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Audi A8 (2013 - 2017)

CAN THE EIGHT BE GREAT? (some text hidden)

By Jonathan Crouch

Introductionword count: 118

The A8 is Audi's largest luxury saloon and the D4 series model which launched in 2010 was the brand's interpretation of full-Luxury motoring for the 21st century's second decade. In 2013, this design was substantially revised and it's this enhanced third generation D4 model that we're going to be examining here as a potential used car buy, it being smarter, more efficient and full of technology. Better established badges in this sector may be tempting but they can't offer many of the almost unique things this car brings to this segment: 4WD, V8 diesel power, Cylinder-on-Demand efficiency and cleverer Matrix LED headlamps are just a few examples. Potentially, there's enough here to please the most demanding boardroom buyer.

Modelsword count: 26

4dr saloon (2.0 TFSI petrol hybrid, 3.0 TFSI petrol, 4.0 TFSI petrol, W12 6.0 V12 petrol, 3.0 TDI diesel, 4.2 TDI diesel [SE, SE Executive, S8])

Historyword count: 360

It's hard to remember now, but prior to the A8 saloon's original launch back in 1994, Audi wasn't really considered a fully-fledged prestigious brand. Its cars generally languished in the corner of your local Volkswagen dealer's showroom and appealed to those who couldn't quite stretch to the products of the smarter German makers. The first generation A8 changed all of that, a car the like of which the luxury segment had never seen before. Aluminium spaceframe technology from NASA. 4WD quattro technology from the World Rally Championship. And exquisite standards of build quality that redefined what boardroom buyers could expect from a European luxury car. At a stroke, it put posh rivals on the back foot - and Audi has never looked back since. With the standard set, Ingolstadt turned its attention to smaller more profitable models: the A8, it seemed, had had its turn in the limelight. We got a second generation version in 2003 and a MK3 model in 2010, both promising (and delivering) a further refinement of the original recipe - but it wasn't quite enough. Jaguar's XJ was still seen as more dynamic: Mercedes' S-Class as more luxurious. And BMW's 7 Series as a compromise between the two. The world largely forgot the A8's still unique set of attributes, its aluminium spaceframe and quattro cleverness. It wasn't, we were told by those who were supposed to know about these things, a car you could really fall in love with. It wasn't a car that would say enough of the right things about you. But it might be in this form. An improved version of the MK3 'D4'-series model was launched in late 2013, offering styling that delivered a slightly more overt statement of quality. And Euro6 engines that were both more powerful and efficient. But as ever, it was the technology that sold this car. It wasn't only the provision of quattro 4WD that marked this car out from its rivals. It was also things like Cylinder-on-Demand technology and hi-tech Matrix LED headlights that set fresh standards. This improved 'D4' design sold until late 2017, when it was replaced by a completely new fourth generation model.

What You Getword count: 1033

Never one of the luxury saloon sector's most ostentatious players, the A8 tends to maintain a cool studied elegance in its design and in that respect, little changed with this facelifted MK3 design. In this guise though, this model got a touch more personality. Four creases run down the sleeker bonnet to the upper edges of a more sculptured and richly detailed hexagonal singleframe grille, its horizontal double bars underscoring this car's class-leading width: it's longer and lower than its direct competitors from this era too. The headlights are also flatter and wider than those of the original MK3 design, functioning with a brilliant crystal shine from optional Matrix LED technology that sets new standards in this segment. Further down are air inlets in the redesigned lower apron that in this revised model, extend all the way across the width of the front and are framed in chromed clasps. All this careful detailing created elegant alternative in a sector over-populated by bourgeois status symbols. In pictures, you'd be forgiven for dismissing this A8 as little more than a larger A4: much larger, in the case of the optional long wheelbase bodystyle, which adds 130mm to the length of a shape that follows the usual Audi pattern, with the body accounting for two-thirds of the vehicle's overall height and the glasshouse the remaining third. In profile, there's also the brand's familiar 'Tornado' line that runs tightly above the wheelarches, creating a more powerful stance. View this car in the metal though - or perhaps we should say in the aluminium - and it's a much more individual piece of design, with a sinewy tautness about its lines and subtle nuances that impress themselves upon you the closer you look and the more time you spend with the car: the chrome that defines the lower body profile, the fine strips embedded in the door handles, the high-gloss black window frames - we could go on. All add a level of finesse and quality that also defines the smarter rear end with its sleeker spoiler, dual trapezoidal tailpipes and flatter LED lights visually connected by a chromed bar. But, as ever with an A8, it's what's underneath all this tinsel that really ought to command your attention. Namely the hi-tech aluminium Audi Space Frame, which is 40% lighter than a corresponding steel body, something no one ever seems to realise because that weight saving is disguised by the fitment of the 4WD system most rivals don't bother to offer. Is the Space Frame approach better than the simpler aluminium monocoque structure favoured by the rival Jaguar XJ from this era? Well, the Jag isn't significantly lighter, despite not hauling around quattro 4WD: draw your own conclusions. In fact, everywhere you look on this A8, the technology keeps on coming. Take the boot, which, depending on specification, either flips up from a keyfob button, rises electrically or, if you approach the car laden down with bags, can rise in response to a wave of your foot beneath the bumper. The trunk, once revealed, is huge, provided you don't opt for a Hybrid model with batteries to lump around that drop its capacity to 335-litres: it's a mark of Audi's embarrassment at this figure that it threw in a tailor-made luggage set for Hybrid buyers. Otherwise, with the rest of the range, you get a 520-litre total that's un-bettered in this class and easily enough for, say, four golf bags. Unfortunately, the through-loading facility required to further extend it was an optional extra. But a car of this kind is more about prestige than practicalities. How will it make you feel once inside? Let's start with the rear, accessed through doors 13cms longer in the long wheelbase model and in this variant fitted out with electric sunblinds also retractable across the rear window for shade and privacy. Once inside, you're ensconced in a world of measured elegance, beautiful ambient lighting and hand-sanded and varnished wood panels reminding you how much you've paid. Standard A8s get the usual three-person rear seat that rather emphasises the slight narrowness of the cabin in comparison to obvious rivals. Better then, if you've opted to go for the longer bodystyle with its extra 120mm of rear legroom, to find a car that was originally fitted with the Individual rear seat package which did away with the middle berth entirely. Here, the chairs are heated and power-adjustable with deliciously soft 'comfort' head restraints in a package that also includes four-zone air conditioning and a front passenger seat that can be adjusted from the rear so you can stretch out more comfortably using the optional footrests. Better specified long wheel base models include a leather and veneer-clad centre console extending back from the front, seat ventilation with a massage function, seatback multimedia screens, a cool box and the kind of even more decadent reclining luxury seat that'd be fitted to a private jet. Up-front, there's the same luxurious blend of craftsmanship fused with technology, with a wrap-around dash fashioned in a wide arch that spans the cabin, encircling the slim, low instrument panel. You view it through a leather-trimmed electrically operated multi-function steering wheel that reveals large black-faced dials featuring clear, classic graphics and red needles. Not that you'll need to look at these if your A8 is fitted with a head-up display that projects key driving information directly into your line of sight at the bottom of the windscreen. The MMI control interface marshals the ancillary controls on a colour display screen that glides out from the dash, helping this A8 do a better job than most rivals from this era of keeping the dreaded button clutter to a minimum. And special mention must go to the gorgeous aeronautical gear lever than makes you feel like you're bringing a 747 in to land. We also liked the clever touch pad on which drivers can trace letters with a finger to input destinations to the satellite-navigation system. A pity you have to do it with your left hand. And the superbly supportive 12-way power adjustable seats trimmed in lovely breathable Unicom leather, with 110 separate pieces that have been cut, placed and stitched by hand.

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Category: Luxury Saloons and Estates

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This is an excerpt from our full review.
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