Audi’s new A8 is here and it looks suspiciously like an A4, says Dan Read. But don’t let that fool you – this is one promising exec express full of radical tech and an interior of pure loveliness. Click through the gallery to find out more…
You are here
New Audi A8
While it may not be the automatic choice for gangsters and pinstriped execs, the A8 has always held a quiet superiority over other luxo-barges. It’s big and fast, yet understated and cool, and never feels in-yer-face. So under the disco lights and smokescreens at the launch of the new car in Miami, we wondered if it would retain that modesty.
As the stage doors opened and the assembled glitterati drew breath, the car rolled out. And when the smoke cleared… it looked like they’d sent out the wrong one. Up there under the spotlight, it looked freakishly similar to the A4. Despite being bigger than ever, now the biggest in its class, you could easily mistake it for the smaller sibling. It seems the Audi gene pool has shrunk and the family resemblance is unavoidable.
Underneath the shared face, however, the two cars are quite different. Like the last A8 and the one before, this model has an aluminium space frame. Back in 1994 it became the first luxury car to be made of the stuff, and it’s a technique Jaguar copied with the XJ. The fact that the new A8 is just 6.5kg lighter than the outgoing car is no underachievement - it’s 24 per cent stiffer, packs more kit than ever and you’d have to make it from tin foil to go much lighter.
The techfest continues under the bonnet. Four engines will be available - two V6s and a pair of V8s, a petrol and diesel version of each. The most impressive is the 3.0-litre TDI, which manages to be more torquey than before, yet emits just 177g/km CO2, beating BMW and Jaguar’s equivalents by a few precious grams. A hybrid version is also expected, which will be a first for Audi (both the XJ and 7-Series will go hybrid).
Inside it’s predictably lovely. An ambient light pack is standard on all versions and greets passengers with ruby reds, soft magnolias and icy blues. And of course, every luxo-barge needs a headline gadget. Jag has the gear-selector wheel, Merc has night vision and the A8 has a new ‘touchpad’ control system. It works like the one on a laptop, so you slide your finger over it to navigate through menus. You can even use your finger like a pen. Need to find your favourite Abba song? Just scrawl an ‘A’ on the pad while resting your wrist on the new gear stick, which looks like the power lever from a posh yacht.
On higher spec cars, there are even more gizmos. You can choose a night vision pack with pedestrian protection and pre-safe function, which recognises shapes on the pavement then warns you if an errant pensioner is about to totter into your path. Full LED headlights are also an option, though the trademark strips are standard and now form the neat L shape of a chaise longue, rather than an arbitrary squiggle. The A8 will start from £52,800 for the base level 3.0-litre TDI and rise to £61,500 for the 4.2-litre TDI.
Despite the slightly brash family styling and the extra sparkle (you can choose chrome wheels if you wish), the A8 is still infused with class. The windows are double-glazed and the doors hold themselves open in an infinite number of positions - rather than using notchy hinges - allowing celebs to craft the perfect exit angle to avoid a knickerless flash to waiting paps. The car’s long-held modesty may not be totally preserved, but at least its passengers escape with theirs.