The premium saloon sector is always at the forefront of automotive innovation and so it should be, considering most offerings from the likes of Mercedes, Porsche and even Lexus don’t come much cheaper than £60,000. Audi has just refreshed its A8 range with a host of new gadgetry that hopes to fend off stiff competition from the NASA-esque Mercedes S-Class.

What is it?

A refreshed version of Audi’s range-topping A8 luxury saloon, a vehicle bestowed with futuristic technology, advanced safety devices, a plethora of engines and subtle but stylish interior and exterior styling. If you are looking to purchase one of these, chances are you either have exquisite taste and an acute eye for all things luxurious and expensive or you own a fleet of them and you make a living out of ferrying obnoxious types to the airport.

What is it like to drive?

The expansive array of engines means there is a drive to suit all tastes. Speed demons can opt for the fiery S8 model with its 4-litre twin turbocharged V8 that kicks out 518bhp, eco-conscious types can plump for the tiny 2-litre hybrid and its impressive consumption figures or, for those who like the middle ground, there’s the superbly capable 3-litre V6 TDI that perfectly balances performance and frugality. Customers can also go for a more potent 4.2 litre diesel, and TFSI petrol engines with 3 or 4-litre capacities.

The A8 is quintessentially Audi so expect a cosseting ride that only seems to come unstuck over the largest road imperfections, a beautifully hushed cabin and diesel engines that pull with the best of them. The 3-litre TDI we tested was dreamy around town, with barely a peep of road noise heard inside the cabin. The engine boasts all the performance one needs on UK roads but one slight niggle is the steering; it lacks feedback and won’t suit those who like to thread their saloons along a country road at the weekend.

What is it like inside?

Three specification levels are on offer to make the decision easier on the customer: SE, SE Luxury and Sport Executive. Even basic SE models come loaded with high-tech gadget and safety aids but the most popular choice, SE Luxury, comes with such niceties as a heads-up-display that is projected onto the windshield and presents information regarding speed and satellite navigation instructions. There is hand-crafted leather covering most surfaces and deep, plush carpets where cow hide isn’t present. It’s a lovely place to be, with an options list that includes some serious comfort packages for rear passengers, but we can’t help but think it lacks the sort of interior charm that a Jaguar XJ or a Porsche Panamera boasts nor the true technological knockout blow of the new Mercedes S-Class.

Is it practical?

That really depends on how you look at it. Will it comfortably transport four people across continents without so much as a hint of backache? Yes, indeed. Will it enjoy having jam sandwiches forced into the upholstery and crayons crushed into the rear entertainment screens? Probably not. The Audi A8 would make an, erm, interesting family car but despite its size, it’s very easy to live with on a day-to-day basis. The onboard computer wizardry takes care of most tricky parking situations, the slick auto gearbox takes the stress out of stop/start traffic and clever hands-free boot opening technology (simply wave a foot under the rear bumper) means that even the weekly shop is made easier. New MatrixBeam LED lights also make driving at night a much more pleasant experience as they intelligently light up the dark spaces without the need of driver input and without dazzling other road users.

Should I buy one?

The impressive 3-litre TDI model in its most basic trim level is keenly priced at £58,800 when stacked up against rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec (£62,650) and the Porsche Panamera diesel (£62,992) but there are cheaper options out there – the Jaguar XJ 3-litre V6 Turbodiesel and BMW 730d SE for starters. Fans of the four rings will not be disappointed with the usual refinement, craftsmanship and build quality of the big Audi but we’re not convinced it packs enough of a stylistic and technological punch to outclass the new S-class.

You can search for our classifieds for a used Audi A8 here

The facts

Model: Audi A8 3-litre TDI SE Executive
Price: £61,405
Engine: 3-litre V6 TDI
Power: 254bhp
Max speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.9 second
MPG: 47.9mpg (combined)
Emissions: 155 g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars

Leon Poultney


October 23, 2013

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