The latest flagship from Ingolstadt makes no compromises. The perfect solution for the affluent luxury and tech enthusiast, and the most advanced levels of self-driving capabilities from Audi, thus far.
With a heritage that traces back to 1994, the A8 has been targeting the Mercedes S-Class customer for 25 years. And it has been doing so by introducing revolutionary traits not even Mercedes had in mind. For example, the A8 was the first production car with an aluminum chassis, and the first with the collapsible steering column for safety. Both miles ahead of the competition.
Today, five generations on, the all-new A8 presents itself as the most technologically advanced Audi ever, with self-driving capabilities only seen in Tesla, and with the latest generations of turbo engines to enhance both performance and economy.
Aesthetically, the new car is more imposing. The front is highlighted by horizontal lines that betray an air of modularity. The gigantic front grille, which has been a signature trait in all Audis, now barely leaves space for the LEF headlights in an expression that is both aggressive as well as elegant.
These horizontal lines continue throughout the exterior (and interior), and the rear. It may be a tad demeaning, but the back side reminds a bit to the Lincoln Continental, which no car should ever be compared to. Not even the Lincoln Continental.
Our test model is the Long-Wheel-Base, which is 130mm longer than the standard and translates into a tennis court in the back seats. You can play hide and seek. First class leg room, one large TV screen per side, separate media controls, individual blinders, individual climate control, LED reading lights and extremely comfortable seats.
The choice of the materials has also been made with no compromise and the feel for solidity, technology and luxury makes the experience quite unique. Perhaps it may not reach the same finesse displayed by the Mercedes S Class but I am sure this is due to Audi’s unique design philosophy. I, for one, have always found Audi interiors to be quite sober yet elegant, with more focus on technology and rationality rather than aiming at competing with Rolls-Royce.
Front and rear seats are equally impressive. The cockpit sports a completely digital experience. Gauges and dials are, finally, a thing of the past. Additionally, a profusion of haptic buttons, touch screens and on steering wheel controls result in a rather intuitive experience. Granted, the sheer amount of gimmickry requires some time getting used to.
The center console presents now a fascinating touchscreen of generous dimensions. It is pressure sensitive, enabling access to various functionality depending of the harshness of the touch. The only downside is that it ends up being permanently dirty, and due to the glossiness it tends to collect visible dust quite quickly.
The driving position is perfect; it lets you enjoy your role as ship captain, and the visibility is ample in every direction. Add the, I am going to say 104, cameras around the car, the VR-like parking aids, the self-parking options and the alerts, and navigating daily traffic is as easy as connecting to wifi.
Seats that lay in the sweet spot between firm, plush and supportive, will let you drink miles of road without tiring.
We drove it for a few days together with the new A6, trying to understand where is the real, true difference between the two. Yes the A6 is smaller, a little less prestigious, you may not make the front parking of the latest fashionable hotel or club with it but we found the A6 a real internal competitor to the A8.
I remember the times of the movie Ronin, when the A6 was ugly and the A8 was the sexiest luxury saloon in the market, used in that movie as the fast transportation of the somewhat rightful criminals. There was a real difference both in performance as well as status.
But today? The two models look very similar to non-expert eyes, both offer incredible level of comfort and technology. The A8 is surely splendid and it has the major advantage of the “living room” space in the back seats, which the A6 doesn’t. But to us, that’s it.
Look, the A6 starts at $67,000 and the A8 begins from $108,000. There is an Audi A4 of cash and a week-long holiday in the Maldives between them. Thus, status or vacation? As Derek Zoolander wisely said, “So many things to ponder”.
The A8 drive is in itself magnificent. Surprising. It feels immensely confident, controlled. It’s silent, composed, elegant, safe. Our 3.0l V6 turbo engine is sufficient but, sharing the same specs than the littler sister leaves it a bit wanting. Sure, it produces 335HP and that equates to a sprightly response, but we would rather have the A8 be definitely faster than the other sedans in the line-up. Which it isn’t.
We’ll eagerly wait for the V8 to show up on our shores for a revisit to this particular point.
On the road, the A8 makes you feel more important than you are sometimes. You are cocooned, cushioned, protected, nurtured and tended in every whim. And it does this both as a driver as well as a passenger. There are no thrills on cornering, nor any excitement in acceleration, but the sedated nature of the drive does not compromise an extremely tempered and efficient electronic suspension. It does have a “Sport” mode but… what for?
As a conclusion, the 40,000 USD over the A6 represents a VIP pass. An exclusivity of a First Class over a Business Class. Same seats, same comfort, same time of arrival, same food; but a more discrete area, a bigger sleeping space, a better service on board, a bigger smile from the attendants. It makes you feel like the A380 is flying just for you. That is the feeling of the A8 over an A6. And if for you money is just a number, then the difference is surely worth it.