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, so similar does it look – but inside the A8 is a world apart. As you’d expect, it’s a banquet of German sumptuousness and technology.
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. Thanks to recent improvements, the 3.0-litre TDI engine sips a gallon every 46.3 miles – better than an S-Class, albeit not as good as the facelifted 7-Series. 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 tight out of the truly vault-like cabin.
The S8 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 5.5-second charge to 62mph, combined with the longer wheelbase. It’s much more sensible than the S8, which will beat the Porsche 991 911 Carrera off the line — and that’s just silly. Watch the options spend too, for with Audi, choice is virtually limitless...