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The Top Gear car review:Audi A8
For:As lovely to drive as to be driven in
Against:Doesn't have as much lounging space as the S-Class
4.2 TDI Quattro SE Executive LWB 4dr Tip Auto
What’s this, some special-edition trim for the greying Audi S8?
Not quite. Some miniscule styling tweaks hide a hotter S8...
Sportier and simpler than an S-Class. Quattro drive an asset, but ride and silence not the best in class
It’s big, it’s fast, it’s totally irrelevant – it’s the new Audi S8 and we’re having a blast in it
Clever engineering from Audi; the cleanest and cheapest eco luxobarge out there. We’d still have the diesel
The S8 has a confused identity. Too much lux, too little sport. Good engine, though.
The A8 of choice – and very possibly the luxury exec of choice too
Dynamics are impressive, clever, good to drive. But not sure yet about the way it looks…
Saddam Hussein could be on the back seat stroking his ‘tache and still no one would pay attention. Cruising along the Promenade des Anglais in...
What we say:
A masterclass in aluminium and understatement, the A8 sits at the top of the many-branched Audi tree
What is it?
It’s the biggest and best Audi can do. Or at least, it’s the best Audi is allowed to do, lest it step on the toes of more exuberant saloons in the VW Group hierarchy. Bill and Marjorie over the road will think you’ve just bought an A4 like theirs – but inside the A8 is a world apart. As you’d expect, it’s a banquet of German sumptuousness and technology. The Mercedes S-Class is ultimately more indulgent, yes, but for technological accomplishment, few match an A8.
Audi broke ground with 1994’s first A8 by using more aluminium per car than the average vagrant throws away in a year. Skip to today and the A8 is still a lightweight among heavyweights; you could park a Renault Twingo on top of it and it’d still weigh less than a Range Rover.
The advantage will hit you where it hurts: your wallet. In a nice way. Courtesy of the recent facelift, the 3.0-litre TDI engine now sips a gallon every 47.9 miles – better than before, albeit not as good as the S-Class or new 7 Series. But the Audi has all of the former’s comfort and the latter’s size-shrinking agility.
Audi has really got a handle on the UK’s disgracefully knobbly roads lately and the A8 typifies that. Every single dial and switch is masterfully engineered, and almost every bit of engine, wind and tyre noise is locked out of the cabin.
The S8 Plus version is equally impressive, thanks to its searing 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 that also appears in the Bentley Conti GT. You want fast? Few come quicker.
On the inside
Regular wheelbase versions don’t have as much rear head- or legroom as a gluttonous rapper might require, and although the long-wheelbase version sees to that, it’s a glaring weakness in a class more focused on who’s sitting behind the driver than the driver himself. Still, if you’re as little as Lord Sugar, there are few places more alluring in which to sit and concoct witty putdowns for besuited simpletons. There’s even a function that allows the passenger seat to lean forward and become a fully fledged pouffe. There’s enough bootspace for even the most hopeless of packers, too.
It’s no good talking about equipment or options lists or even prices in this section – you’ll pay depending on your need. A self-driver will probably make do with a 3.0-litre TDI: quick enough and economical. But the best all-round engine – and the chauffeur’s choice – is the 4.2-litre TDI with its supercar-troubling torque number and 4.9-second charge to 62mph, combined with the longer wheelbase. It’s much more sensible than the S8 Plus, which will beat the Porsche 911 Carrera off the line – and that’s just silly. Watch the options spend too, for with Audi, choice is virtually limitless…