by Adam Lynton
The Audi A8, now in its sixth year of production, keeps up the fight against the gaudy standards set by other automakers in the full-sized luxury sedan market, by offering an ultra-luxurious driving experience that is wrapped up in a conservative package that doesn't scream money in an insecure way. The A8 gets the basics right, but it shows its age in the tech and features department where items such as Audi's virtual cockpit control and Apple CarPlay are not yet available. This could be considered a major setback for the A8, a vehicle that competes in a class where carmakers test their most advanced tech features for a demanding audience with money to spend. Still, the two engine choices for the A8 both produce enough power to get the barge-like A8 moving with the finesse of a much smaller car. Despite the lack of tech features, the A8 still excels in terms of driving pleasure, responsive steering and standard-all-wheel drive handling that is among the best in this class. It remains one of the most accomplished personal limousines on U.S. roads in 2018.
The Audi A8 is set to receive a much-needed, major redesign for 2019. But until that time comes, Audi has bolstered the A8 with a fresh new Executive package as well as an optional Black Optics appearance package. The optional Executive package adds a slew of convenience and luxury features that turns the A8 into something resembling a private jet; larger wheels and added driver assistance systems help keep the generously sized A8 on the road better. Inside, the front passengers get treated to ventilated massage-enabled seats, a sizable sunroof and a redesigned steering wheel with paddle shifters. For those who like a bit more individuality, the Black Optics appearance package will get you even bigger wheels and black exterior trim, as well as distinctive interior aesthetic touches.
Full-size luxury sedans tend to refrain from looking too garish or presenting as in-your-face-opulent, and the A8 exemplifies that ethos with understated excellence. The 2018 A8 is a handsome car, but after six years on the showroom floor, it is starting to show its age. The only way you'd recognize the fact that this is a serious Audi is by the rings and LED headlights at the front, the A8 badge on the rear, and the sheer size of it: long and low, the A8 has the weighted look of a big sedan. The Executive package's larger 20-inch wheels give the A8 some much-needed street cred, but other than that and a few small styling touches included in the Black Optics appearance package, the A8 flies well under the radar as far as the exterior styling goes.
The sheer size of the 2018 A8 is put into a clear perspective when you look at its dimensions. It measures 207.4 inches in length, is 57.9 inches high, and 76.7 inches wide. This is larger than both the BMW 7 Series as well as the Cadillac CT6. Only taking a step back to the length of the BMW 7 Series' longer wheelbase (126.4 inches as opposed to the 122.9 inches on the Audi), the A8 otherwise dominates in terms of size. These generous dimensions, along with an all-wheel-drive system, plush interior, and big engines place the Audi A8 in the heavyweight division. Weighing in at 4,464 lbs, the A8 weighs over 250 lbs more than the 2018 BMW 7 Series and substantially more than the Cadillac.
Audi has kept the exterior colors for the 2018 A8 subdued yet tasteful, and the color palette complements the A8's clean lines and businesslike demeanor. New owners will be able to choose from seven distinctive Metallic colors: Brilliant Black, Mythos Black, Monsoon Gray, Moonlight Blue, Ibis White, Florett Silver, and Glacier White. Darker colors suit the A8 better, in our opinion and Monsoon Gray does the most to complement the chrome grille and body inserts, transforming this big Audi into an Autobahn-bullet.
Despite its massive curb weight, the 2018 Audi A8 surprises with capable performance and handling. The supercharged V6 engine and turbocharged V8 both pack a hefty punch in terms of performance, helping the A8 to accelerate from 0-60 mph in the low five-second region (dropping to 4.4 seconds in the V8); all this is engineered in such a way that linear power delivery will suit both city driving and open road cruising alike. Getting all that power to the ground is taken care of by Audi's legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system which sends 60% of the power to the rear in standard-setting, but can move up to 60% of the power to the front wheels if need be. The A8 manages to hide its size and weight well and bestows the driver with a sense of unwavering sure-footedness and confidence.
The 2018 Audi A8 is powered by a choice of two engines, the first being a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that develops 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, and the second being a 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 that pushes out 450 hp and 444 lb-ft - an impressive output for a sedan. The smaller V6 engine does a superb job of motivating the A8 into action and offers ample torque and top-end power to navigate all of your daily driving requirements. For those who like their limousine-like sedans to accelerate faster than most sports cars, the turbocharged V8 is a must. The A8 in V8 guise is a sleeper car in every sense of the term and will surprize unsuspecting Porsche 911 drivers at the traffic lights. There is only one transmission option available for the 2018 Audi A8, that being a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic. This transmission matches the A8's laid back demeanor and is brilliant at keeping the Audi in its mid to low range powerband; just don't expect lightning-fast dual-clutch-like gear changes. The quattro system in the A8 splits power 40/60 front to back but can send up to 60% of the power to the front if need be.
Audi has a knack for making larger and heavier cars handle like small ones. This is evident in the A5 coupe and their range of Q-vehicles. The A8 can't shake the fact that it's a very large car, but Audi has managed to work some kind of magic because the A8 drives like many of its much smaller, more nimble counterparts. Even when driving at a hurried pace, the A8 feels composed and responsive to steering inputs, thanks to its quattro system and well-sorted suspension setup.
The big Audi will take a few sharp corners at speed without breaking a sweat, but you'll always be made aware of the extra weight you're carrying around with some body shift. The A8 is happiest when cruising along at motorway speeds, or rolling through city traffic. Ride comfort is superb, although steering feel and feedback are sacrificed to an extent. Audi's drive select system allows the driver to alter the A8's engine response, steering feel and suspension stiffness; the pre-programmed comfort, auto, and dynamic modes give you a set of driving experiences ranging from sedate to beastly, and the self customizable individual mode gives you the tools to configure your own driving experience.
Getting the A8 to a halt is a drama-free experience as well, and the sixty-to-zero stopping distance is noted at 114 feet, which is quite standard for this segment.
The full-size luxury sedan class is not known for its fuel efficiency, but with the ever-increasing levels of technology found in these top-of-the-line cars, gas mileage numbers are steadily improving. The least powerful powertrain in the line-up will return a city/highway/combined figure of 19/29/22 mpg, and the turbocharged V8 will see those numbers drop slightly to 16/26/20 mpg. The BMW 7 Series in six-cylinder guise earns estimates of 21/29/24 mpg, and the all-wheel-drive turbo V8 will do 16/25/19 mpg. The A8's 21.7-gallon gas tank feeds on premium unleaded and should see the A8 reach the 477-mile mark before needing to refuel on the V6-engined model.
The interior of the A8 is arguably the most important aspect of the car. Audi has gone to great lengths to ensure that the interior of the A8 is as comfortable and luxurious as possible, and you can clearly see that by the generous use of leather, aluminum and real wood throughout, with attention to detail given in even the smallest areas. The A8 provides good visibility no matter where in the car you're seated due to large windows, and with the sunroof open, you can even have a bit of an open-air experience. The level of build quality is class-leading, but in terms of styling, the A8's competitors provide a more contemporary design while the A8 clings to that old-world, familiar, monied look and feel. You'll appreciate the quietness of the A8 though; sounds outside of the car are near imperceptible, and road noise is also very low.
The A8 will seat five people in resounding comfort, as is to be expected from a car in the full-size luxury sedan class. Front passengers are cradled via 18-way adjustable plush leather seats that strike a good balance between comfort and support. The V8 model gets ventilated and massage-enabled front seats that come with even more adjustability (22 ways in total). Front passengers can stretch their legs as far as they would like, thanks to 41.4 inches of legroom, while the headroom is a bit more limiting at 37.2 inches. Rear passengers get excellent space with 42.9 inches in legroom available, and 39.1 inches of headroom for even six-foot occupants to feel at home. The Cadillac CT6 trumps the A8 in front legroom and headroom space (46.4 inches and 40.2 inches respectively), but the Audi is more spacious in all other measurements. The 2018 Audi A8 doesn't lead the pack in terms of interior space, but as an outgoing model in a sea of new arrivals, it puts in a commendable effort.
Step inside the A8 and you'll find yourself surrounded by leather, real wood, aluminum, and Alcantara. Every single touchpoint has been covered in some sort of rare-earth element or soft-touch plastic, and it feels absolutely premium. The headliner is a full cloth affair and the shifter gets a blend of aluminum and leather coverage. The front console features real wood inserts and the door panels get a quality feeling suedecloth insert. New owners will be able to choose from four shades of leather, starting with Titanium Gray, followed by Velvet Beige, Nougat Brown, and a classy, standard Black. The Black Optic appearance package adds Piano Black inserts throughout the interior, and the V8 model gets cross-stitched seats.
Trunk space on the 2018 A8 is rather small for its class, measuring only 14.2 cubic feet. The 2018 BMW 7 Series has a gigantic 18.2 cubic feet in comparison. The Audi's trunk is still sizeable and, thanks to a square opening, loading stuff in and out of the trunk is made so much easier. For scale, you'd be able to pack a golf bag and enough luggage for a long weekend away. That's really no more than an A6 would accommodate, but this segment is more about interior luxury than family-accommodating practicality.
Interior cargo space is relatively good; front and rear passengers all get some personal storage space and cupholders, although not in abundance. The center console and glove compartment are spacious.
Right before a full redesign, cars tend to get a whole lot of optional extras as standard, and that's pretty much the case with the 2018 A8. The 3.0 V6 model is equipped with a long list of tech features, including a wi-fi hotspot hosting and hard drive media storage. A head-up display is standard on the V8 but is optional on the base model. On the top of the line V8, you get full navigation, a hands-free liftgate, and keyless entry and start. The 2018 Audi A8 does, however, miss out on a bevy of self-driving and infotainment tech that can be found in newer models from Genesis, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW. Optional features worth mentioning include night-vision camera tech and even a sport-tuned rear differential. Other standard niceties include power rear sunshades, power-adjustable steering, and optional adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and automatic high-beam assist.
Audi's MMI infotainment interface is one of the best in its class and is responsive and intuitive when scrolling through menus and making inputs. The MMI interface uses a centrally mounted rotating knob that controls menu selection; touchpads that sit beside the central knob can be used to select touch commands and it attempts, sometimes unsuccessfully, to read handwriting and hand-drawn numbers. If the MMI system fails to select your favorite Sinatra song, you can try to get it playing via voice command or by pressing on the steering wheel-mounted controls. The A8 suffers from a lack of USB ports, and unlike its newer siblings, it doesn't come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
The D4 Audi A8 has been affected by just a few recalls. The first was issued in 2013 and was issued due to a glass panel in the sunroof that was liable to shatter on impact with a foreign object, putting the safety of the occupants at risk. The second recall was issued for 2013-2015 models for an issue with a high-pressure fuel line that could become porous over time and create a fuel leak. The 2018 model has not had any recalls. Audi covers the A8 with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, four-year/50,000 mile powertrain warranty, as well as a four-year/unlimited mileage roadside assistance plan.
The 2018 Audi A8 hasn't been tested by the IIHS or NHTSA; not even the European NCAP rating is available. Still, if Audi's history of safety - together with the comprehensive list of features across the range - is anything to go by, the A8 should fare well in terms of overall safety scores.
Taking a closer look at the construction of the A8, it is noteworthy that Audi has made use of an aluminum space frame that gives the A8's body inherent strength and rigidity. Add to that a full range of seven airbags including a driver knee airbag and active safety features, and you would technically have a very safe car. We can't officially say that of course, as official scores aren't available. However, the comprehensive list of standard safety features on the base model includes the likes of a backup camera, tire pressure monitoring and stability control. Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system seems like a dynamic feature, but it also helps keep the A8 stable in slippery and unpredictable situations. The more expensive V8 model is equipped with adaptive cruise control, rear and side-traffic alert, pre-collision technology, and lane departure warning.
The 2018 Audi A8 is an accomplished luxury sedan, despite its age disadvantage. It still manages to look good at over six years old, but opinions will be split on its conservative outward appearance that doesn't always match up to the contemporary look of more modern rivals. Inside, the A8 offers class-competitive space and class-leading levels of comfort. In typical Audi fashion, no expense has been spared in the fit and finish of the interior. Plush leather, aluminum, and wood are generously used throughout the A8's cabin, creating a sense of exclusivity and serenity - an ideal space for long trips or braving harsh traffic conditions. The infotainment system is outdated, to be fair, but it is user-friendly and responsive. The sound system, even at a base level, sounds great too. When it comes to driving comfort, the A8 feels like it drives on clouds; even though it can handle a few bends, it's more at home on the highway or cruising in the city where it can cushion occupants from noisy traffic. The A8 is powered by two excellent engine options that return fuel consumption numbers comparable to the rest of the class. It might be aging in certain areas, but for pure comfort and driving pleasure, the A8 is hard to beat.
The 2018 Audi A8 has an MSRP of $82,500 for the 3.0-liter V6, while the V8 model is priced at $92,000. The comparable 2018 Cadillac CT6 Sedan in higher-end, all-wheel-drive V6 guise goes for $84,295, and the turbocharged V8 BMW 750i retails for $99,400, making the A8 look even more attractive. These prices exclude licensing, registration and a $975 destination charge. Dealerships set prices, so if you hunt around, you might score a good deal, especially now that the current model is due for replacement soon.
The 2018 Audi A8 is available in two models, 3.0 V6 and 4.0 V8, with accompanying optional packages further distinguishing the lineup.
The base model, if you can consider any Audi A8 as a base model, is the 3.0-liter supercharged V6 A8. In base form, the A8 comes equipped with an impressive list of standard equipment. On the outside, the 3.0 V6 rides on 19-inch wheels and adaptive air suspension. The large chrome grille and LED headlights give it an unmistakable A8 look. You'll also get a rearview camera and parking assistance, a power liftgate, as well as keyless entry and start/stop technology. Inside, everything is covered in leather. Front seats are ventilated and power-adjustable. The old-generation MMI infotainment system does duty in the A8, but includes navigation, 4G wi-fi, Bluetooth and a power port for smartphones; sadly, it fails to provide a single USB port.
The 4.0-liter turbocharged V8 distinguishes itself from the V6 model on the outside with bigger 20-inch alloy wheels and a panoramic sunroof. Inside, the V8 gets Alcantara-style door card inserts and ventilated and massage-capable front seats. Everything the driver needs to touch is heated, and a head-up display, as well as a top-view parking camera, gives you access to side- and front-camera views.
Over and above the extensive feature list found on the 4.0-liter A8, new owners can select from four optional packages that add even more comfort, style, safety and practicality to the A8's impressive resume. The Black Optic package can be chosen in either a 20-inch or 21-inch option. Although this is in reference to the size of the wheels, it dictates the contents of the package too: the 20-inch package costs $1,000 and adds 20-inch alloy wheels with a titanium finish. The 21-inch package costs $1,950 and adds 275/35R21 summer tires. Both include exterior appearance enhancements such as black side mirrors and other small touches.
For the 3.0-liter V6 model, an Executive package can be added. It throws in the V8's larger wheels, sunroof, heated interior touchpoints, top-view parking assistance, and a head-up driver display. The package also makes the V6 a safer car due to the inclusion of Audi's Pre Sense Plus system that offers front, side, and rear pre-collision safety tech by means of lane change assistance and auto high beam functionality.
The Executive plus package, only available on the V8 model, includes power adjustable seats for backseat passengers, as well as ventilation and massage-capability, perfect for the CEO on the go.
In this price bracket, potential buyers can be less sensitive to fluctuations in prices. Despite that, the A8's near $10,000 price gap between the base model and top of the line V8 is still a bitter pill to swallow. The V6 does a fine job of being a low-key luxury transporter, and for those sitting in the back seat, the difference between the two trims will be almost imperceptible - except, of course, if you are benefitting from the massage-enabled seats of the Executive Plus package. Still, for that extra $10k, you do get a lot more. Firstly, the turbocharged V8 puts the A8 in a completely different performance bracket and will keep you smiling without breaking the bank at the gas station (at least not that much more than the V6). The interior also sees some major upgrades in the form of a head-up display, an upgraded sound system and seats that can massage the stresses of corporate life right out of your lower back. All in all, the V8 offers the best bang for your buck.
The 2018 BMW 7 Series has two models, namely the 740i xDrive and 750i xDrive, that are comparable to the 2018 A8 due to an all-wheel-drive drivetrain and similar powerplant configuration. The 740i xDrive has an MSRP of $86,100, which is $3,600 more than the base A8; the 750i xDrive will cost you $7,400 more than the V8 Audi. The BMW boasts a fresher design which is evident in its sporty and modern exterior styling, but also in terms of the cabin, where safety and infotainment tech is far superior to that of the Audi. The BMW has considerably more cargo space, but both cars offer equally spacious seating for passengers. Fuel consumption figures are comparable. The BMW offers better road feel and is the better driving car, but the Audi is better at low-speed cruising and has lower noise levels. Although the Audi is a better value-for-money choice, we would wait for the updated version as the redesign may bring the A8 even closer to the top of its class.
The Cadillac CT6 is not a traditional competitor to the A8, but on paper, it starts to make a lot of sense why these two cars should be compared. The CT6 is very close in size to the A8 but weighs a considerable amount less than its German counterpart. The CT6 can also be matched up in terms of powertrains: both the A8 and CT6 drive all four wheels (the CT6 also comes in a rear-wheel-drive variant) and both have a lower-powered V6 engine choice. The Cadillac engine is a naturally aspirated V6 that produces more power, but less torque than Audi's supercharged V6. The Caddy's turbocharged V6 is less powerful than Audi's V8 but has to pull less weight - the result is that gas mileage is better on the turbo six than Audi's V8. The Audi does feel more premium and offers a more comfortable experience, but if the price is the deciding factor, the Cadillac deserves a second look, with more than $4,000 separating the two in their most premium guises.