by James Allen
It may be due for replacement soon, but the Audi A8's still accomplished enough to be one of the better luxury sedans on the market.
If you're not looking at buying a luxury sedan for a year or so, then we'd suggest you completely ignore the current generation of Audi A8. Save your $80,000+ for the time being, and let it sit inside a bank account for a while before you properly commit to a purchase. Don't get us wrong, we don't think we're advising you that we because we're disappointed with the vehicle. Far from it, in fact. But it's worth pointing out that the current Audi A8 is getting on a bit now and is imminently due for replacement with a presumably even better version – so, if you can hold out for another twelve months or so and you have your heart set on an Audi A8, we reckon you should remain patient for a little bit longer. Should that doesn't apply to you at all, though, then by all means heavily consider the Audi A8 as your next car purchase. Yes, it's getting on a bit and some of chinks in the armour are starting to show, but the Audi A8 nevertheless remains a very accomplished luxury vehicle that can fight face-to-face with the better cars in this segment.
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The Audi A8 still has, after all these years, one of the better interiors in this segment.
As probably expected, considering it's been on sale since 2009, the Audi A8 doesn't quite lead the field when it comes to interior design. Pretty much every single current-generation competitor to the Audi A8 is a noticeably newer entry to the market, so it's understandable that the sedan's fresher-faced rivals are eking out a lead. What is perhaps unexpected, though, is the fact the Audi A8 still has, after all these years, one of the better interiors in this segment. For sure, the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series have objectively superior cabins, but we're still impressed nevertheless by what the Audi A8 brings to the table. For instance, fit-and-finish is about as exemplary as you'd expect from an Audi. All the trim pieces feel extremely well secured, and the use of high quality plastics, leathers and metal trim pieces lends an even more premium aura to the Audi A8's interior. Yes, the overall design may betray the car's age, but you wouldn't guess it from the way it's been constructed. Likewise, space is also pretty good overall. As a result of being offered from the 2016 model year onwards in the formerly-optional long wheelbase form, the Audi A8 boasts incredible amounts of head and leg room all around, with the only compromised seat in the car being the narrow one in the middle of the rear bench (admittedly a shame, considering you need to fork out $2,500 for the Rear Seat Comfort package just to have access to a five-seat Audi A8).
Pretty much every vehicle in this class doesn't feature folding rear seats.
Sadly, the Audi A8 does lose a few more brownie points in the other areas regarding practicality – with our bigger criticisms regarding the trunk space. Though the fixed rear seat backs that prevent you from extending the load bay are understandable (pretty much every vehicle in this class doesn't feature folding rear seats), the 14.2 cubic feet of cargo space is surprisingly limited, considering there's a growing trend for luxury sedans to feature trunks with capacities in the 18 cubic feet region. It is worth pointing out, though, that the trunk opening is broad and wide, and the shape of the cargo cavity is usefully boxy, with no noteworthy protrusions that compromise the space. Perhaps the big irritant about the Audi A8's interior, though, is the control layout. The center console's button layout is particularly complicated in comparison with the more simplified control schemes available in rival cars, and it's also worth pointing out that the MMI infotainment system displayed through the eight-inch screen on top of the dashboard is becoming rather dated. Still, the system works well enough, and is surprisingly good resolution-wise for such a relatively antiquated system.
Despite the car's age and the gains made by its competitors, though, the Audi A8 remains one of the better offerings in this class.
Many newer iterations of luxury sedans have taken adopted quite a comfort-focused approach in comparison with their previous iterations. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series are both vastly more cosseting than they once before, and even the performance-oriented Maserati Quattroporte is a much more agreeable beast to live with on a day-to-day basis. Despite the car's age and the gains made by its competitors, though, the Audi A8 remains one of the better offerings in this class when it comes to providing a serene driving experience. For sure, we'd hold back on calling the Audi A8 the most comfortable car in its class, but what it brings to the table genuinely isn't that far off the class best. Ride comfort, for instance, is impeccable, with nary any lumps and bumps in the road surface affecting the Audi A8's composure. If we're being picky, we would say there's an ever-so-slight firmness to the suspension setup that isn't present in a 7 Series or an S-Class, but that genuinely is a minor little grumble considering how comfortable the Audi A8 is.
Bar a hint of tire roar, very little sound enters the cabin, with the suppression of wind noise being particularly worthy of note in this instance.
We're also extremely impressed by the noise insulation levels: bar a hint of tire roar, very little sound enters the cabin, with the suppression of wind noise being particularly worthy of note in this instance. Factor in the praise we lavished on the ride quality, and we're left with the conclusion that the Audi A8 is a mighty fine piece of kit that's well suited as a long-distance cruiser. This emphasis on comfort hasn't resulted in a soft and squidgy luxo-barge, though. On the contrary, the Audi A8's a remarkable pleasant vehicle to steer, thanks to the good amount of forward visibility, direct steering response and pleasant stability when cornering. Of course, being a vehicle of this bulk, the turning circle isn't great, we would prefer a steering system that gave us a better idea of what the front wheels were doing and it trails behind the likes of the Jaguar XJ with regards to handling dynamism, but the Audi A8 remains a pleasant-to-drive luxury sedan. Our only big beef, in fact, regards the rear visibility, which is rather compromised by the chunky rear pillars and slightly narrow rear window. Standard fit parking sensors and reversing cameras do help, but it's a shame that the blind spot monitoring system that would be most beneficial in this instance is an optional extra on 'regular' Audi A8s.
The gasoline engines are more than good enough to suit the needs of the folk interested in the Audi A8.
One way you can tell the Audi A8 is nearing the end of its life is that the range has slowly decreased in size. On top of the regular short wheelbase version being axed, the Audi A8 no longer has any access to diesel engines – meaning all Audi A8 buyers will, until the next generation is eventually released at the very earliest, only have a limited array of gasoline engines to choose from. That's not to say the engines are bad choices, though. Whilst we would normally have recommended the torquey, economic diesel, the gasoline engines are more than good enough to suit the needs of the folk interested in the Audi A8. Even the base 3.0-liter six-cylinder unit, with its 333-hp and 325 lb-ft outputs, are enough to get the car up to speed in a decent manner. Better still, the engine's very smooth, and suits the more relaxed traits of the Audi A8's driving characteristics very well. Plus, with the demise of the diesel, it's now the de facto choice for buyers looking to save money at the pumps – even though, with the claimed economy of 19mpg in the city and 29mpg on the highway, it's rather lacking in comparison with the more frugal versions of the BMW 7 Series, and only just ahead of what the most efficient Jaguar XJ can manage.
There is, though, one big drawback: specifying the larger, more powerful engine will set you back a whopping $9,000.
Even more surprisingly, the 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged eight-cylinder gasoline engine is only marginally less efficient, with identical highway fuel economy and city-based frugality of 18mpg. Which, when you consider the engine's undoubted superiority in the output sweepstakes (450-hp and 433 lb-ft are enough to endow any car with incredible pace) and the fact it's as wonderfully refined as the smaller unit. There is, though, one big drawback: specifying the larger, more powerful engine will set you back a whopping $9,000. However, that's nothing compared to the $33,400 premium the 605-hp, 517 lb-ft version of the same engine that's fitted to the sporty 'S8 Plus' model has. For sure, we certainly see the appeal in such an engine (and especially when you consider it's pretty much as fuel efficient as the regular 4.0-liter unit), but even us performance vehicle obsessives struggle to find a compelling case to recommend this option other than "if you can afford this option, you might as well consider it".
The Audi A8 does have quite a bit of equipment as standard.
Despite being an older car, the Audi A8 does have quite a bit of equipment as standard. Though there are admittedly some areas that showcase how long the car's been on sale for (with four-zone climate control becoming more and more popular, the dual-zone system in the Audi A8's starting to look a little bit old-fashioned now), but the high-grade leather interior, Bose audio system, built-in navigation, all-round parking sensors and power adjustment for the heated front seats are all pleasant niceties to have. Being an Audi, though, the A8 has a considerable amount of optional extras on offer that can bump the car's price up substantially. Go overboard on even the base car, for instance, and you're looking at a vehicle that can get scarily close to $100,000. That said, we do reckon some are worth going with – the Executive Package, for example, introduces blind spot monitoring, 'birds eye view' camera system to aid parking manoeuvres ventilation for the front seats and heating for the rear seats to the spec sheet, and is far more reasonable to recommend considering Audi's credit package for this item reduces the cost from $6,900 to $1,500.
A four-years/50,000-miles warranty to fall back on if anything does go wrong.
The Driver Assistance Package is also a tempting extra, considering it includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and emergency autonomous braking. Admittedly, its $2,250 price tag doesn't make this pack quite the bargain the discounted Executive Package is, but we do reckon it's worth considering – plus, with those two items included, they're about all the equipment you'll likely ever need on an Audi A8. Residual values, however, aren't particularly strong (likely a result of the car being set for replacement sometime soon), with the likes of the Lexus LS and BMW 7 Series each retaining more of their value come resale time. That said, reliability should be fairly good, and there is at least a four-years/50,000-miles warranty to fall back on if anything does go wrong.
The most popular competitors of 2017 Audi A8: