Audi A8 A8L 4.2 TDI SE Executive

March 2014

picture of car from the front

No clue from the front that this is a long-wheelbase A8


Overall Rating 8Overall rating

Value for money Rating 6Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 6Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 9Comfort

Security Rating 9Car security

Safety Rating 9Car safety


  • Smooth and very refined progress
  • Very powerful but refined diesel engine
  • Exceedingly high quality interior materials
  • Plenty of clever technology makes life easy for occupants


  • Large size can make driving in town difficult
  • Significant price increase over its smaller diesel sibling
  • Exterior design lacks the personality of rival offerings
  • Driving experience is fuss-free rather than exciting

Audi's flagship model is the A8, a luxury saloon designed to offer the ultimate in comfort, prestige and technology. To suit its common role of chauffeur vehicle Audi is offering a long-wheelbase A8L alongside it, and together with recent revisions and new technology means it offers a stronger package overall.

Best described as a mid-term facelift, the A8 has had a number of elements changed inside and out although it is clearly recognisable as an A8 and it is not easy to immediately spot the changes. The basic chassis dimensions and components are the same and the silhouette is roughly identical, but the alterations do make a significant difference overall.

Most of the engines have gained either in efficiency, output or both, thanks to Audi's latest fuel-saving and power-maximising measures. This 4.2-litre V8 diesel, a unique engine type for this class of car, benefits more from the latter than from the former, with a marginal fuel economy increase but a significant output boost.

It is the highest-performance diesel saloon Audi makes, occupying a niche in the market for buyers who want more than the entry-level V6 diesel without resorting to the higher fuel consumption of the similarly-priced 4.0-litre petrol model, which incidentally will only come to the UK as a long-wheelbase version. All engines except the 3.0-litre petrol will have a long-wheelbase option.

Its trump cards are split between its impressive noise insulation on all fronts, its huge acceleration and high-speed cruising ability, and its class-leading new technology, like advanced LED headlights that can turn certain groups of LEDs off to dim individual parts of the main beam when it detects other cars, maintaining main beam while not dazzling other drivers.

Our verdict on the Audi A8 A8L 4.2 TDI SE Executive

Luxury cars like this are as much about the experience in the back seats as they are from the front, and the A8L does well on both fronts. The additional room in the rear thanks to the stretched body is welcome and provides a truly luxurious experience, while the ride comfort, refinement and driving experience remain highly impressive.

Costs rating 6

With a purchase price beyond most motorists the A8L TDI V8 can never be called affordable, but for the performance and luxury it offers, it's actually quite efficient. As a large premium car its residuals are inherently poor and lag substantially behind the Mercedes S-Class's, but they are on par with the BMW 7 Series and Jaguar XJ. On a gentle cruise, fuel economy could be surprising.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

Thanks to a huge boot and plenty of cabin space the A8 certainly ticks the roominess box, but outright practicality is hampered slightly by the fixed saloon boot aperture, which prevents large boxes from fitting into the capacious luggage bay. There could also be more provision for cabin storage, although drinks holders for front and rear passengers are suitably present and correct. The central rear seat can be sacrificed altogether in favour of an optional entertainment and communications console.

picture of car from the rear

Extra length of rear doors is subtly integrated into the shape

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

As Audi's flagship saloon the A8 uses the best displays the company has access to, and the result is a pleasant balance between digital readouts and analogue dials. The high-resolution colour centre console screen does an excellent job of displaying graphics and menus, while the main instrument cluster is clear, modern and very Audi. The remaining dials and buttons, of which there are plenty, are weighted so as to inspire a feeling of long-term solidity.

Comfort Rating 9

Comfort is a prerequisite for a car like this and the A8 delivers with some style, riding extremely well over typical road surfaces and keeping audible intrusions to a minimum. It does depend on which driving dynamics mode the driver is using, though, because in truth the ride is unpleasantly crashy and harsh in Dynamic mode while being pillow-soft in Comfort. Long, customisable seats give four or five people an extremely comfortable ride.

Car security
Security Rating 9

Audi in general have a strong reputation for security and the A8 in particular has been rated very highly. Darkened glass around the rear half of the car helps to keep out prying eyes, self-closing doors and double glazing all help keep the A8 very secure.

Car safety
Safety Rating 9

To run through all of the safety kit on the A8 would take an inordinate amount of time. However, one of the highlights is the new MatrixBeam full-LED headlight system that can maintain a full main beam while turning off individual LEDs to dim part of the light spread to avoid dazzling other traffic.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 7

This is arguably the best A8 for driving appeal, because reasonable fuel consumption tempers furious acceleration from the uprated V8 diesel engine. A moment's turbo lag is followed by relentless thrust through the rev range and through each gear, pushing around to the 155mph speed limiter with ease. It is also extremely torquey at low revs, which is ideal for traffic and low-speed chauffeuring.

picture of car interior

Flawless cabin is packed with technology and is supremely comfortable

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 7

The A8 would certainly make a spacious car for the family, and there are child seat mounts installed in the outer rear seats. But in reality there are several important barriers in the way for parents, and chief among them is the high-quality leather upholstery and dashboard trim, which could be vulnerable to spills of all kinds. The second problem is the car's size, and although many parents choose to make the school run in large cars it's not always easy to park them.

First car appeal
First car Rating 3

There's very little in the way of first car appeal with the A8, with its price, performance, insurance costs and size putting it way beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest new driver.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 7

At this price point quality is essential and the A8 doesn't disappoint. All the surfaces and materials that passengers touch are of a high standard and everything operates with a satisfying oiled precision. In respect of image the Audi brand is particularly strong, although the A8 in particular doesn't enjoy the same gravitas as its rivals at this end of the price scale.

Accessibility Rating

As expected for a long wheelbase saloon access is particularly easy, especially for those climbing into the rear. With large amounts of head and legroom, plus a remote tailgate it is as easy as it can be.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Audio systems are a particular special interest for many owners of large luxury cars, and predictably the standard system can be upgraded with a high-performance Bang and Olufsen system with greater power and clarity. Either way, music output can be controlled through the MMI interface and the large colour screen at the top of the centre console. Having a low, centrally mounted dial helps with ease of use on the move.

picture of car in detail

Extra rear legroom means huge space and excellent comfort

Colours and trim

The A8's colour palette is rather muted in recognition of the understated style that nearly all European luxury car buyers prefer. The selection is rich in silvers and greys, with the essential black and a questionable brown making up the numbers. Silver is the best choice for the car's aesthetics. The interior trim, whichever kind of wood or metal trim is specified, is of the highest quality and looks superb from any angle. The A8 looks and feels every inch worth its price.


The A8 is not really a car that is designed to park conventionally, being geared more towards pulling up at the kerbside of expensive hotels and private airports. It is a long and wide vehicle that simply isn't well suited to multi-storey car parks, and some of the tighter ones in large cities will put the car in real danger of damage. However parking sensors and a camera are fitted, while the self-parking option takes all the stress out of the task.

Spare wheel

Space saver fitted as standard.


Range information

Petrol engine options - 2.0-litre hybrid (241bhp); 3.0-litre (306bhp); 4.0-litre (429bhp, 513bhp (S8 only)); 6.3-litre (493bhp). Diesel engine options - 3.0-litre (254bhp); 4.2-litre (380bhp). Transmission options: eight-speed automatic gearbox only. Trim levels: Hybrid, SE, SE Executive, Sport Executive, W12, S8.


Alternative cars

BMW 7 Series Exceptionally comfortable front seats and a good range of engines

Mercedes-Benz S-Class Not without imperfections in its ride, but very quiet and comfortable

Jaguar XJ The driver's choice in the sector uses light weight to its advantage

Lexus LS Peerless outright noise insulation and much-improved driving dynamics

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March 2014