"The Audi A8 is quiet, comfortable and luxurious, but packs huge amounts of performance and can be genuinely fun to drive when you want it to be."
If you’re lucky enough to drive an Audi A8 – of if you’re even luckier and get to be chaffeur-driven in one – then you’ll quickly realise just how impressive it is. It's loaded with a host of clever technology to make the driving experience as seamless and serene as possible, including lights that are connected to the sat-nav so they can illuminate junctions, bend round corners and even dip when they detect oncoming traffic. There's a system called Audi Drive Select that allows drivers to tweak the steering, suspension and gearbox to make the car sportier or more comfortable, making it whatever you need it to be. The interior is finished in the highest-grade materials and is very logically laid out and easy to use. Customers looking for a bit more space to stretch out in the rear can opt for the long-wheelbase version, where you nearly have more space than many people get in their houses. The Audi A8 comes in SE, SE Executive, Sport Executive and Hybrid specifications.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The A8 isn’t going to win any prizes for economy or efficiency thanks to its size. Even the most frugal engine – the 3.0-litre TDI diesel - only returns 47.1mpg and emits a hefty 158g/km of CO2. And if you like the look of the 3.0-litre TFSI quattro petrol, brace yourself for 32.1mpg in fuel economy and 204g/km in CO2 emissions. The rest of the engine range lands within the mid-40s for mpg and between 147 and 195g/km for emissions. The hybrid model emits 147g/km of CO2, but you should bear in mind that the A8's massive dimensions and decent performance levels will always come hand-in-hand with higher running costs, and it actually outpaces many of its rivals in this regard.
Interior & comfort
Any car that offers you seats that can be heated or cooled and even come with massage functions is likely to prove pretty comfortable, let's be honest. Those seats are only the start of the options list, with double-glazed windows to insulate the interior from outside noise and suspension that's extremely adept at soaking up road imperfections. The suspensions can be marginally firm, but that's the price for the performance, and there's also a bit of tyre noise. All in all, the A8 is one of the most relaxing cars on the road, while those luxurious leather seats are soft but supportive.
Practicality & boot space
The A8's generous dimensions are all about space and comfort, which is no surprise given that it's a luxury car. Even the standard-wheelbase model will easily sit the tallest of adults in the back seats, offering plenty of knee, leg, shoulder and headroom. Go for the long-wheelbase model and passengers will actually struggle to touch the seat in front of them – no matter how much they stretch out. There are cars with larger boots in this segment, but the 510 litres of luggage space on offer here is enough for almost all uses, and this isn’t a car that you’ll look to use for hauling rubbish to the dump in. Especially as the back seats don’t fold at all, so you don’t get any extra space. The four-wheel drive makes it very useful in wet or slippery conditions. So, it's very practical on one specific, luxury level.
Reliability & safety
You get lots of safety equipment fitted in the A8 as standard, including six airbags, electronic stability control, an advanced anti-lock brake system, tyre pressure monitoring and Audi's PreSense system, which can close the windows, activate the hazard lights and tension the seatbelts if it detects that an accident may be about to happen. You can also add even more safety systems as optional extras, including a system that can brake the car for you and Night Vision Assist, which can spot animals and people walking in the road when you’re driving at night – pretty cool. And talking of cool, you can also choose a pedestrian detection function for the LED headlights, which uses a thermal imaging camera to spot people on foot and then flashes them three times with a separate light beam to warn them, and alerts the driver with a warning noise. The only downside in terms of safety is that Euro NCAP still hasn’t crash tested the A8, but you can expect it to score highly – and probably get the full five stars – when it does. All Audis may have a decent track record in reliability and dealers that are good at handling problems when things do go wrong, but that hasn’t stopped it yo-yoing up and down the Driver Power customer satisfaction survey over recent years. The good news is that the 2013 poll saw Audi climb back up five spots to come 10th in the manufacturers rankings, five ahead of BMW and an improvement from its 15th place finish in 2012. The A8 itself didn’t rank, though.
Engines, drive & performance
The A8 may be big but it's not as heavy as you might think, thanks to some lightweight aluminium construction materials. So, it's actually pretty fast. Even the base model 3.0 TDI diesel engine produces enough power to accelerate the A8 from 0-62mph in only 6.6 seconds. The 4.2-litre petrol and diesel engines are also capable of the same sprint in 5.7 and 5.5 seconds respectively, which is frankly faster than many sports cars out there. All cars come fitted with an eight-speed semi-automatic gearbox that offers quiet, quick and efficient shifts and is even hooked-up to the sat-nav so it can get road information that allows it to select the correct gear before approaching corners or a long straight road, for instance. Audi's Drive Select system adjusts suspension, steering and accelerator response to make the drive that little bit sportier or more comfortable, depending on what you need at any given time. Overall, the A8 is a fantastic all-rounder, but, alas, still not the most exciting drive in this class.
Price, value for money & options
The A8 will cost you a pretty penny to buy and it isn’t particularly cheap to run either. However, it's on par with other cars in the luxury market. The range starts with SE models, which come equipped with cruise control, a DAB digital radio, keyless entry, full leather upholstery, air-conditioning and sat-nav as standard. Buyers who go for SE Executive or Sport Executive models will also get larger 19-inch alloy wheels and a reverse parking camera. Being Audi, there are plenty of optional extras available too, but be careful, as prices can soon rocket beyond £100,000 if you get trigger-happy. There's also no servicing package, so any maintenance will also be expensive, and luxury limousines suffer painfully steep depreciation in the used car market, so won’t have much resale value when you come to sell it on.