Bold and handsome exterior
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.
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.