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Audi A8 3.0 TDI quattro SE Executive

Click to view picture gallery“Limousines (aka luxury cars) are
  by their very nature expensive
  vehicles but there is no shortage
  of buyers even in today’s grim
  economic climate
...”

LAST YEAR 8,647 LUXURY CARS WERE SOLD IN THE UK — a rise of 6.2% over 2010. It's a fact of life that those with money will usually always have money and seem better cushioned to cope with a recession. Important people and high-profile businesses look upon limousines or luxury cars as essential transport.

Audi UK knows this and very astutely have worked hard and spent a lot of their Marketing and PR budget getting the A8 and their Audi brand a high profile with the 'right' people. This of course has led in part to their huge sales surge again last year with another all-time record of 113,797 registrations — a 14% increase over 2010.

Audi has a fleet of chauffeur-driven A8s for VIP use and more often than not when a celebrity appears at a 'red carpet' event they will be getting out of, or in to, an A8. VIPs obviously like what they see so no wonder the A8 and other Audi models seem to appeal to famous affluent buyers and by the 'me too' association to the wealthy but not so famous.

“The Audi A8 Saloon
range with standard and
long wheelbase body
options and with seating
for up to five people all
have quattro all-wheel
drive and automatic
transmission as standard
no matter what the
choice of engine is
...”
The A8 competes with main rivals such as the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Jaguar XJ, plus models from Bentley, Rolls-Royce and others. It might be a small market segment but I have counted 14 different model ranges that compete for UK sales in the luxury segment.

In 2011 the Jaguar XJ accounted for 23.3% of the UK sector sales, the S-Class 19.7%, the 7 Series 17 per cent, the A8 15.8% and the Bentley 10.2%. More interestingly, almost 70% of all cars sold in this sector were powered by a diesel engine.

Now the A8 saloon isn't exactly the latest new model in Audi's fast growing range but it is the model that has spearheaded their introduction of aluminium construction, the use of high-tech drivetrain technology with less CO2 emissions yet more power and better fuel economy, plus electronic wizardry and on-board gizmos that have cascaded down to all other models in the Audi range from the A1 upwards.

The Audi A8 Saloon range with standard and long wheelbase body options and with seating for up to five people all have quattro all-wheel drive and automatic transmission as standard no matter what the choice of engine is. There are currently 3.0, 4.2 and 6.3-litre petrol engines and 3.0 and 4.2-litre TDI turbodiesel units. Prices start at 56,620 for the standard wheelbase model or 60,585 for the LWB versions and the current top 6.3-litre W12 version costs 95,120. A high performance S8 4.0-litre TFSI 512bhp quattro version is to be added to the range and so too is a hybrid model.

My test A8 was the 59,225 3.0-litre TDI quattro SE Executive — not the long wheelbase model but the standard length version which still looks impressive with huge road presence. I consider long wheelbase models as the car for those who like to be chauffeured around; the standard length is for executives who would rather drive themselves.

This 247bhp 3.0-litre turbodiesel is by far the most popular unit and should be fast enough for most: a 155mph top speed with zero to 62mph done and dusted in 6.1 seconds. The seamless eight-speed auto 'box harnesses the generous 405lb ft of torque (from just 1,500rpm) before it goes as needed to the front and rear wheels via the quattro drive.

“This 247bhp 3.0-litre
turbodiesel is by far the
most popular unit
and should be fast enough for most:
a 155mph top speed
with zero to 62mph done
and dusted in
6.1 seconds
...”
Impressively, this variable torque-split all-wheel drive system doesn't dampen the performance or harm the fuel economy or CO2 emissions. Officially the A8 3.0-litre TDI quattro I drove will return 44.1mpg for the Combined Cycle — my rather short time behind the wheel showed a figure of 36.5mpg.

This was outstanding given the non-sedate speed at which I had to complete all my driving duties (for my daughter's wedding) in the allotted time.

CO2 emissions are a respectable 169g/km so the road tax is 275 for the First Year and then 195 for the second year onwards. The 27% Benefit-in-Kind costs are hardly going to trouble the executive business user-chooser drivers who make up the bulk of A8 customers, and neither is the 43E insurance group rating. Boot space — all 510 litres of it — is ample for golf clubs or designer luggage.

Naturally the list of standard equipment is comprehensive — too much to list — but trust me when I say it's all there including climate control, leather upholstery, heated seats, a supreme sound system with DAB radio, wi-fi connectivity, Bluetooth, cruise-control, 19-inch alloy wheels and an electronic open/close bootlid function.

You also get an impeccably styled and impeccably built cabin — it really is a glorious, comfortable place to be. My only niggles were the fiddly-to-use small gear select lever and the electronic parking brake.
In addition to the refinement the V6 diesel unit and eight-speed automatic transmission offers, Adaptive Air Suspension with four modes (auto, dynamic, comfort and lift) is standard.

The modes are all self-explanatory but the auto setting is best as the 'brain' sorts out the ride comfort to best suit the load, the roads as well as the balance and handling of the car at all speeds.

“You also get an
impeccably styled and
impeccably built cabin —
it really is a glorious,
comfortable place
to be
...”
In addition there's Audi's Drive Select which gives the owner (or chauffeur) the choice of comfort, auto or dynamic — guess which one is best for most people?

My own experience with the A8 and other similarly equipped models in the Audi range is to just leave all settings in auto mode because the A8 does everything — apart from opening and closing the doors and steering — for you. And, if it was allowed, then I'm sure braking would be an automatic function as well.

Against? Fiddly auto gear selector, electronic parking brake.

For? Audi's flagship luxury saloon, all the refinement, image, and technology you could wish to find, classy and comfortable interior.

The A8 is a very clever car, a great flagship, and a showcase for Audi's technology and image which cascades down to all the lesser models in their range.

And I guess if the Boss is impressed by and happy with their A8 there's a good chance his or her staff might find their way into other Audis as company or family cars. For proof, look no further than at Prince Charles and his family. — David Miles

Audi A8 3.0 TDI quattro SE Executive | 59,225
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 6.1 seconds | Overall test MPG: 36.5mpg
Power: 247bhp | Torque: 405lb ft | CO2 169g/km