Audi A8 – Travelling First Class
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
I have enjoyed the comfort of Audi A8 travel on many occasions but when I look back have only got behind the wheel very briefly. A new model heralded the opportunity to try one for size and a sleek ‘mystic black’ saloon soon graced my driveway.
Under the bonnet sat Audi’s familiar 286PS turbocharged diesel engine, paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and quattro four-wheel drive. Petrol and hybrid engines are now available, though it is doubtful that they will achieve the combined economy figure stated for the miserly diesel (44.8mpg).
The powerful motor produces a heady 600Nm of torque and its maximum is achieved at just 1,250rpm. The A8 can therefore be real world quick should you so be in the mood, with the 0-62mph time of just 5.9 seconds being a good indicator.
There is also a new electrical system that confers mild hybrid status on the A8. It allows for engine-off coasting for better economy and lower emissions (145g/km CO2).
The A8 silhouette is a familiar one and the keen eye might spot an increase in length and height, benefitting interior space. Understated elegance perhaps, but a little more visual flair wouldn’t go amiss.
Audi has a reputation for producing superb interiors and the A8’s passenger compartment is suitably plush. The highest quality materials are used with ‘Valcona’ leather upholstery and aluminium and wood dash inlays setting the tone.
There is an air of solidity that suggests an A8 is built to last forever.
Equipment levels are high, as one would expect when spending almost £70,000, but as is the Audi way, the test car was adorned with another £23,000 worth of goodies, most hugely desirable.
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Audi claim that the A8 has the greatest capability for autonomous driving ever seen in a production car. Amongst the 40+ driver assistance systems is the ability to park the car at the touch of a button including into a garage.
To be honest, a week was barely enough to even begin to understand all the tech, not helped by the fact that the test car had a software fault which disabled many of the safety systems from time to time. The solution, leave the car locked for twenty minutes and all was well again.
As a result I didn’t drive the car as extensively as I would have liked, but did subject the car to some of my challenging test routes.
The quattro drivetrain ensures excellent traction in all conditions and the adaptive dampers do a good job of soaking up road imperfections. However, for a car majoring on luxury travel, some deeper potholes and expansion joints are more noticeable that I would like.
There is now some rear wheel steering that makes the A8 more manoeuvrable at low speeds and helps with stability in high speed cornering.
It all feels safe and controlled, but there is little fun to be had. A Jaguar XJ or a BMW 7-Series would be the driver’s choice.
I suspect none of this matters as the vast majority of A8s seem to end up doing service as chauffeur-driven cars, where a serene and comfortable ride is of greater importance.
And to that end the A8 succeeds and the long wheelbase versions get a tad more luxury for rear seat passengers – heated seats, four-zone climate control and a tablet to control the infotainment system.
So do I covet an A8? Not at all, but if I had just stepped off an airplane after a long-haul flight and my onward travel was by way of an A8 with professional driver, I would be only too delighted.
Audi A8 50 TDI quattro
Price £68,215 (£91,160 with options)
286PS 3.0-litre TDI diesel engine
8-speed automatic gearbox
0-62mph in 5.9 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Combined economy 44.8mpg
Emissions 145g/km CO2
Audi A8 – Travelling First Class, 15th October 2018, 12:45 PM