and the Beast.
Were not talking fairy
tales here. Get behind
the wheel of Audis
potent twin-turboed V8
diesel and youll find
both live happily ever
after in the latest A8
IF YOU'VE NO IDEA what Audi's 'Vorsprung durch Technik'
catchphrase actually means, don't worry. Because all you really need
to know about Audi's flagship A8 range is that it's about having
your cake and eating it. And today you simply cannot mention the respected
German Mercedes and BMW in the same breath without including the equally highly-rated
A8 customers can now select from a 10-model range that starts with
a 3.2-litre V6 costing £47,930 and tops out with the £77,360 6.0-litre W12.
However, it's in between the entry-level and range-topper that it gets really
interesting. Because that's where you'll find the A8 4.2-litre TDI quattro,
road-tested here. While its list price is £58,420, our test car was fitted with
a number of optional extras that bumped the price up to £71,400.
A sizeable sum of money, you'd be right in thinking. And, as a potential buyer,
your next question would doubtless be: "So what do I get for my money?" The
answer: A lot. For a start, the A8 is a limousine that doesn't just think
it's a sports saloon it is a sports saloon. What makes the A8
so appealing is that you can place the emphasis equally on both definitions.
And not be disappointed.
Externally, the thing you notice before all else is Audi's new styling signature
the large single frame front grille. And it looks absolutely right fronting
the big A8's nose. At the back, there are two large-diameter chromed tailpipes
that hint at the power while coyly pointing down at the tarmac. Along with the
new grille comes a comprehensive package of upgrades, not least of which is
the 322bhp twin-turbo-charged 4.2-litre V8 diesel engine. Its predecessor, the
widely-acclaimed 4.0-litre TDI introduced in 2003, quickly made the A8 the best-selling
V8 luxury diesel saloon with a 71 per cent market share.
A hard act to follow.
This new 4.2 doesn't just follow it leapfrogs ahead. Not just a slightly
larger capacity version of the original engine, it's an entirely new V8 TDI
in its own right. And an important facet of its new design is its weight: a
low 255 kilograms and a useful 15kg lighter than the
4.0 TDI, which makes it one of the lightest V8 diesels ever produced.
Audi has a knack of making exceedingly handsome cars. Even the A8, the biggest
in their range, manages to look dapper despite its size.
And Big, in this case, is with all the benefits and none of the penalties thanks
to the A8's all-aluminium construction. About the only visual clue to its size
are the sleek five-arm design wheels. At a casual glance, they look to be of
an average size compared to the bodywork dimensions. But walk up close and check
and they turn out to be
19-inch by nine inches wide. Only when you see this Audi parked alongside other
cars do you realise just how big the A8 actually is.
The good news is that it's big on the inside too. Cabin ambience is an attractive
mix of form and function, sporting feel and luxury. Many people would agree
that Audi interiors are some of the very best around. Both powered front seats
have a four-setting memory and, in addition to being resoundingly comfortable
and supportive, they offer an amazingly comprehensive range of adjustment over
and above all the usual fore/aft, up/down movements with powered headrest and
seatbelt height, extending thigh support and up/down/in/out electric lumbar
The driver also enjoys electric height/reach adjustment of the steering column
and an easy-entry/exit facility, along with a multi-function
4-spoke Sports wheel wrapped in extremely grippy yet very smooth leather. Most
notable, the backrest also adjusts in two sections at the touch of a switch,
making the perfect driving position possible. The
6-setting heated seats are superb. You're so comfortable, in fact, that you
never for one moment think to ask yourself if you are. Which says it all.
Space there is aplenty, both front and rear, for storage as well as people.
And the cavernous and intrusion-free boot is big enough to sleep in should
you ever wish to do so! The light and airy rear cabin ensures back seat passengers
travel in first class comfort with their own dedicated climate controls, powered
side and rear blinds and a Bose surround sound system. No skimping with the
electric windows either as all four feature full one-shot up/down operation.
The top class build quality and materials that have become a byword for Audi
products can assuredly be taken for granted in the A8. In addition to being
beautifully built, the interior is also elegantly and ergonomically laid out.
Positioned comfortably in the centre console behind the selector gate, Audi's
foolproof Multi Media Interface neatly and seamlessly integrates a whole range
of essential car/driver functions encompassing entertainment and driver information
into one easy-to-use system. Amazingly intuitive and simple to learn, it's the
best of its kind on the market.
As with nearly everything about this A8, there's something to like in addition
to each particular item or feature itself. Take the MMI's 7-inch LCD colour
screen. It folds out of the centre of the fascia with a flourish, to sit perfectly
in your field of view. Should you wish, it will disappear back as magically
at the nudge of a button. Even the cool feel and engineered action of the smoothly
polished aluminium electro-mechanical pull-push parking brake switch located
on the centre console, makes you want to release it manually with a quick pull
upwards despite the fact that it does so automatically as you drive away.
Wherever you look in the cabin, it's hard not to feel good about what you see.
And while the driver only needs to apply fingertip pressure to work it, the
parking brake is designed to cope with gradients of up to 30 per cent. Exceed
this and a warning will flash up on the driver's display screen between the
deeply recessed rev-counter and speedometer. And, again taking things that one
step further, the parking brake makes it easier to pull away without jolts or
rolling backwards on inclines by way of an integral starting assist function.
And talking of parking, in spite of its size the A8 is easy to manouevre into
parking spots thanks to a its good turning circle and the superb parking sensors
that provide a clear schematic of the car along with any obstacles around it
on the MMI screen.
Everybody knows that diesel is the prodigal son of fuels. Modern day state-of-the-art
diesel technology has addressed all of the earlier shortcomings to the point
where more and more luxury and executive cars are fitting magnificently powerful
diesel engines to their flagship models. And more and more customers are demanding
them. Hardly surprising, given how refined this 4.2 TDI unit is.
The TDI V8 in this Audi really has to be heard to be believed. Or rather, it
doesn't. Inside or out, there really are no audible clues that fitted in the
engine bay is an oil-burning engine. In addition to twin turbo-chargers (one
serving each bank of four cylinders) and intercoolers, Audi's new 4.2-litre
V8 features the latest-generation common rail system along with state-of-the-art
piezo injection. You don't have to understand the technology to appreciate it.
Suffice to say this is one ultra-smooth V8.
Hardly a month goes by without someone, somewhere singing the praises of yet
another new diesel that's 'impossible' to tell apart from
a petrol unit. Unfortunately, many diesels are still identifiable as such. However,
when we say that Audi's 4.2 TDI is whatever the driving conditions and
driving style virtually impossible to tell apart from a V8 petrol engine,
it's not just hyperbole.
And that's just the beginning. Currently the world's most powerful production
diesel engine, the TDI is quicker and has more pulling power than just about
any equivalent capacity petrol unit. The secret of the TDI's substantial mid-range
acceleration is that its maximum 480lb ft of torque is available from 1,600
to 3,500rpm. At any speed, and on any road, this fabulously brawny twin-turboed
V8 diesel engine is never short of enormous and immediate thrust. At the UK's
legal limit the V8 TDI's crank is turning at a lazily unstressed 1,650rpm.
The six-speed Tiptronic auto always manages to be in the right gear at the right
time and it shifts creamily up or down the ratios. Raw figures can't do justice
to the manner in which this big car piles on the speed. Zero to 62mph takes
just 5.9 seconds. Overtaking has rarely been so enjoyable.
The V8 TDI's top speed is electronically limited to 155mph but it rockets off
the line with perfect traction thanks to its standard-fit quattro four-wheel
drive in just 5.9 seconds. Astonishingly, it will return 30mpg on the
combined cycle. Think that's good? Then how about 39.2mpg cruising the motorways
where, incidentally, it feels utterly composed. Even the real-world town
figure is remarkable for such power and performance: 21.2mpg. For the record,
we averaged 29.1mpg over mixed driving conditions during our 400-mile, week-long
We've driven a number of A8s in our time and the thing that never ceases to
amaze with each fresh re-acquaintance is how they seem to shrink their dimensions
once you've driven those first few 'getting-to-know-you' miles. Out on the road
the A8 TDI's capable chassis exhibits an agility that contradicts everything
you're expecting given its size, surprising you with the accuracy with which
it can be piloted through tight gaps.
This big car can really ride and handle, especially in Sport mode. The harder
you push, the more poised the A8 feels. This is partly down to its stiff aluminium
bodyshell which provides a perfect platform for the finely resolved fully-adaptive
air suspension system (it uses a four-link front and trapezoidal-link rear geometry
set-up). The driver can select any one of four suspension settings that each
have their own distinct ride height and damping characteristics and which are
continuously controlled and adjusted in real time.
These range from Automatic through sporty, lower-riding Dynamic to the serene
Comfort setting. Below 50mph there's a Lift mode for extra ground clearance
when driving over uneven terrain. A click of a switch via the MMI's 'Car' menu
is all it takes to switch from near magic-carpet suppleness to taut, roll-free
handling. Adding a massively reassuring layer of competence in the background
is Audi's quattro permanent all-wheel drive still a unique feature in
the luxury class and providing outstanding traction and control in all conditions.
The six-speed Tiptronic comes 'bundled' with a Dynamic Shift Program and a Sport
program. The DSP avoids excessively frequent gear changes and this is especially
noticeable when the performance of the V8 TDI is being fully exploited. When
Sport mode is engaged, upshifts are prevented if the accelerator is released
If the ESP's lateral acceleration sensor then detects that the A8 is cornering,
upshifts are blocked until you are through the bend. This avoids the 'change
happy' problems that blight some conventional automatic transmissions, making
an inappropriate upward change on entering a bend followed by a downward change
coming out of it again.
Should you choose to, you can flick the selector sideways to engage sequential
manual shifting. Upshifts are made by a short, firm push forwards and downshifts
by a light pull backwards on the selector lever. The lever's action has a clear-cut
action and 'feels' directly connected to the gearbox. Manual or automatic, the
gear engaged is always clearly displayed in the instrument panel.
Refinement is exceedingly good. Cruising effortlessly at speed, the lusty V8
is near silent. Deceptively so: Guess what speed you're doing. Then double the
figure you first thought of. Flick a glance at the 170mph speedometer and I
guarantee you'll be shocked. As a policeman once said to a friend of ours: "Excuse
me, Sir are you having trouble taking off?"
noise is virtually non-existent barely a flutter. And despite the huge
19-inch alloys shod with 255/40 Bridgestone tyres, there's no discernible road
noise either. All of which makes it easy to forget that this limousine-sized
A8 can be just as nonplussed ducking and diving as it is promenading. Want to
see? Stamp on the accelerator pedal better still, slot it into Sport
mode first for some real fireworks. You'll be rewarded with an emotive, bassy
V8 growl that reminds you that within the A8's beauty lives a mighty beast.
Another key component of the A8's composed and supple handling is
its rack-and-pinion steering with servotronic variable ratio and speed-dependent
power assistance. In practice it's nicely weighted, accurate and feeds the driver
enough information to fully exploit the A8's sporty handling abilities. The
brakes, too, are nicely judged: strong, with substantial belt-tightening retardation
when you push down hard on the pedal. And so they should be with enormous 360mm
discs at the front and 310mm at the rear. They're also easy to modulate, which
helps keep progress smooth when you need to really press on.
Safety obviously begins with the quattro permanent four-wheel drive system.
It continues with active front head restraints, double-glazed tinted glass,
two-stage airbags with pre-tensioners for the driver and front passenger, ABS
with electronic brake-force distribution, Traction Control and an Electronic
Stability Programme, side airbags for the four outer seats, side-impact protection
in all doors and Audi's Sideguard airbag head-protection system.
Brilliant Xenon headlights both main and dipped provide a safe
spread of non-dazzling light from dusk to dawn and are undoubtedly an important
'safety' item. The test car was fitted with the optional 'adaptive light' cornering
lights system that, at speeds of up to 45mph, directs an additional beam of
light in the direction of travel when turning or cornering to illuminate parts
of the road that would normally be missed.
In its latest TDI V8 guise, the A8 is a formidable player in the luxury sports
saloon game. It's refined to a degree that no diesel has any right to be. Just
to be crystal clear about this refinement business, when we say refined we don't
mean 'compared to other diesels'. We mean compared to anything else with four
wheels. That's how good
it is. It's also immensely satisfying to drive at any speed.
The A8 TDI is big, stylish and understatedly opulent. It comes with all the
creature comforts most owners could reasonably ask for, including keyless access
and start-up. Personally, I still prefer to physically turn a key in the ignition
although in the A8 you don't even have to hold it once you've flicked the key.
The engine automatically turns itself over until it fires. Never having to take
the key out of my pocket to lock or unlock the car was definitely A Good Thing.
As too was the self-opening, closing and locking bootlid operated by
either the remote or a button in the boot or driver's door. And while it comes
laden with state-of-the-art electronics, its MMI system which unifies
everything important into one easy-to-operate interface is without a
doubt as user-friendly as you can get.
The A8 TDI is as dynamically rewarding to hustle as it is to play the smooth-riding
boulevardier and it will even do 590 miles on a single tank of diesel!
All that remains to be said is that, unlike Brando in On The Waterfront,
this Audi A8 4.2 TDI will never be a contender. How so? Because it's already
the title holder, is why. MotorBar
Audi A8 4.2 TDI quattro | £58,420
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Test MPG: 29.1mpg | Power: 322bhp | Torque: 480lb ft
--------------------------------------------------------- Audi A8 4.2 TDI quattro