by Jarryd Neves
The saying, "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride," is quite relevant to the Audi A8; since its debut in 1994, the A8 has played second fiddle to its rivals. Lacking the gravitas of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the athleticism of the BMW 7 Series, the A8 was never quite able to capture the style of the now-defunct Jaguar XJ, either. However, Ingolstadt's posh sedan has a trick up its sleeve. Those who prefer to fly under the radar will be drawn to the elegant and understated styling, which whispers good taste rather than shouting it. In that vein, the quiet cabin of this cruiser doesn't give away the power of the 3.0-liter V6 that can propel the Audi from 0-60 in 5.6 seconds, courtesy of the 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. This prompt performance is partly down to the smooth eight-speed automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive, which we'll discuss in greater detail below. With a wonderfully compliant ride and exquisitely crafted interior, is the Audi A8 worth the $86,500 base price it demands?
The new Audi A8 has been blessed with several prominent revisions for the 2022 model year. The luxury sedan benefits from fresh exterior styling afforded by updated head- and taillights and a new grille. While subtle, the bumpers have also been tweaked for a more aggressive look, aided by the now-standard S line package. There are additional upholstery options, too.
The biggest change, however, is the streamlined range. Now only available in 55 TFSI guise, those seeking plug-in hybrid propulsion will be disappointed. The remaining turbocharged V6 provides perfectly adequate performance. For V8 power, the S8 is still available, but we review it separately.
See trim levels and configurations:
|L 55 TFSI quattro||
3.0L Turbo V6 Gas
You could never describe the Audi A8 as uncomfortable, but perfection is paramount when we're talking about this level of luxury. For the most part, the standard adaptive air suspension does a fine job of dismissing potholes and road irregularities. But, now and again, it gets caught out by sharp ridges. At times, this seems to overwhelm the air suspension and can result in a brief but unsettled wallow. This trait is less noticeable on the highway, where the A8 settles down nicely and seemingly crushes uneven road surfaces with its sheer weight. If comfort is your top priority, we'd recommend avoiding the costlier (but better-looking) 20- and 21-inch wheels. As part of the $5,400 Luxury package, Audi will fit the A8 with rear-wheel steering which reduces the turning circle and makes tricky parking maneuvers just a bit easier.
Honestly, we're nit-picking - but that's exactly what buyers in this segment would do. The A8 gains points in the handling stakes, picking up where the Jaguar XJ left off. Through a set of corners, it exhibits impressive amounts of body control and grip, almost encouraging you to push it harder. There's a pleasant fluidity to the handling, allowing keen drivers to press on under the right circumstances. The steering is surprisingly direct (if a bit numb) and allows you to place the A8 exactly where you want. It's easily one of the most satisfying luxury sedans to drive this side of a Bentley Flying Spur.
Special mention must be given to the brakes. Audi has always excelled in this area and the A8 is no different. Measuring 14.8 and 13.8 in the front and rear, respectively, the ventilated discs are capable of bringing the large German to a stop without a fuss.
NHTSA safety ratings are not available at this time.
Of course, the Audi A8 is a good car -in fact, we'd describe it as brilliant. However, it competes in a category that is littered with equally incredible cars, such as the cheaper Lexus LS 500 and the technological tour de force that is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Both provide a better ride quality than the Audi and also sport more powerful V6 engines. What's more, the Lexus is even cheaper than the Audi.
The A8 does have a few strong points. In terms of perceived build quality, it's on par with the Lexus and feels more solid than the Merc. It's also the most spirited to drive of these options and is generously equipped to boot. The refreshed styling has given it more appeal, but the discontinuation of the V8 and plug-in hybrid is a curious oversight and won't go down well with some customers.
Make no mistake, the Audi A8 is still a superb motorcar, but we wouldn't recommend you go ahead and buy it before trying out the competition. If you're looking for the best (regardless of cost) the S-Class is the one to go for. If your budget can't stretch that far, the Lexus LS is also worth your consideration. But if you're looking for a quietly styled luxury sedan with engaging dynamics, the A8 might fit the bill nicely.
|Audi A8||335 hp||19/28 mpg||$87,800|
|Mercedes-Benz S-Class Sedan||429 hp||21/30 mpg||$111,100|
|Lexus LS||416 hp||18/29 mpg||$76,100|
There's a very good reason the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the world's best-selling luxury car. It has served as the automotive industry's crystal ball for years, with every generation introducing innovative technology and class-leading safety features. The latest model is no different and is a worthy contender for the title of the best car in the world.
The A8's closest rival is the S500. Like the Audi, it's powered by a 3.0-liter V6 and also utilizes an all-wheel-drive setup. However, the Merc bests its rival with a more powerful power plant that not only makes it faster, but lighter on gas, too. What's more, the Mercedes has a better ride and is notably more refined. You pay for this, though - at $111,800, it's $25,000 pricier than its rival from Ingolstadt.
If you can afford it, the S500 is the better purchase. But there's one key area we haven't addressed yet. Although they probably won't admit it, image is very important to customers in this segment. There's nothing wrong with the Merc. It radiates power and prestige like few other cars, which is great - unless that's what you're hoping to avoid. Some monied individuals who shy away from flaunting their wealth still want a luxurious car that will satisfy their needs. This is where the Audi A8 comes in. It's not quite as good as the Mercedes, but it comes very close. In fact, it beats the S-Class in several areas, including driver engagement, value for money, and interior build quality. If you want the best, go for the Mercedes. But if you want to fly under the radar, the Audi is in a class of its own.
Like the Audi A8, The Lexus LS 500 also takes a back seat to the ubiquitous 7 Series and S-Class. But don't let that fool you into thinking it's a second-rate contender. It may not have the prestigious image of the Bimmer or Merc, but the Lexus is a superb luxury car.
Priced from around $80,000 (for the AWD model), the LS 500 is not only cheaper than the Audi but more comfortable as well. Older LS models may have suffered from an alarmingly harsh ride, but the Japanese brand has ensured the latest model glides down the road. In fact, we'd say the LS wipes the floor with the A8 and the outgoing 7 Series.
The Lexus also gives the Audi a run for its money when it comes to perceived build quality. The cabin is astonishing; it feels just as well built as the A8 but is streaks ahead in terms of interior design. Instead of copying what the Europeans are doing, Lexus approached luxury from a Japanese perspective. The Kiriko glass trim is exquisite and works well with the other unique design flourishes you'll find in the cabin of the LS. It's easily one of the most sensible purchases in the segment. If you want something different, it's a great buy - just make sure you can stomach the polarizing exterior styling - and the fairly uninspiring driving dynamics.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Audi A8: