Audi's flagship saloon tested on Irish roads for the first time
Pros: Soothing comfort, modernistic interior, refined diesel engines
Cons: Understated styling, still waiting for autonomous tech, enticing rivals
The age of driverless cars is fast approaching and Audi’s new flagship saloon takes us one step closer to that day. The fourth generation A8 is the first production car available with Level 3 autonomous technology, which includes various assisted driving technologies and driverless aids. While legislation has yet to permit the full use of such technology, the A8 is positioned ahead of its rivals in this regard. Audi is keen to set the new fourth generation A8 apart from its rivals such as the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and it boasts a minimalist interior with vibrant touch screen displays, revised styling and a wave of new luxurious equipment too. But is the A8 the leading choice in the ultra competitive luxury saloon class? We spent a week with it on Irish roads recently to find out.
What is it like?
The A8 represents a new design approach for Audi and it oozes presence from every angle. The front grille is more pronounced than before with intricate chrome detailing, while there is a lengthy OLED light strip at the rear which looks superb at night time. The new A8 is slightly longer and taller than its predecessor too with short and long wheelbase models to choose from. The A8’s styling is somewhat understated for a flagship model and less showy than the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which will appeal to the minimalists amongst us. Our test car is the short wheelbase model and it is finished in unassuming Terra Grey metallic paint and equipped with optional 20-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels.
The A8’s cabin exudes sophistication and integrates more technology than ever before. It is supremely spacious up front with cosseting electrically-adjustable seats wrapped in Valcona leather, and rear seat passengers are treated to acres of room for supreme comfort on longer journeys. The centre console features a pair of large touch screens and Audi’s Virtual Cockpit driver’s display, and this lends the cabin a futuristic feel. Audi's standard MMI infotainment system is incredibly impressive to use and among the best in the luxury class. The A8 feels more spacious than ever and its 510-litre boot is more than enough to accommodate golf clubs or large suitcases for weekend ventures.
The A8’s engine range boasts a new naming convention, with the choice of a 3.0-litre TDI V6 diesel unit (50 TDI) or a 3.0-litre V6 petrol (55 TFSI) engine. The 50 TDI diesel is likely to be the best seller here in Ireland and it is the one we drove. With 286bhp, Quattro all-wheel-drive and a smooth shifting automatic transmission, it can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 5.9 seconds, which is impressive for a car of this bulk. Both of the A8’s engines feature a mild hybrid system which enables cruising on battery power for increased economy too. During our time with the A8 50 TDI, we covered long drives around Munster, and found it to be suitably economical with a return of 6.5l/100 and motor tax rated at €390.
Out on the road, the new A8 is incredibly refined and relaxing to drive. The adaptive suspension system is firm in comparison to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but it corners with composure as a result, while the brakes offer tremendous stopping power. The new A8 is heavier than its predecessor, however it feels more agile around town thanks to the four-wheel steering system. The ride height can be manually adjusted or selected through different driving modes such as Dynamic and Comfort, and road noise is almost non-existent thanks to the standard acoustic glazing. The A8 offers relaxation behind the wheel like few other cars on the market right now.
Prices for the new Audi A8 start at €99,100, and it straddles the divide between the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class in terms of pricing. Standard equipment is lavish to say the least, with 22-way electrically adjustable and heated front seats, adaptive air suspension, more safety systems than you can shake a stick at, a 360-degree camera, Audi's MMI navigation, a DVD player and an electric tailgate. For ultimate luxury, the glove compartment is cooled and there are electrically operated sun blinds in the side and rear windows too. Our test car has a few choice upgrades including power-assisted closing for the doors, large 20-inch alloy wheels and also a fetching Terra Grey metallic paint scheme, which boosts its asking price to €112,753. Yes, it’s expensive!
Carzone verdict: 4/5
Audi’s range-topping A8 blends luxury and technology in a blissful and understated manner. The A8 is beautifully constructed inside with vibrant touch screen displays and impressive tech, and it marches ahead of its rivals in the driverless technology space. The latest Mercedes-Benz E-Class remains a key contender to the A8 however, as it is somewhat more refined for Irish roads. We’ll also have to wait for Level 3 Autonomous legislation to be drafted and introduced before the A8 can show the full extent of its abilities. That said, those seeking luxury of the highest order should place the A8 high on their shortlist.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Audi A8 3.0TDI Quattro
Prices from: €99,100
Price as tested: €112,753
Annual Road Tax: €390
Engine: 2967cc six-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Top Speed: 250km/h
0-100km/h: 5.9 seconds
Body style: Saloon
Boot Space: 505 litres