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Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro Driven

Driven December 2013

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It's perfectly common to go on about headlights when a car gets a facelift. Usually they change shape. The A8's haven't - not much, anyway. But the A8's engineers and designers talked about them for half an hour. Then returned to the subject later. And I can see why. All A8s now get LED headlights, but that's not so unusual. What is unique are the optional adaptive ones. They work with an onboard camera and shine a pattern of light - generated by switching a bank of differently aimed LEDs - that avoids dazzling any vehicles oncoming or ahead but shines at full-beam height and intensity in other directions. For anyone who does much night driving where there aren't street lamps, it's a transformation.

But there's another reason the A8 folk spent ages telling me about the headlamps. There really wasn't a whole lot else to talk about. Visually, you'd barely even call it a facelift. More of an eyebrow pluck than an extreme makeover. That said, I'm transfixed by the new LED front indicators, a bank of them that sweeps outwards like a Mexican wave, rather than just flashing on and off.

Under the skin, though, there's a bit more action. All engines get a slight power lift - nothing worth making a fuss of, but nice to have - and better economy, too. Useful to wriggle under tax thresholds. The V6 diesel is now 258bhp. There's also a stonking, if expensive, V8 TDI at 385bhp.

The V6 TDI is really all you need, of course, and is barely clearing its throat in normal traffic. But its voice does get a bit hoarse when you lean on the performance. I had more fun in the 3.0-litre supercharged petrol, which has lovely lag-free pick-up and a sweet desire to rev. It drinks a little more, though.

Also new is all-electric power assistance for the steering, with the option of speed-dependent active-ratio variation. But I never quite knew how much turning I had to do, and kept being foxed into correcting my inputs. Feathery weighting and poor feel don't help. Otherwise, it's a fleet-footed and securely grippy car, thanks to the adaptive air suspension and quattro drive.

And it's gorgeous on the inside. No one builds more solid-feeling cabins, and the quiet good taste is a contrast to the lush bling of the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Trouble is, all Audis are like that, so you do end up thinking, "Why not just buy an A6?"

Paul Horrell

Verdict: Sportier and simpler than an S-Class. Quattro drive an asset, but ride and silence not the best in class.

Stats: 2967cc, turbodiesel V6, 4WD, 258bhp, 428lb ft, 47.9mpg, 155g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 5.9secs, 155mph, 1955kg, £65,005

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