a supercharged V6 and a twin-turbo V8 - in place of the previously standard naturally-aspirated V8.
Along with its high-performance sibling, the S8, the latest A8 utilizes Audi's new, super-flexible "MLP" architecture. This is the same chassis used for the A4, A5 and the A7. The A8 sees extensive use of aluminum and magnesium in an effort to keep the large sedan's weight down.
Audi says the A8 is the sportiest ride in the segment, aided by a low center of gravity and the lowest roofline of any German full-size four-door. Despite adding two inches to the length, width and wheelbase -- and one additional inch of height -- compared with the previous model, Audi reckons handling has actually improved.
The standard engine on the A8 is a supercharged 3.0-liter V6. The new mill makes less power than the eight-cylinder - 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft. However, it doesn't improve on the fuel economy of the old motor, actually returning the same 18/28 city/highway mpg.
A new stop/start system shuts off the V6 when the car stopped at traffic lights or in stop-and-go traffic, which should help real-world fuel economy.
Those looking for a bit more power can opt for the new 4.0-liter twin-turbo. Essentially a de-tuned version of the S8′s motor, the mill produces 420 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, substantial improvements from the 372 ponies and 328 lb-ft served up by the old V8. Moreover, the mill returns 17/28 mpg - nearly identical to the supercharged six.
Both engines team with an eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission with manual mode. Manual gear selection is available via steering wheel rockers or by using the regular gear selection lever.
All A8s feature the newest version of Quattro, which includes torque vectoring. This system distributes drive individually between each axle and between the rear wheels for improved traction and stability. An optional sport differential distributes power between the rear wheels for optimal performance under hard cornering.
The A8's multimedia interface (MMI) combines a standard navigation system with a touchpad. MMI touch enables the driver to control many functions intuitively such as inputting the navigation destination by writing the letters on the pad with the touch of a finger.
The MMI system can recognize complex scenarios and make anticipatory decisions to assist the driver. The new technologies include a night vision assist with marking of detected pedestrians, the Audi pre-sense safety system, as well as a speed limit display.
Another high-end solution on board the new A8 is full LED headlights, which use light emitting diodes for all light functions. They give the luxury sedan an unmistakable appearance even in daylight and even more so after the fall of darkness.
Combining the high-tech MMI system and LED headlights, Audi's navigation unit predicts the road ahead and adjusts the light pattern accordingly. This function will enable special output in highway settings, and even activate a cornering light for wider-angle illumination when entering an intersection.
Standard and Optional Features
The A8 is the flagship model in Audi's sedan range, a fact reflected in its long list of standard luxury, convenience and technology features. Included in the price of entry is leather upholstery, genuine wood trim, a navigation system with real-time traffic info, a 14-speaker, 630-watt AM/FM/CD/DVD Bose stereo with an aux input and iPod integration, Bluetooth connectivity, a power rear window sunshade, a sunroof and heated front seats.
Highlights from the lengthy options list include full LED headlamps, a 1,400-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, ventilated seats and adaptive cruise control.
On the safety front, the A8 boasts 25 percent increased static torsional rigidity due to new welding technologies, which it claims lead to improved fuel economy and handling characteristics. The A8 also features Audi Braking Guard to warn drivers of potential impacts, as well as automatic emergency braking in the event of an unavoidable accident to minimize impact.
Other safety gear includes dual front, side and front and rear curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist.
There's something for everyone in the full-size luxury sedan class that the A8 plays in. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series are segment stalwarts that have been improved and refined over several decades, the Jaguar XJ presents a cutting-edge look inside out to go with a well sorted chassis and the Lexus LS 460 appeals to those form whom value and luxury (not handling) are of primary concern.