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Driven: Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.

Driven: Audi A8 55 TFSI
Audiís latest A8 is a deeply impressive machine but might more power unleash an even finer car?

 



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Audi A8 55 TFSI

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: stunning ride, surprisingly spry handling, epic refinement, lusty V6 engine, the interior and technology are both superb

Not so good: it doesn't feel appreciably grander than an A6, no big V8s (yet) available

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi A8 55 TFSI
Price: A8 range from £69,955; 55 TFSI from £71,030, car as tested £75,145
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: eight-speed Tiptronic automatic, quattro all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door executive saloon
CO2 emissions: 182g/km (VED Band 171-190: £830 in year one, then £450 per annum years two to six of ownership, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 35.3mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.6 seconds
Power: 340hp at 5,000-6,400rpm
Torque: 500Nm from 1,370-4,500rpm
Boot space: 505 litres

Our view:

Having driven the Audi A6 and also the A7 Sportback this year, and marvelled at their interior technology, we decided we had better get the A8 in for a longer loan - as it was the vehicle which debuted the three-screen human-machine interface (HMI) for much of the infotainment and interior functions. And it's always important to try out a pioneer, right?

Cue one week with an A8 55 TFSI, meaning the 340hp petrol 3.0-litre V6. At the time of writing, this is the most potent engine of just two available for Audi's flagship saloon, the other being the 50 TDI with the 286hp motor. Intriguingly, the first thing to note about our test A8 was the paucity of options fitted to it. A mere £4,115 had been added to the list price, made up of the £1,695 Comfort and Sound Pack (360-degree cameras, extended interior LED lighting and a whopping 730-watt, 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system), £1,250 on four-zone climate control, £675 on acoustic double-glazing and £495 on privacy glass.

Which means that almost every luxury appointment and fitting you can lay hands on in the A8's cabin is there as standard for its very reasonable £71,030 asking price, which is most encouraging. And it is, of course, a beautiful place to spend some time, especially in the back seats - these being so capacious that you kind of wonder why the A8 L, with its stretched wheelbase, is in any way necessary. Those three digital screens up front look lovely, the layout of everything is marvellous, Sard Brown Valcona leather is definitely 'FTW' (as kids might once have said) and it all works so intuitively... and yet. And yet. To be honest, once you're installed behind the wheel, you kind of... forget it's an A8 you're piloting. It's very, very similar to sitting at the controls of an A6. Not necessarily a bad thing, but the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series do a better job of conveying their airs of intra-marque superiority to the driver.

That's not to say we can mark the A8 down for its cabin. Nor for the way it looks. If anything, it's Audi's best three-box artwork, alongside the taut shape of the A3 Saloon. There are some superb details, like the long, almost perfectly horizontal swage line that runs atop the doors, or the linked rear light clusters with the chrome-strip finish, or the graceful sweep of the C-pillar, but whatever way you cut it, this is one seriously handsome big saloon.

The Audi's dignified aesthetic is echoed by its driving manners. We've tried a few of these new big Audis on air suspension and they feel just a bit nervous, just a bit like their fancy underpinnings are not quite up to snuff when held alongside Mercedes' Airmatic arrangement. But the A8's different. Its adaptive air suspension seemed to be in perfect sync with the body, never allowing the slightest imperfection in the road surface to filter its way through to the passenger compartment. Indeed, we pounded up and down motorways in the A8 55 TFSI, negotiated any number of cratered back roads, wended its large frame through the centre of middle-English market towns, swept imperiously along free-flowing rural A-roads... and it always felt absolute sublime to travel in. So much so that we did 616 miles and getting on for 16 hours behind its wheel in a week; it even gave back 30.7mpg and a best figure of 37.3mpg on a motorway run from Gatwick to the East Midlands, impressive returns for a petrol V6 limo.

Better still, the A8 felt like one of Audi's better chassis when it comes to handling. Sure, it's not going to suddenly have Porsche Panamera owners downing tools and flocking to Audi's dealerships in their droves, but its clean, crisp dynamics belied its near 5.2-metre length and two-tonne kerb weight. The steering even boasted a modicum of feel and had a refreshing consistency to it that can be strangely absent from some other modern Audi set-ups. So while we might not be raving about the way the A8 55 TFSI negotiates a set of corners, it does bode very well as a basis for any hotter models - particularly if Ingolstadt goes loopy again and hands the A8 over to Audi Sport, as it did with the old S8 plus.

And mention of faster versions is an apposite time to draw this review to a close. In short, there's little we dislike about the latest A8. It does everything an exec limousine should do, only it adds in a bit of handling verve and some truly cutting-edge technology while it's at it. But we're not going to crown it as the king of its castle quite yet; the fact the (admittedly gorgeous) interior doesn't feel any different to the A6 sitting further down the family tree is an odd one, while there are just two V6 powerplants available for the A8 as we speak. The 55 TFSI is a fine mill, that's not up for discussion, as the performance and noise of the Audi are both about perfectly judged for this type of car - but the 3.0-litre V6 comes across as a bit 'midrange' for output, what with its 340hp. Once some V8s come on stream and give the A8 the requisite muscle to match its undoubted prestige, what we might be seeing here is something capable of toppling the S-Class and BMW Seven. That would be no mean feat, we can tell you.

Alternatives:

BMW 7 Series: has a far wider drivetrain choice than the A8 and its interior is just a little more 'special'. No doubt the Audi's better looking, though.

Maserati Quattroporte: this could and should be so great - Italian style, Ferrari engines, sharp chassis. Strangely, the finished product is actually curiously underwhelming... and (whisper it) not really that pretty, either.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class: long-time leader in this particular, rarefied market sector, the Sonderklasse faces stronger challengers these days than it ever has before. Nevertheless, the Merc is still a thoroughly class act.


Matt Robinson - 14 Nov 2018









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2018 Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.2018 Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.2018 Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.2018 Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.2018 Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.

2018 Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.2018 Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.2018 Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.2018 Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.2018 Audi A8 55 TFSI. Image by Audi UK.








 

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