27 years have passed since the first car named Audi A8 came out and it seems like eons passed already. It was a bold move for Audi to change its naming scheme but it was also necessary, as a wider portfolio made things a bit blurry when it came to discerning between the various body styles and sizes. Today, nobody could mistake a top of the range A8 for an entry-level A3. Or could they?
Just like it’s the case in Stuttgart and Munich, the Ingolstadt team might also have a problem with its exterior design. There’s been a lot of talk surrounding the look of a lot of new cars on the roads today and how they are nothing more than the same design but on a different scale. Mercedes-Benz has been heavily criticized for that, especially on the older generation C-Class, E-Class and S-Class models and there’s no sign of any change in the distance.
BMW, on the other hand, admitted that cars are starting to be a bit boring and tried something new. You can hardly mistake a 3 Series, 4 Series, 5 Series or 7 Series anymore these days, thanks to various reinterpretations of their grilles and other trademark design cues. However, this change of pace happening in Munich hasn’t been exactly a breeze, as a lot of people immediately started complaining about this new approach. So what did Audi do? Stuck to their guns, of course.
German brands are known for certain things and when they decide to change something, the process takes time. And when it comes to design, things are to be taken into careful consideration, because this is what sells the car for most people.
New Design And Tech
Just like BMW and Mercedes-Benz, Audi has a certain way of doing things. The flagship is unveiled at a certain point in time, after which every single car coming out in the upcoming 7 years will follow in its footsteps, be it in terms of design or technology. That was definitely the case for the new A8 which was the one who introduced us to a host of new technologies and new design cues.
From the outside, the A8 looks stately, elegant and incredibly well built. The Singleframe grille up front dominates the front fascia and is covered in chrome, an old-school way of signaling we’re in the presence of a premium automobile. There’s a lot of that material on the new A8, on all sides, but the front end gets the most of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily a bad thing but maybe we should reconsider this whole Chrome = Luxury thing at one point.
Move to the sides and you’ll notice the classic sedan features that you’d expect from an A8. There’s an inherent balance to the design of this car, it’s clean cut and simple, featuring chrome on the bottom side of the doors and around the windows. What you will notice though is the rather long overhang at the back, with a considerable distance from the wheels to the end of the rear bumper.
Round the back, the same chrome details will catch your eyes first, on the boot lid and the bumper, mimicking a set of tailpipes at the very bottom. That’s because there are no visible tailpipes on the A8, unless you chip in the S8 model.
Plenty Of Luxury and Tech Inside
Step inside and you’ll feel very familiar if you’ve been in a recent Audi model. As I said, the A8 dictates how the rest of the line-up should look like inside and there are no surprises here. The materials used are of the best quality and the fit and finish pretty much perfect. Everywhere you look or touch, a good mix of materials awaits. Our tester had an Alcantara roof liner, open-pore wood veneers on the dash and doors, and Nappa leather seats all around, with the S-line logo embossed in the front ones. Needless to say, these seats were also heated, cooled and could massage you on the way to your very important meeting.
What I love the most about new Audi models, at least when it comes to their interiors, is the way the infotainment screen is embedded into the general dashboard layout. Unlike in other cars, like the 7 Series or the S-Class, the infotainment screen inside the A8 feels and looks like it belongs there. It’s beautifully integrated into the overall design of the cabin and simply works.
When the A8 was introduced, the world also got to see the way they wanted to have customers operate the HVAC controls, which was yet another touchscreen, positioned under the infotainment system’s. I was among those criticizing this approach at first, I have to admit, claiming it would only distract you from the road. But it actually kind-of works. That’s because the touch-sensitive screens inside this car offer haptic feedback. Not only that, but you also have to press rather hard on a certain button, to get it to do what you want it to, as a simple touch wouldn’t suffice. That makes the whole system work better than expected. And there’s a lot more technology on-board the A8 as well.
The Audi A8 became the first car in the world to offer Level 3 autonomous functions when it first came out but various problems made it rain on Audi’s parade, even though their system was cutting edge. Even today, you can only get this system in certain countries, because of legal issues, as most analysts feared when the topic of autonomous cars first started coming into the limelight. How do you plan for self-driving cars from a legal point of view? Most states around the world explicitly say that you can’t have a car driving on public roads, with nobody actually doing the driving. That’s why, Audi’s Level 3 autonomous driving functions are limited to a handful of countries which actually made an effort to make them legal.
New Air Suspension and 48V System
Then there’s the clever, new air suspension introduced on the A8, that uses a 48V electrical system to adjust every single damper independently, on the fly. The cars fitted with this optional feature, have a camera embedded in the windshield, which scans the road ahead and adjusts every wheel independently, depending on the road surface, so that you can be as comfy as possible inside. Unfortunately, this system is not a standard feature in the A8, not even in the higher-tier models like the one we had for reviewing purposes, the 60 TFSI e, so I cannot tell you whether it works as intended or not.
What I can say though is that the standard air suspension the A8 has (and our tester was fitted with) does offer a very comfortable overall experience, on par with the standard setups available on the 7 Series or S-Class. It soaks up the bumps effortlessly and complains about the road surface only when sharp edges meet the 20” wheels at an unsavory speed. That’s when a thump will be making its way into the cabin by means of the dampers.
Scanning the road ahead isn’t the only trick in the book of this next-gen suspension. Audi also worked on the active safety side of things on the A8 and the car now comes with sensors meant to keep you as safe as possible in all types of events. For example, in case of an impending crash, the car can raise either side by several centimeters, in order to make sure most of the force of the impact is absorbed by the sills, not the doors.
This way, your life could be saved and I have to say the Audi pre-sense system actually works and it’s a bit on the edge all the time. During my time with the car, I got to see it in action, even though it was a false alarm. As I was stopped at a red light, the car noticed a cyclist coming right for the rear end of the vehicle with considerable speed and triggered the safety protocol. The side windows were closed shut in a matter of milliseconds, the seatbelt pulled me into the seat while the seat itself puffed up in anticipation of a collision. An Audi Pre-Sense warning popped up on the screen while the hazard lights were automatically put on and a warning sound was played through the speakers. Fortunately, this was just a false alarm but I felt confident from then on out that whatever happened, I would be as safe as possible in a modern-day car.
All of that happened in the early stages of my time with the A8 and I often think that I noticed all of those systems working even more because of the utter silence this car offers when setting off. This was not only due to the perfect sound deadening Audi deployed on the A8, but also because this was a plug-in hybrid model, the first in the 27-year history of the luxurious limousine’s life span. And that means exactly what you think it means: this car was meant to be driven relying solely on the electrons stored in the battery for as long as possible.
Lots Of Power, Thanks To Hybrid System
On the spec side of things, the 60 TFSI e badge on the boot doesn’t really say a lot, to be frank, especially if you’re used to the ‘old way’ of naming various Audi models. The ’60’ tells you that this car has copious amounts of power and, in all fairness, it does. The powertrain is made up of a 3-liter V6 petrol engine along with an electric motor housed in the gearbox assembly. The oil-burning side of things is good for 340 PS and 500 Nm of torque (369 lb-ft), the same as you would find in a base A8 55 TFSI.
However, the electric motor steps in to provide an additional 136 PS and 350 Nm of torque (258 lb-ft). Don’t go rushing to your calculator to find out how much power this setup can deliver though because the total output isn’t the mathematical sum of the two. As it is the case in most PHEV models, the two motors can’t deliver all of their might at the same time so the most you can get out of the A8 60 TFSI e is 449 PS and 700 Nm of torque (516 lb-ft).
Those are some impressive figures and, despite having to carry around a decently sized battery in the back, the 2.3-ton A8 can accelerate to 100 km/h (62 mph) from standstill in 4.9 seconds! That is not bad at all for a limousine of this size. Consider the fact that you can rely on 350 Nm (258 lb-ft) of torque instantly, at any speed, courtesy of the electric motor, and you get a more than decent experience behind the wheel.
The A8 60 TFSI e is a fast car that makes reaching triple digit speeds seem so effortless, you’ll be checking the speedometer all the time, to make sure you’re not going to jail in a hurry as well. It’s in the corners where the A8 falls a bit short but then again, considering its weight and all, you couldn’t really expect it to be as agile as an RS5 after all. That’s not the point of the A8 though.
This is a limousine and it’s meant to be comfortable, quiet and relaxing most of all, and the A8 60 TFSI e delivers on all fronts. It’s especially impressive when first setting off, as the electric motor will power you along without hearing as much as a whisper from the powertrain. It’s eerily quiet inside the A8 during those first miles, so quiet it may cause some discomfort, as peculiar as that may sound. Thankfully, I had the Bang & Olufsen sound system at the ready to make things better.
22 Miles of Electric Drive
Just like it’s the case with virtually any other PHEV out there, the A8 too was set up to drive on electricity alone as much as possible. Therefore, the car will default to Auto Hybrid mode when setting off, which means you’ll only be using electrons to get by for as long as possible. That can also be done at speeds up to 84 mph which should make highway driving possible too. Don’t think that at those speeds you can cover too much ground though. This is a heavy car and the battery only has a capacity of 14.1 kWh. Nevertheless, around town, I managed to squeeze about 22 miles out of a full charge, which should be enough for most daily commutes.
The internal combustion engine will remain silent for most of your trip then but it’s important to note that even when it does kick in, no shudders or funny noises make it into the cabin. The switch between the different power sources is made seamlessly and you can only hear the internal combustion engine when you really mash the gas pedal.
The car also comes with a couple of driving modes for the hybrid powertrain, one of them allowing you to recharge the battery using the petrol engine. That’s definitely not how you’re supposed to use this car, but on the off chance that you’re going on a longer trip and want to use the A8 60 TFSI e in EV mode alone once you reach a city center, you can do that without having to stop to recharge the batteries.
The Best A8 In The Audi Range?
All things considered, the Audi A8 60 TFSI e could very well be considered the best pick of the range. It has more than enough power for any sort of situation, it’s fast, comfortable and the quietest choice in the range overall. Sure, there is a more powerful version out there, namely the S8, but that’s reserved for a special kind of customer.
Overall, the A8 falls right within the margins set by playing in the same league as the S-Class and 7 Series. It’s a middle-ground choice too, fitting between its two main rivals from Germany when it comes to luxury/features on one hand and sportiness/handling on the other.
The A8, just like its main rivals, the other two flagships mentioned in this here review, made a name for itself by innovating, more than anything else. That’s the main purpose of a flagship, to show you what a car maker can actually put together and showcase its expertise in various ways.
To that end, the new A8 is true to its name. It comes with incredible amounts of technology, from the trick air suspension and well implemented PHEV setup, to the Level 3 autonomous driving functions and many many others. Chip in the incredibly well built interior and whisper quiet drive and you have a proper limousine on your hands.