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Audi A8


Maserati Ghibli

Summary

Audi A8

In a world where genuine wood trim and nappa leather comes in a Mazda6 for under $50,000, premium brands like Audi have been forced to come up with new hallmarks to underpin their status and asking prices.

This is particularly true at the top end of town, with the latest S-Class and 7 Series featuring tech advances that aren't even legally usable at this point.

The new, fourth-generation Audi A8 is no different, packing hardware capable of autonomous driving well ahead of what is currently allowed on any public roads, along with an array of safety, efficiency and convenience firsts for the brand that cement the model's position at the top of the four-ringed luxury tree.

The current S-Class may measure your vital signs and aim to improve your general well-being, but it won't give you a foot massage. If you tick the right options boxes, the new A8 will.

We were among the first to drive the new A8 at its Australian launch around Sydney last week.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency5.8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Maserati Ghibli

Maseratis make a certain amount of sense to a certain kind of person. As the folks who run the brand in Australia will tell you, its buyers are the kind of people who’ve driven German premium vehicles, but find themselves wanting something more. 

They are older, wiser and, most importantly, richer. 

While it’s easy to see the high-end lure of Maserati’s Italian sex appeal styling and luxuriously appointed interiors, they’ve always struck me as cruisers rather than bruisers. 

Again, they’re for the older, more generously padded buyer, which makes the Trofeo range something of an oddity. Maserati says its Trofeo badge - seen here on its mid-sized sedan, the Ghibli, which sits below the vast Quattroporte limousine (and side on to the other car in the range, the SUV Levante) - is all about the "Art of Fast". 

And it certainly is fast, with a whopping V8 driving the rear wheels. It’s also completely bonkers, a luxury car with the heart of a track-chomping monster. 

Which is why Maserati chose to launch it at the Sydney Motorsport Park complex, where we could see just how quick and crazy it is. 

The big question is, why? And perhaps who, because it’s hard to imagine who wants, or needs, a car with such severe schizophrenia. 

Safety rating
Engine Type3.8L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency12.3L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Audi A87.9/10

The new A8 is a very accomplished machine, and can certainly be optioned up with enough toys to entertain and comfort whether you're riding in the front or back.

It's not possible to say if its better than the S-Class or 7 Series in isolation, but it has a unique design ambience that's unmistakably Audi. If you're a four-ring devotee, you won't be missing out.

Based on this test, the sweet spot of the range is the long-wheelbase 55 TFSI. At this end of the market, it's fair to say the extra $12,000 for the added length and $3000 for the smoothest and most powerful engine are worth it.

Regardless of the bigger wheels, we'd probably spring for the Premium plus package and the Executive package's rear seat with the Entertainment package for all the most impressive toys. This would mean a total list of almost $250k, but it's arguably how Audi intended the new model to be.

Also check out Peter Anderson's video review from the A8's international launch:

Would you consider the new A8 over an S-Class or 7 Series? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.


Maserati Ghibli7.8/10

The Maserati Trofeo Ghibli is a very strange beast, but there's no doubt that it is a beast. Fast, loud and capable on a race track, and yet still closely resembling a classy, expensive Italian family sedan, it is genuinely unique. And genuinely strange, in a good way.

Design

Audi A88/10

At first glance the new A8's exterior styling may look a tad obvious, with unmistakably Audi design adding a bunch of straight lines to make things look more serious. 

The reality is far more considered, being the first whole design to emerge under Audi Design boss Marc Lichte's stewardship. Previewed by the first Prologue concept in 2014, the result has an elegance that underlines its position as Audi's flagship and is less likely to be confused with an A6 than the S-Class can be with the E-Class.

If you're after the ultimate in design details and lighting performance, you can also opt for $13,200 laser headlights that can double the range of LED headlights to 600m ahead. This option also brings OLED tail-lights with jewel-like filaments less than 1.0mm thick. 

Compared with the third-generation model it replaces, the size of the new A8 is 37mm longer, 13mm taller but 4.0mm narrower, riding on a 6.0mm longer (2998mm) wheelbase. The long wheelbase version is 130mm longer again in wheelbase and overall. 

It rides on the latest MLBevo architecture shared with the A4, A5, A6, A7, Q5 and Q7, along with the Bentley Bentayga, new Porsche Cayenne and VW Touareg, and the upcoming Q8. 

In A8 guise, it combines aluminium, steel, magnesium and CFRP to result in the biggest material variety used in an Audi to date. Kerb weight ranges from 1995kg for the short-wheelbase petrol model to 2020kg for the long-wheelbase version, with the diesel versions adding 55kg respectively.

A 15-spoke, 19-inch wheel design is standard for Australia, but the Premium plus package fitted to all the cars we tested brings a 10-spoke 20-inch design, while the options list includes another three choices of 20-inch wheels. You can also get 21-inch alloys with the optional Sport package.

As you'll see in the interior images, the A8 represents another significant step forward for Audi design, with horizontal themes and numerous traditional controls now hidden beneath touchpads.

Key among these is the deletion of the centre console controller for the multimedia system, which has been replaced by an 8.6-inch secondary touchscreen beneath the 10.1-inch main screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone interfaces are available via USB connection, and the A8 will act as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot if you sign up for a data plan.

This split layout is less imposing than using one giant screen as in a Tesla, and both give haptic and acoustic feedback to commands to simplify use while driving. All versions also score the excellent 12.3-inch 'Virtual Cockpit' display ahead of the driver. 

All A8s also now get a smartphone-like back seat remote controller, which enables control of temperature settings, seat adjustment, lighting, media functions and window blinds (when optioned) via its 5.7-inch OLED touchscreen.

Another surprise detail is that the interior door handles are now power assisted, which represents the lengths Audi has gone to in reducing control weights.


Maserati Ghibli9/10

The Ghibli Trofeo is an alluringly beautiful car from just about every angle, with a genuine sense of occasion and presence about its nose, a sleek side profile and a much improved rear end, where the light clusters have been redesigned.

The Trofeo special touches are impossible to miss, particularly from the driver’s seat where you look straight into two vast nostrils on the bonnet. There are also carbon fibre pieces on the front air duct and the rear extractor for a sportier, wilder look.

The red details on the air vents on each side are the highlight, though, while the lightning bolt on the Maserati trident badge is another nice touch.

The interior is simply beyond special and feels even more expensive than it is. Overall, I’d say it again, it’’s alluring. Italian style at its best and the Ghibli is the Cinderella point in the range, because the Quattroporte big brother really is too large, and the Levante is an SUV.

Practicality

Audi A88/10

Choosing the biggest sedan in the line-up isn't just about outdoing your neighbours, it's also fair to expect enough room to stretch out and ponder your stock options. 

Despite the new A8's minor 6.0mm wheelbase growth, the interior dimensions have grown 32mm in length, which has expanded legroom as well as headroom.

Fundamental practicality elements are covered as well, with a cupholder and bottle holder for each outboard passenger, an array of USB and 12-volt charge points and two ISOFIX child seat mounts for the back seat. There's also a Qi wireless phone charger within the centre console. 

Boot space is a useful 505 litres, and while there's no split-fold for the back seat, there is the capacity to bring curtain rods home from Bunnings via the ski port.  There is also a space saver spare wheel beneath the boot floor. 


Maserati Ghibli8/10

From the driver’s seat, the Trofeo Ghibli feels spacious indeed, and while it’s not as vast in the back as a Quattroporte, there’s plenty of room for two adults, or even three small children.

The move to throw sportiness at the Ghibli has led to it having firm but fabulous seats. They’re comfortable, and the leather is luscious, but the actual seat back is constantly letting your spine know that this is no ordinary Ghibli. 

Throw it around a track, though, and the seats feel just right, providing the kind of support you need.

Boot space is ample at 500 litres and the Ghibli feels like the sort of car you could take your family in, if only it didn’t make you feel like you were spoiling your children too much.

Price and features

Audi A87/10

The fact that the new A8's entry price has dropped almost $6000 to $192,000 is likely to have less impact than a $19,990 Hyundai i30 special, but Audi's claim that it offers up to $36,000 more value than before may lower a few bifocals. 

Introducing Audi's new naming scheme, which no longer makes reference to engine capacity in preparation for electrification, the diesel base model wears a 50 TDI badge, before moving $3000 north to the petrol 55 TSFI. Either models can be had in long-wheelbase form (signified by a capital L after A8) which will cost you an additional $15,000 respectively.

The $210,000 A8 L 55 TFSI at the top of the price list is more than $42,000 cheaper than the previous V8 diesel 4.2 TDI and a more than $120,000 less than the previous S8 Plus, but a new performance flagship is due to appear in the near future.

Value is rather subjective at this end of the price scale, but by comparison the entry RRP for the new A8 undercuts the base 7 Series by $34,900, the S-Class by $3900, but starts $1871 above the Lexus LS.

Both the A8's 50 and 55 engines come with the same trim levels, but when the standard kit is this lengthy it's more a matter of features not included in the A8, rather than those that are. 

As you might expect, there's an array of options available. These accessories range from the aforementioned wheel choices and laser lighting to $3600 Alcantara headlining, $4500 all-wheel steering, a $5200 night vision system, or $12,100 3D Bang & Olufsen sound system with 23 speakers. 

There are five options packages also, starting with the $6690 'Entertainment package' which brings a six-disc DVD/CD changer (on top of the standard DVD/CD player) and twin tablets for the rear seats which mount to the front seat headrests. 

The nappa leather trim can be expanded to the upper and lower dash and glovebox, door trims, headrests, centre console, steering wheel airbag cover and the backs of the front seats with the 'Full leather package' for an extra $9950. 

If you can't hold out for the sport edition S8, you can almost look the part with the $9950 'Sport package', which brings a more aggressive front and rear bumper, 21-inch wheels, all-wheel steering and expanded 'piano black' interior trim. 

Audi Australia tells us all A8s ordered to date (along with both cars pictured here) have ticked the $11,000 'Premium plus package', which brings 20-inch rims, adaptive windscreen wipers with integrated jets, chrome exterior details, ambient lighting with variable colours, black control buttons, digital TV, electric rear sunblinds, the full leather package mentioned above, interior fragrancing with ionisation technology, rear tinted windows, softer rear headrests and ventilated massage front seats. 

If you've already selected the rear seat entertainment system, you can also choose the $18,500 'Executive package' which brings individual reclining back seats and extended centre console - which also eliminates the centre rear seat - with folding tables, front and rear seat ventilation and massage function, heated armrests all round and a heated steering wheel. It's the Executive package that also brings the heated rear passenger-side footrest and the foot massage USP.


Maserati Ghibli7/10

At a price of $265,000, the idea of “value” becomes a different discussion, but you only need to glance at the Ghibli to realise that it looks like four times that much money.

The interior is also spectacularly boudoir-like, with lashings of carbon fibre and a whole cattle stud worth of full-grain Pieno Fiore natural leather, “the best the world has ever seen”, as Maserati likes to say.

Perhaps most vitally, this Trofeo racy edition gets a Ferrari engine; a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 good for 433kW and 730Nm (the first time it’s been seen in the Ghibli), driving the rear wheels only through a limited-slip differential and an eight-speed torque converter automatic gearbox. You also get very nice, expensive feeling paddles to shift those gears with.

Speaking of nice, the 21-inch aluminium Orione wheels are dead classy, if reminiscent of Alfa Romeo cars.

Ghibli Trofeo models come with a Corsa, or Race, button for hard-core sporty driving, and a Launch Control function.

There’s also an MIA (Maserati Intelligent Assistant), featuring a rather large 10.1-inch multimedia screen with upgraded resolution.

The Active Driving Assist “assisted driving function”, which has been seen in Ghibli before, can now be activated on urban roads and ordinary highways.

Engine & trans

Audi A89/10

You might be surprised to learn there's no V8 in the new A8's arsenal - for now, the S8 could change that - but an even greater sign of the times is the return of a petrol version for the first time since 2013. Efficiency gains are the main reason for the petrol comeback, which is explained in detail under the fuel consumption heading below.

Both the 210kW/600Nm 50 TDI turbo-diesel and 250kW/500Nm 55 TFSI petrol specifications use 3.0-litre turbocharged V6s which may seem to be simply plucked from existing models, but they bring mild hybrid technology to the Audi line-up for the first time. 

Unlike conventional hybrids that use an electric motor to provide horsepower to drive the vehicle, a mild hybrid (or MHEV) enables the combustion engine to be switched off when the vehicle is coasting or braking, or effectively as an extension of a start/stop system which conserves fuel when a car is stationary.

The A8's mild hybrid system is facilitated by the move to a 48 volt electrical system, with a supplementary 10Ah lithium-ion battery mounted in the boot to keep the electrical systems fed for up to 40 seconds with the engine switched off. Audi claims the system has the capacity to save up to 0.7L/100km.

An extra starter motor has been integrated with the alternator to restart the engine more smoothly via a belt, rather than the conventional cog and ring gear used by the dedicated starter motor for cold starts.

Both engine specs deliver their max torque rating from just above idle, with the 50 TDI at 1250rpm and the 55 TSFI at 1370. Claimed 0-100km/h acceleration performance figures are an impressive 5.9s and 5.6s respectively.

Like all recent longitudinal-engined Audis, the new A8 uses a version of ZF's much lauded eight-speed torque converter auto gearbox, and both engines send power to all four wheels via the 'quattro' all-wheel drive system. 

The optional all-wheel steer system can twist the rear wheels by as much as five degrees, reducing the turning circle by around 1.0m at slow speeds. While at higher speeds, the rear wheels move parallel with the fronts by as much as two degrees to improve stability, particularly for rapid lane changes and evasive manoeuvres. 

All new A8 variants carry a maximum braked towing capacity of 2300kg.


Maserati Ghibli9/10

This will be the last time Maserati gets to enjoy a proper Ferrari engine - a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 good for 433kW and 730Nm - before it moves to a more electrified future, but it’s certainly going out with a lot of loud bangs.

Deafeningly lovely, the V8, which drives the rear wheels, will shove you to a shouty 100km/h in 4.3 seconds (fast, but not stupidly so, although it feels even quicker) on your way to a very Italian top speed of 326km/h. 

We can report that it exceeds 200km/h with consummate ease and has epic amounts of torque on tap.

Fuel consumption

Audi A88/10

Gone are the days where full-size luxury sedans got away with devil-may-care fuel consumption, and even though they still spin six cylinders and need to move around two tonnes, the 55 TFSI petrol versions manage an 8.2L/100km official combined figure. This is when using at least 95 RON Premium unleaded of course. 

As you'd expect, the diesel fuel economy is even better with 5.9-6.0 official figures across wheelbases.

With a fuel tank capacity of 72 litres, this suggests a theoretical range between fills of 878km for the petrol models, and between 1200-1220km for the diesels. The A8's spec sheet lists the option of an 82-litre tank if they aren't quite far enough for you.


Maserati Ghibli7/10

Maserati claims a slightly inexact fuel-economy figure of 12.3 to 12.6 litres per 100km, but good luck ever achieving it. The desire to open the taps and really chew some fuel will aways be overwhelming. 

We drove it on a race track and would easily have been exceeding 20 litres per 100km, so our test figure is probably best not spoken about.

Driving

Audi A88/10

Our test started in the worst of Sydney morning traffic, which presented the chance to put the latest adaptive cruise assist (ACA) system through its paces on a very clogged Eastern Distributor. 

I'm a huge fan of active cruise control systems that guide the vehicle from speed to a stop, but the A8's ability to start moving again is another step beyond. It helps you avoid being ‘that guy' who hasn't noticed the traffic moving, and would no doubt work wonders for traffic flow if all cars were so equipped. Given the chance, Audi says this system works all the way from 0-250km/h.  

No matter what your reaction to the A8's exterior, the freshness of the interior design is like no other, and everything you touch feels first class. 

The four-spoke steering wheel has a surprisingly large diameter and is shared with the upcoming A6, but uses thinner spokes than the norm to promote visibility of the virtual cockpit display as the wheel is twirled.

The haptic and acoustic screens make it as easy as we've experienced to handle a touchscreen while driving, but not quite as simple as the previous console controller. 

Front and rear seats are softly padded for comfort rather than support, and unsurprisingly there's ample room in every direction for this 172cm tester, regardless of wheelbase.

All examples of the A8 we drove were optioned with the Premium plus package, which means one inch larger 20-inch alloys. Despite all A8s coming standard with adaptive air suspension, small bumps like cats eyes and expansion joints are more noticeable than you might expect. As is often the case, the standard 19-inch alloy wheels are likely to be the solution.

We drove both engines and wheelbase choices at the A8 launch event, and you need to be paying close attention to hear any extra noise from the diesel. It does make a muted groan under throttle, but likely worth the 300-plus kilometres of extra range if that's what you're after. 

The diesel's smoothness is also no doubt aided by its use of active engine mounts. If you're after outright refinement and performance, the petrol is the one for you but neither feel in any way sluggish. 

Heading through the bends of the Royal National Park and then back over the hills via Macquarie Pass at pace, there was no disguising the fact that the A8 is a big car, and it tends to float unless you select 'Dynamic' from the drive mode selector. Regardless of mode, it's more planted than any luxury SUV.  

Making a bee-line back to Sydney via the Hume, the A8 simply wafted along at 110km/h in near silence. As you'd expect.


Maserati Ghibli8/10

We were fortunate enough to drive all three Trofeo models - Ghibli, Levante and Quattroporte - on the track at Sydney Motorsport Park, which really is the only way to fully appreciate vehicles with Ferrari V8 engines, 433kW and rear-wheel drive.

Maserati is keen to point out that other premium brands don’t offer that kind of grunt in their rear-drive cars, indeed most of them are going all-wheel drive, and that level of playfulness is a real USP, it believes.

The thing is, the company also acknowledges that its buyers are older, wiser and wealthier types moving up from the German brands. 

The Trofeo range, in particular, then, is a real niche within a niche. I picture Maserati buyers as being slightly sedate yet stylish. Fans of the nicer things in life, but not flashy, or thrashy, about the cars they drive.

And yet, unlike other Maseratis, the Trofeos are flame-spitting beasts that sound like Game of Thrones dragons. Clearly there are people who like their classy Italian saloons to be insanely fast and track ready. And hooray for them, because as weird as it seems to flog a car like this so hard, the Trofeo Ghibli was well and truly up for it.

It’s also the pick of the litter, being less SUV like than the SUV Levante, and less stupidly long and heavy than the Quattroporte. 

Its shorter wheelbase and lighter weight make it the most fun and light on its feet when being thrown around. We hit an easy 235km/h on the front straight before hurling into Turn One well north of 160km/h, and the Ghibli just held on tight before using its torque to hurl it at the next bend.

It sounds, as I’ve said, amazing, but it’s worth saying again because it’s a real Maserati (or Ferrari, really) advantage of choosing this car.

The brakes are also up to the task of repeated track-hard stops, the steering is lighter and less talkative than a Ferrari perhaps, but still excellent, and the whole Trofeo Ghibli experience is best described, on circuit, as being better than you would possibly imagine.

Out on the road, you don’t have to put up with the firm ride that pressing the Corsa button compels, and the Ghibli reverts to its smooth, cruiser persona - while still looking sporty as hell.

The only letdown is the seats, which are a little on the firm side, but everything else about the cabin is so luxe you almost forgive it. 

While this car makes no sense to me, it obviously excites enough people for Maserati to make a business case, and charge $265,000 for the Trofeo Ghibli. Good luck to them, I say.

Safety

Audi A88/10

The new A8 is yet to score a rating from ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but comes with a brand-leading array of safety features. 

All versions come with all the airbags, alerts, self parking, lane assist, self driving, front and rear AEB, 360 degree and reversing cameras, parking sensors and traction aids you'd expect. 

The airbag count has been further bolstered by an industry-first centre airbag, which has been designed to prevent head clashes between front seat occupants. This also represents Audi thinking beyond any Euro NCAP or ANCAP criteria.

It also comes with Audi's exit warning system, which warns the driver of passing cars or cyclists but can now delay the door opening in case the driver doesn't see the warning light. 

A front-mounted laser scanner replaces the usual radar system for active cruise control and front AEB, which doubles the range of a radar scanner to 80m and enables both functions to work at speeds up to 250km/h.

This laser scanner is also key to the A8's Level 3 autonomous preparation, but local laws limit its capability to active cruise control with lane assist.


Maserati Ghibli8/10

There is no ANCAP rating for the Ghibli as it has not been tested here. 

The Trofeo Ghibli comes with six airbags, Blind Spot Detection, Forward Collision Warning Plus, Pedestrian Detection, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Active Driver Assist and Traffic sign Recognition.

Ownership

Audi A87/10

Like all Audis, the new A8 is covered by a three year, unlimited kilometre warranty. This is short of the five year-plus periods becoming more common among mainstream brands, but equal to the terms offered by BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Lexus differs by offering a four year, 100,000km plan.

Service intervals and capped price servicing mirror the previous A8, with a 12 month/15,000km schedule, and maintenance costs for the first three services can be wrapped into a package for $1900. 

We had no issues during our test, but any common faults, common problems or reliability issues are likely to appear on our A8 problems page.


Maserati Ghibli6/10

Maserati offers a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, but you can choose to buy 12-month or two-year warranty extensions, and even a sixth or seventh-year drive-train warranty extension. 

When much, much cheaper Japanese and Korean cars are offering seven and even 10-year warranties, this is so far off the pace that such a fast vehicle should be embarrassed. And if you're buying something Italian, a better, longer warranty would seem like a must. I'd be negotiating at sale for them to throw the longer warranty offer in.

Maserati says servicing for the Ghibli has a "ball park costing of $2700.00 for the first three years of ownership" with a service schedule of every 20,000km or 12 months (whichever occurs first)

Also, "please note that the above is indicative only of the manufacturers basic routine service maintenance schedule and does not include any consumable items such as tyres, brakes etc or additional dealership charges such as environmental levies etc."