Audi A8 aims for the top of the luxury pile
Audi’s premium car hopes to overtake Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series as the car of choice for well-heeled buyers
There may not have been much activity at the luxury end of the car market over the past five years across Europe, but the rise of new Asian millionaires and billionaires have kept the production lines running.
This year, as Europe’s economies start to pick up, the German premium car giants are catching the wave with a revamped luxury line-up. First up was a facelifted BMW 7 Series, followed by the much-heralded all-new, tech-laden S-Class.
Now it’s Audi’s turn to show its hand, with the launch of its fourth-generation flagship saloon, the Audi A8. The new A8 goes on sale this month for New Year delivery. The full range of A8 models benefit from lower emissions and an increase in engine power over previous generations.
A8 customers will also benefit from a lower starting price (approximately €3,000 less than the outgoing model) and an increase in standard equipment; this includes the addition of full LED headlights and a new trim level. The reduction in CO2 emissions across the range of petrol and diesel engines will also result in lower motor tax.
The look remains the same as the last few models, with a few minor tweaks, such as a new bonnet, single-frame grille, front bumper and new headlights up front. The rear sees newly designed LED taillights and diamond-shaped tailpipes, along with a chrome strip along the rear bumper. Inside, the interior and onboard technology has taken a leap forward in refinement and safety.
Two diesel engines are available to Irish motorists from launch: a 3.0-litre V6 TDI (from €93,280) and a 4.2-litre V8 TDI (from €116,190). The former will undoubtedly constitute the majority of Irish sales across the range. This 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine offers sufficient performance for the vast majority of motorists. With 258hp and 580Nm of torque it delivers an ideal mix of performance with the added benefit of economy, with an average 5.9l/100km (47.9mpg) on a combined run. With CO2 emissions of 155g/km, it incurs an annual motor tax fee of €390.
Comfort and poise
On the road, the A8 is comfortable yet poised through the corners; the adaptive air suspension (fitted as standard) copes admirably with undulations in the road. We drove the A8 on Germany’s smooth roads – the real test to the car’s handling will come when we test it again on Irish roads. We also sampled the 4.2-litre V8 TDI which is a gem of an engine, boasting an impressive 385hp and 850Nm of torque. On German Autobahns we would rate this engine above the sportier S8, purely for the mid-range surge in torque. Back on Ireland’s more sedate motorways and streets, the 3.0-litre TDI is a far more sensible proposition.
The Audi A8 is like BMW’s 7-Series in terms of driving dynamics, with the added benefit of all-wheel-drive.
We had the chance to test the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class recently, and while it’s undoubtedly luxurious, and the benchmark in terms of sales, it seemed more prone to body roll on twisty sections of road than this new A8.
During the test session with the new A8 I got the chance to experience how the other half lives, those who spend most of their time being driven rather than driving. This was in the long-wheelbase version of the luxury car, where rear seats are offered with an array of “relaxation packages” that include a variety of massage functions. The front passenger seat even folds down to reveal a footrest for the rear-seat passenger, while optional wifi is enabled, with an infotainment system and rear screen for entertainment.
China is Audi’s largest market for this long-wheelbase model and it is where its A8 market is at. All A8 sales in the Asian giant will be LWB.
Audi will be hoping that some well-heeled Irish motorists who have weathered the storm and are content to open their bulky chequebooks will opt for something other than the traditional S-Class and this time choose its four-ringed rival.
2,967cc six-cylinder diesel putting out 258hp at 4,000rpm and 580Nm at 1,750 - 2,500rpm with an eight-speed automatic transmission
0-100km/h 5.9 seconds; max speed 250 km/h (limited)
Urban 7.3l/100km (38.7mpg); Extra-urban 5.1l/100km (55.4mpg); Combined 5.9l/100km (47.9mpg)
(motor tax) 155g/km (€390)
SC Model: Standard features on the SC model include 18in 10-spoke alloy wheels, full LED headlights, quattro permanent all-wheel drive system, eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission, cruise control, adaptive air suspension, MMI navigation with MMI touch, Bluetooth, keyless entry, Valcona leather upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated front seats and electric boot lid operation.
Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec 3.0 Diesel 258hp €98,225 (motor tax €390); BMW 730d 3.0 Diesel 258hp €91,530 (motor tax €390); Jaguar XJ Luxury 3.0 Diesel 275hp €90,840 (motor tax €570).
Offering an alternative to the traditional S-Class fare in a market that’s likely to pick up in line with the economy