The Audi A8 delivers the stretch-out-space, high-tech gadgetry and pampering extras one would expect of a full-size luxury sedan, but it drives much smaller than its generous dimensions would suggest. These virtues, along with standard quattro all-wheel-drive and a wide range of powerful yet efficient motors, make the A8 a highly tempting option for executive sedan shoppers.
With a "singleframe" grille, LED-accented headlights and gracefully arched side windows, the A8 looks much like a supersized version of Audi's other sedan models. Some might wish for a more distinctive look, while other will find the classy, understated sheetmetal to be a good match for the relaxed demeanor of a large luxury limo.
Like the space frame that lies beneath, nearly all of the A8's exterior panels are made of aluminum. This means the big Audi is one of the lighter rides in its competitive set, even with its standard quattro AWD system, which benefits everything from handling to fuel economy.
Audi has long been renowned for its mastery of interior design, and the A8 upholds that reputation with exquisite materials and a stately layout. There's plenty of room for five to sit in perfect comfort, and a plethora of optional luxuries make the cabin experience truly first class: heated, ventilated and massaging front and rear seats, four-zone automatic climate control, a rear seat entertainment system with dual 10-inch screens, and an incredible 19-speaker, 1,200 watt Bang & Olufsen sound system with speakers that rise from the dashboard upon startup in a neat piece of theater.
Navigation and entertainment functions are accessed through Audi's MMI system, which includes a novel touchpad for entering destinations or other info by writing out numbers and letters with a finger. It's one of the more intuitive infotainment setups on the market, although some users find that its location at the base of the center console requires a bit of a reach.
The navigation system includes Audi Connect, which features in-car internet connectivity and industry-first Google Earth integration - complete with panoramic views and high-resolution 3D satellite and aerial imagery.
For those seeking extra space, the A8 L model brings 5.4 inches of additional wheelbase that translate directly to more rear-seat legroom.
Power and Handling
The A8 is available with a choice of two forced induction engines. There's also the 520-horsepower S8 for those in search of rocketship acceleration.
The standard mill is a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 333 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 328 lb-ft of torque at 2,900 rpm. Fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.
More power can be had by stepping up to the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8, which is good for 435 horsepower and 444 lb-ft of torque. Several publications have reported that the V8-equipped A8 is capable of scooting from zero-to-60 mph in under four seconds, which is impressively fleet for such a large machine. Despite the additional output, the V8 nearly matches the V6's fuel economy with a 18/30 mpg rating.
For those who delight in excess, the A8 L can be equipped with a massive 6.3-liter W12 that churns out an even 500 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 463 lb-ft of torque at 4,750 rpm. Unsurprisingly, the trade-off for all of that power is a drinking problem: efficiency is rated at just 14/21 mpg. The A8 L also offers a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. Good for an economy car-like 24/36 mpg, it churns out 240 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of twist.
All four motors pair with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox and Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system.
The A8 is fitted as standard with a full air suspension that contributes to the expected pillowy ride but also provides unusually deft handling. Dynamics can be further tightened up with the optional Sport Plus Package, which brings adaptive dampers, dynamic steering a rear sport differential that sends torque to the outside rear wheel in turns to quell understeer.
An Audi Drive Select System offers drivers the choice of several different suspension, steering, transmission and engine calibrations.
Standard and Optional Features
The A8 comes well-equipped with leather upholstery, heated and power-adjustable front seats, a navigation system with SiriusXM Traffic, a 14-speaker, 630-watt Bose AM/FM/CD/SiriusXM/HD Radio Surround Sound System, Bluetooth connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, a rear parking camera, a sunroof, a power rear sunshade, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED taillights, adaptive xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, and 19-inch alloy wheels.
Several different options packages are available.
The Driver Assistance Package brings adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree bird's-eye camera system, Audi pre-sense plus (full description in safety section), Audi side assist and lane assist, and auto-dimming high beams.
The Sport Plus Package adds adaptive damping, a sports differential and dynamic steering.
The Premium Package includes 22-way power adjustable front seats with ventilation and massage, full LED headlights, Audi side assist and Audi pre sense rear.
The Luxury Package indulges with Valcona diamond-stitched leather seating surfaces, extended leather upholstery, sport front seats, Alcantara headliner and dual-panel acoustic glass.
The Cold Weather Package includes a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and a rear seat pass-through with ski bag. The Warm Weather Package adds power rear sunshades and four-zone automatic climate control.
Stand-alone options include Night Vision Assistant with Pedestrian Detection and Animal Detection, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, a head-up display and a rear entertainment system.
All A8 models come standard with dual front, front knee, front side, rear side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
Optional safety features include active lane assist, which warns the driver when the A8 is wandering into an adjacent lane and can even gently steer the car back into the original lane. There's also Audi pre sense, which can detect obstacles in front of the A8 and apply the brakes to prevent a crash or mitigate its severity. Finally, Audi side assist alerts the driver when a vehicle is in one of the A8 rear blind spots.
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 and out to go with a well sorted chassis, and the Lexus LS appeals to those form whom value and luxury (not handling) are of primary concern. Finally, low-end models can also be cross-shopped against the Cadillac CT6.