Paddy Comyn reviews the Audi A8, somewhat equivalent to a ‘CEO in running shoes’
The Audi A8 has always been the slightly left-field choice in the luxury car segment in Ireland and has largely been replaced by luxury SUVs, the more preferred choice of the well-heeled these days. Those who do want a luxury saloon are now choosing electric vehicles (EVs). In 2022, Audi sold 72 e-tron GT models compared to just nine A8s, and 90 per cent of those A8s were dealer demos. Meanwhile, rivals MercedesBenz shifted 68 EQS models and 66 S-Class models, and BMW sold 40 7-Series. So where does the A8 fit into all of this? The A8 has probably suffered from being perceived as not unique enough, because Audi tended to adopt a Russian-doll approach to styling. Park an A4, A6, and A8 of the same colour, a car park size apart, you’ll have to pay close attention to tell the difference. Not really what you want when buying the ultimate Audi saloon, and especially when the e-tron GT is incredibly striking. One would imagine that, at some stage, the A8 will become an EV, and there is certainly enough space for batteries. Park in any car park and you will find your A8 quickly enough, as it’s the one peeking out, thanks to its almost 5.2-metre length. For now, Audi has ‘electrified’ the A8 using a combination of their 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine, which itself has 340hp, and twinned it with a 17.9kWh battery (14.4kWh usable), to offer up the potential for 462hp and 700Nm of torque (of course, you’ll need a full battery for that). It makes the A8 better in terms of fuel economy.
The A8 is easily the most discrete luxury car on the market. While Audi’s design team have been let loose on their e-tron range, particularly the e-tron GT, the A4, A6, and A8 have been criticised of late for not offering much differentiation between them. For anyone who hates current BMW designs and doesn’t like the vibe of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the A8 might be just the thing. Most people assume it is an A6 until they see its noticeable size difference; the A8 is 251 millimetres longer than the A6, but a little broader and taller. Our test car was fitted with some pretty expensive options to make it prettier, including a €1,745 S-Line exterior, €770 20-inch Audi Sport 5-V-spoke star design alloy wheels, a black styling pack for €1,282, and €629 privacy glass. As someone who likes a discreet luxury car, this was right for me regarding looks. It was stealthy, and I loved that. A 2022 redesign sharpened the front and rear design.
Audi is well known for their interiors, and the quality of the A8, as you might expect, is exceptional, with a genuinely excellent fit and finish that feels more like a luxury hotel room than a car. There is a nice mix in the A8 of traditional wood (‘piano black’ in this case), and Audi has taken a different approach to the new norm of a vast flatscreen TV in the centre console, instead opting for something much more subtle. The MMI (multi-media interface) touch response system operating concept in the Audi A8 relies on two displays (10.1- and 8.6-inch) and natural voice operation, which you can start by calling ‘hey Audi’. The digital Audi virtual cockpit, with the heads-up display fitted to our car, provides the driver with important information directly in their line of sight. MMI navigation-plus is standard on the A8, supported by the third-generation modular infotainment toolkit.
The A8 was always regarded as a slightly sporty luxury car, like a CEO in running shoes. Those that wanted the whole beans opted for the rare, but wonderful, S8. While the S8 has 571hp and a staggering 800Nm of torque, thanks to a 4.0-litre V8, a 0-100km/h time of 3.8 seconds, and emissions of 259g/km, this TFSIe uses a 3.0-litre V6 combined with a 14.1kWh battery to offer up the potential for a not-far-off 462hp and 700Nm of torque and a 0-100km/h sprint just 1.1 seconds slower than the S8. Crucially though, it does it with emissions of 45g/km, so it costs €140 annual motor tax compared to the S8s €2,400 (yes, not a typo). Oh, and the TFSIe is €96,000 cheaper. So this TFSIe is almost as quick (when the battery is full), but costs a fraction to run and is about half the price. This is now the ‘cheapest’ A8 you can get your hands on too, thanks to the low VRT.
Most of the time you will spend in the A8 involves a lot of wafting. As a 46-year-old man, I don’t feel the need to be in a hurry anymore, and gliding along in the A8 feels immensely satisfying, and dare I say, a little smug.
In the interests of motoring journalism, though, I popped the car into the Dynamic model, threw the car’s considerable bulk at some corners, and was pleasantly surprised that it responded remarkably well, belying its size. With quattro underneath you, and Audi not sparing the euros on the tyres on our press car, it dug into the tarmac like a three-year-old having a tantrum. This is fun to drive too.
For the reasons mentioned above, the TFSIe model is the cheapest to buy, most affordable to run, and the second-fastest. So, if an A8 is your thing, then it’s a bit of a no-brainer to get this one. The thing is that this feels and drives much better than the large luxury SUVs that people spend this sort of money on.
The latest A8 has about 40 driver assistance systems available, making it one of the safest cars you can drive in terms of preventing a collision in the first place. On this car, you can have innumerable ways to not crash into something or scrape your expensive luxury saloon.
The A8 with this new ‘refresh’ feels very competent, and the addition of PHEV technology makes it less expensive to buy and run. We’d like to have seen a bigger battery added to bring the EV range closer to 100km to make it truly useful. But that aside, this is a really nice place to be. As good as a Mercedes S-Class? Probably not and, even with the Audi range, is hard to buy given the e-tron GT is so excellent.
AUDI A8 LUXURY 60 TFSI E QUATTRO
Engine: 2,995cc 6-cylinder 340PS petrol engine/17.9 kWh battery (14.4 kWh net)
Power: 462hp @5,000-6,400rpm Torque: 700Nm 0-100km/h: 4.9 seconds
Fuel economy: 2.1 l/100km EV range: 67km
Top speed: 250km/h (limited) /135km/h in EV mode
Transmission: Eight-speed tiptronic CO2: 45g/km
Annual motor tax: €140
Luggage capacity: 390 litres
Price as tested: €120,481
Colour: Manhattan Grey technology makes it less expensive to buy and run.