Audi A8 L 3.0 TDI SE Executive

July 2010

picture of car from the front

Conservative styling should appeal to equally conservative buyers

Ratings

Overall Rating 9Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 6Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 9Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 9Controls and display

Comfort Rating 10Comfort

Security Rating 8Car security

Safety Rating 9Car safety


Likes

  • Bold and handsome exterior
  • Longer wheelbase doesn't impact negatively on car's appearance
  • Engine range is more than up to the job - especially 3.0 TDi diesel
  • Spacious cabin is well built and impeccably refined

Gripes

  • Conservative looks might be a underwhelming for some
  • Despite car's asking price, a lot of important equipment is optional
  • Owner-drivers will rue the lack of driver involvement
  • Boot is spacious but relatively shallow

Recent years have seen Mercedes being challenged for supremacy in the limousine market. The S-Class is synonymous with the executive hire and corporate world, but Audi's high-tech A8 has muscled in on its rival's territory. This third generation car comes bristling with technology and refinement - and in the case of the long-wheelbase model a greater focus on rear seat comfort.

Long or regular wheelbase, the principles of the A8 remain the same for this third generation car. The exterior styling is an evolution of its predecessor, although it does also bring several styling cues from elsewhere in the range. The A8 is undeniably handsome and well-executed, with some impressive details. It also manages to look smaller than its dimensions would suggest, while the extra length in the wheelbase doesn't spoil the car's looks.

Mechanically the A8 boasts air-suspension 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 a mix of diesel and petrol units offering a wide choice and improved economy and emissions performance. All A8s also feature a new eight-speed automatic transmission, which promises smoother shifting and improved fuel economy.

A key element of 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 partly explains the fuel economy gains.

Professional drivers will be equally interested in the rear of this A8. In long-wheelbase trim the car improves on an already generous amount of space. What's likely to be of greater interest is the list of equipment available. Electrically adjustable and reclining seats incorporating heated and cooling functions plus a massage option should please the clients. Factor in the likes of independent control of the entertainment system, a fridge and an airline-style recline function and the A8 capable of matching anything in its class.

Our verdict on the Audi A8 L 3.0 TDI SE Executive

As with its shorter length cousin, this A8 L raises the bar when it comes to quality and refinement. Its conservative styling allows you to move around relatively unnoticed, all the while enjoying a level of comfort that should have rivals worried. The driving experience is no less impressive, as the A8 is backed supported by an excellent engine and transmission package plus a level of on-the-move refinement that comes eerily close to that of its super-luxury stablemate Bentley.

Costs
Costs rating 6

As you would expect, the A8 sits at the higher end of the cost scale, although the improvements in engine efficiency and economy should result in lower fuel bills and CO2-related tax in the long term. Insurance costs are high regardless of the specification however.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 9

Already a large car, the long-wheelbase A8 stretches comfort and practicality a little further. Rear legroom is now positively palatial, while various options allow for reclining and massage features to be selected for the rear seats. Oddment storage is another plus, while generous amounts of covered storage is available throughout the cabin. Factor in soft-close doors and powered boot operation and luxury is never far away.

picture of car from the rear

long wheelbase A8's looks haven't suffered

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 9

At the heart of the A8 is Audi's much-improved MMI controller. There's also a clever new touchpad, which works effortlessly and allows direct handwritten input. 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
Comfort Rating 10

The improvements to the car's ride and inclusion of a more advanced air suspension system have resulted in a smooth ride and a general lowering of wind and road noise. Plush seats and plenty of cabin space - especially in the rear - complete this desirable picture.

Car security
Security Rating 8

Predictably 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. Keyless entry and ignition means you can keep the key in your pocket at all times, too. Blinds for the rear windows and back screen improve privacy when on the move.

Car safety
Safety Rating 9

True to form, this A8 showcases some of the latest technology to come from Audi. 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

With its uprated range of engines, there's little doubt that this A8 is capable of bigger and better things than its predecessor. All-wheel drive for the majority of models helps improve agility at speed, while the powerful diesel engines are the pick of the range. That said, with successive generations, the driving experience has become more remote, albeit in a subtle way. If you're a business driver this is actually an advantage, as the experience now smoother and more refined than previously,

picture of car interior

Tasteful range of colour and trim options

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 7

There's no question that the A8 is spacious enough to accommodate a family, however it is probably too expensive. There's also the small issue of its plush leather interior, which won't be compatible with small children.

First car appeal
First car Rating 2

Predictably the A8 is unlikely to feature on the lists of first car buyers, not least due to the price and insurance costs. If you happen to drive one for business though, your first encounter should be a pleasant one as its easy to drive nature will instantly put you at ease.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 7

No expense has been spared in the quality department, and the A8 does not disappoint. Inside and out it uses very high quality materials, and everything operates with a smoothness and refinement that we've come to expect from Audi. Record sales and a rapidly growing market share are proof that the German company is on the right track.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

With its large doors front and rear, access to the A8 requires very little effort indeed. And in long-wheelbase form rear seat occupants fare better than those in the front. Soft-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 system includes a DAB radio, music interface allowing connection for MP3 players, 20GB-worth of storage space plus a CD player. Being an Audi there's also a tempting upgrade path, however. A high specification audio system is available, plus sat-nav linked to Google maps and the option of in-car Wi-Fi and internet access.

picture of car in detail

Focus very much on welfare and comfort of rear occupants

Colours and trim

The A8 looks best in sober hues and with larger alloy wheels filling its wheel arches. Inside there is a huge scope for mixing colours of hides and wood, but be careful as not all combinations are easy on the eye.

Parking

Although a large car, the A8's speed-sensitive power steering means slow-speed manoeuvres are completed with ease. Standard-fit 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 - 3.0-litre TFSI (290bhp); 4.2-litre (372bhp); 6.3-litre W12 (550bhp). Diesel engine options - 3.0-litre (250bhp); 4.2-litre (350bhp). Transmission options: eight-speed automatic standard on all 'L' models. Trim levels: SE, SE Executive.

 

Alternative cars

BMW 7-Series Packed with clever technology but controversial looks might be off-putting

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Benchmark in limousine class is a tough act to beat

Lexus LS 600h More comfort-biased hybrid remains left-field choice despite its exceptional refinement

Jaguar XJ Bold looks and driver-centric character a long way from conservative XJs of old



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July 2010