Audi A8 4.2 TDI SE Executive

February 2010

picture of car from the front

A8 shows elements of old car plus hints of smaller Audis


Overall Rating 9Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 6Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 9Controls and display

Comfort Rating 10Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 9Car safety


  • Clean cut and handsome exterior
  • Peerless interior is comfortable and stylish
  • Superb engine range, particularly 4.2 TDI
  • Sharpened responses make for more pleasurable driving


  • Design doesn't stand out against competition
  • Superb LED headlights not standard
  • Despite MMI's cleverness, can take time to understand
  • Boot is spacious but relatively shallow

The A8 has been the pinnacle of the Audi range since the first generation version appeared in 1994 and has always brought the most sophisticated technology and the greatest comfort that the brand has to offer. Now the A8 has reached its third generation, and the competition in the executive saloon segment is fiercer than ever.

The principles of the A8 remain the same for this third generation car. The exterior styling is recognisably an evolution of the outgoing car, although it does also bring several styling cues from elsewhere in the range, in particular the A5 coupe. Although more conservative than two of its key rivals, the A8 is undeniably handsome and well-executed, with some impressive details. It also manages to look smaller than its dimensions would suggest, which is not easy to achieve.

Another continuing key element to the A8's appeal is the use of an aluminium spaceframe chassis. Although a complex undertaking for the manufacturer, Audi claims that it saves 200kg over an equivalent steel chassis whilst matching its rigidity and crash performance. That brings significant benefits to fuel economy and performance by making the most out of the available engine performance.

Mechanically the A8 has air-suspension on all models, plus the Audi drive select system, which gives the driver the opportunity to tailor the car to suit the driving conditions. The engine range has also been updated, with either revised or new units - a mix of three diesels and one petrol is available. All A8s also feature a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which promises smoother shifting and improved fuel economy.

One final area where the A8 has received much attention is in terms of on-board technology. It is available with full LED headlights, a night vision camera and massage seats amongst other equipment. Two of the main highlights are the introduction of a touch-pad to the MMI interface, which allows the drivers to spell out a destination or phone book contact for greater ease of use, and also the advanced satellite navigation, which utilises the Google search engine as well as 'reading' the road ahead and sending information about it to the gearbox to ensure the best gear selection.

Our verdict on the Audi A8 4.2 TDI SE Executive

Nothing less than excellent would do for the A8, and the finished product more than lives up to that target. More attractive inside and out, faster, more efficient and more comfortable, the new A8 also manages to be more fun to drive, almost the only criticism that could have been levelled at the old car.

Costs rating 6

The A8 inevitably sits at the higher end of the cost scale, although improvements in efficiency and economy will result in lower fuel bills in the long term. Insurance costs are high regardless of the specification however.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

The A8 makes the most of its size, bringing impressive levels of cabin space for front and rear passengers. The boot is also generous, if relatively shallow, but this is to be expected with the four-wheel drive system taking up space at the rear of the car.

picture of car from the rear

New design hides the size of the boot

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 9

The A8's improved MMI is the heart of the control system, and builds on an already impressive set up. The new touchpad works effortlessly and requires almost no familiarisation from the driver. The rest of the cabin layout is a textbook example of attractive and efficient integration, although despite this it would take a new owner some time to get to grips with all the systems available.

Comfort Rating 10

Improvements in handling have not come at the expense of comfort; this is still a supremely comfortable car in which to travel. Double glazing, air-suspension, massage seats - all factors which add to the exceptional comfort on offer. Aids such as the automatic cruise control and the advanced sat-nav also relieve stress on the driver, making it the perfect car for covering long distances with ease.

Car security
Security Rating 8

Such a desirable car requires a high level of security and the A8 comes complete with a comprehensive alarm system, optional vehicle tracking system and tough double glazing.

Car safety
Safety Rating 9

The A8 showcases some of the latest safety technology to come from Audi so, as well as a comprehensive collection of airbags, ABS and ESP, all A8s come with a basic pre-safe system, which prepares the car for an accident should the ESP sense danger is imminent. This can be optionally upgraded to include collision avoidance with autonomous braking, and even seat adjustment to put occupants in the best position to minimise injury.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 7

Where the previous generation A8 was undoubtedly comfortable if not thrilling, the new car sets its stall out early on by providing more keen responses through the steering wheel. The air-suspension also offers better control through the corners even in Comfort mode, and so the A8 is not only more entertaining but actually easier to drive in normal conditions.

picture of car interior

Interior is a wonderful mix of comfort and high tech

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 7

It is probably too expensive to be chosen as a family car, but thanks to the space on offer and the potential for a first-class infotainment system, the A8 could actually do a fine job of keeping a family safe, comfortable and happy.

First car appeal
First car Rating 2

The A8 is unlikely to feature on the lists of first car buyers, not least due to the price and insurance costs.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 7

Up at the top level of luxury, nothing but the best quality is sufficient, and the A8 does not disappoint. Inside and out it uses very high quality materials, and everything operates with a smoothness and refinement. The A8's image is helped by this high-tech, discreet approach, and the A8 stands out as a car that is for high-flyers who want to avoid some of the ostentatiousness that comes as standard with some of its rivals.

Accessibility Rating

Thanks to large doors front and rear, access to the A8 requires very little effort indeed. Self-closing doors and a remotely-operated boot also remove most of the effort of getting inside.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The A8's standard audio system includes a DAB radio, music interface allowing connection for MP3 players, 20GB-worth of storage space plus a CD player. There is also the option to upgrade to a Bose or B and O system, but all offerings produce impressive results, not least because of the low noise levels from the rest of the car.

picture of car in detail

LED headlight option is clever and stunning to look at

Colours and trim

Like any luxury saloon of this size, the A8 looks best in more sober hues, and with larger alloy wheels. Inside there is a great scope for mixing colours of hides and wood, but regardless of the choices the overall standard is very high indeed.


The A8 is of course a large car, but the speed-sensitive power steering means slow-speed manoeuvres are completed with ease. Standard parking sensors front and rear also aid the process.

Spare wheel

Full size spare wheel mounted beneath the boot floor.


Range information

Petrol engine options - 4.2-litre (367bhp). Diesel engine options - 3.0-litre (201bhp and 247bhp, 4.2-litre (345bhp). Transmission options: eight-speed automatic standard on all models bar low-output diesel, which uses seven-speed Multitronic CVT. Trim levels: SE, SE Executive.


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February 2010