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First drive - Audi A8L 50 TDI. Image by Audi.

First drive - Audi A8L 50 TDI
All-new A8 is a showcase for Audi's latest technology


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Audi A8L 50 TDI

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The new Audi A8 is the company's new flagship, not only for luxury and refinement but also for technology. It is the first car to be capable of Level 3 Autonomous Driving, and its interior signals a step change in the interface between car and occupant.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi A8L 50 TDI
Price: range starts at 69,100
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder diesel
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-seat saloon
Combined economy: 42.0mpg
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Power: 286hp at 3,750- to 4,000rpm
Torque: 600Nm at 1,250- to 3,250rpm

What's this?

Say hello to the fourth-generation Audi A8, the most luxurious and advanced limousine yet from Audi. Being the flagship model, it not only has impressive levels of presence, but it also comes crammed with the latest electronics that will keep driver and passengers occupied for hours. Arguably the most anticipated feature of the new Audi A8 is its Level 3 Autonomous Driving capability, called Audi AI. However, Audi is still waiting on legislators in Europe to catch up and pass the necessary laws in order for it to be used. So for now we have to make do with all of the other systems on board. Thankfully, there are dozens of them.

The A8 also becomes the first Audi model line to have hybrid technology in all variants. Most will use a mild hybrid (MHEV) to reduce fuel consumption when cruising, and Audi will also introduce a plug-in hybrid version that will have wireless charging capabilities.

How does it drive?

Unsurprisingly the A8 manages to waft along in seemingly effortless style. All models feature adaptive air suspension, which can be tweaked according to the chosen driving mode. The system does an impressive job of limiting both pitch under acceleration and braking and roll in the corners. Even in its 'Comfort' mode, the A8 still exhibits plenty of composure through a series of bends.

The suspension is more adept at coping with larger imperfections on the road, but over smaller, high frequency bumps it doesn't feel so well damped. Our test route included one challenging semi-offroad section that was so heavily rutted that we even questioned tackling it. To our amazement the A8 soaked it up with the ease that would have many SUVs feeling inadequate.

All of Audi's A8 range, except for the plug-in hybrid model, now features a mild hybrid system (MHEV) that gives the engine the ability to shut off for up to 40 seconds when coasting. During this period the car's systems are powered by the on-board lithium-ion battery. A belt alternator starter (BAS) system restarts the engine is a seamless fashion. In most instances it is almost impossible to tell that the engine has restarted. Audi says that the MHEV system can save up to 2mpg in fuel economy.

The 3.0-litre diesel engine will surely be of interest to company car drivers. It's an entry-level engine compared to others in the range, like the petrol V8 and mighty W12, but the 50 TDI, as it is now known under Audi's latest nomenclature (don't worry, there is a badge deletion option), has plenty of performance for the luxury saloon. A power output of 268hp is adequate, but it's the 600Nm of torque that is of more use here, and that rolls in at 1,250rpm. Considering how quiet some of Audi's mainstream models are inside when on the move, there is more engine noise from the diesel than was to be expected. Don't worry, it's still well muffled, but doesn't set any new standards for the segment.

As is often the case with modern Audis, the steering is devoid of any real sense of feel or feedback. Even when you choose the sportier 'Dynamic' mode it gains just a modicum of resistance. This effect, combined with the neutral power delivery from the quattro all-wheel transmission makes it hard to get any true driving pleasure from the A8, in the enthusiast sense of the word at least. Here's hoping that the forthcoming S8 performance model will address some of these issues.

Using the various technologies while driving is easy and many make the journey that bit easier. Naturally we tested the front seat's massage functions along with its heating and ventilation. We can understand how some drivers will still prefer physical buttons for things like climate control, but the touchscreen system is easy to get used to and is helped by its haptic feedback.

As for the rear passengers, well, if you're in the long wheelbase version you will struggle to find a more comfortable way in which to be transported. Depending on your budget you can enjoy true first class experience in the rear, with reclining seats and the option of a foot massager built into the rear of the front passenger seat. That seat can extend fully forward to maximise your legroom in the back, too.


There's no question that the new Audi A8 is a technological tour de force, even before its trick autonomous driving technology gets officially switched on sometime next year. It matches its few peers in this lofty segment but in relation to sheer comfort, it doesn't set a new benchmark. Compared to its predecessor, though, it looks and feels light years ahead.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

5 5 5 5 5 Comfort

3 3 3 3 3 Driving Dynamics

3 3 3 3 3 Powertrain

Dave Humphreys - 11 Oct 2017    - Audi road tests
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2018 Audi A8 first drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A8 first drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A8 first drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A8 first drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A8 first drive. Image by Audi.

2018 Audi A8 first drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A8 first drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A8 first drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A8 first drive. Image by Audi.2018 Audi A8 first drive. Image by Audi.


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