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Audi A8


Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

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

Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

Mercedes has long been the leader in niche filling, and we’d argue that no other model encapsulates that more than the CLA four-door coupe.

Now in its second-generation form, the CLA is based on Mercedes’ MFA2 small car platform that also underpins the A-Class small car range, B-Class tallboy hatchback and GLA crossover, but is actually dimensionally longer than the one-size up C-Class.

However, while the C-Class might offer more conventional styling, Mercedes says the CLA is targeted towards a younger demographic that puts more weight on design and aesthetics.

The previous generation CLA was topped by a hardcore 45 version, which makes a return here, but new this time around is the less-potent, but still AMG-badged, 35 variant to plug the gap between mainstream grades and the range-topper.

After living with the car for a week, here are our thoughts on the new baby AMG CLA.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.5L/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.


Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class7.8/10

Is the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 the perfect choice in the sleek sedan’s line-up?

Well, if you are after outright performance, then the answer still clearly lies with the CLA 45. But for those that just want a little more pep compared to the standard CLA range, the 35 is undoubtedly the one to get.

It’s not without its flaws, though, commanding a $15,000 price premium over the CLA 250 and a tougher-than-we’d-like ride, but if you value a more engaging drive and a brisk 0-100km/h time, the CLA 35 should definitely be on your shopping list.

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.


Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class8/10

From the front, the CLA 35 exterior oozes style and luxury.

Up front, the sleek and slender headlights emphasise the width of the fascia, while the large Mercedes logo sits proudly front and centre of the CLA’s nose.

There are subtle hints to the CLA 35’s sportiness too, with a slightly bulging bonnet and chiselled lower chin.

The grille is also unique on the 35, with a dual-horizontal slat design instead of the non-AMG CLA’s diamond pattern or the CLA 45’s Panamericana grille.

To my eye, the front of the CLA 35 is actually a bit too tame in styling for an AMG model. I prefer the in-your-face aggression of the CLA 45’s widened track and front grille, while the CLA 35 opts for more subtle styling cues. To each their own, though.

The silver paintwork of our test car probably doesn’t help, and if it was my choice I'd pick 'Sun Yellow' or 'Denim Blue' to stand out a bit more from the sea of black, grey and white German cars out there.

Move to the rear of the car though, and a large rear diffuser, big dual-exhaust outlets and a bootlid spoiler are much more befitting an AMG model.

Step inside the CLA and you will see it adopts the same dashboard design as all new-generation Mercedes vehicles built on the MFA2 platform, with the 'MBUX' dual-screen layout, large air-vents and central touchpad.

Our car was specced out with red-leather interior, which is a bit too loud for my tastes, but a two-tone black leather/titanium grey combo can also be had at no extra cost.

Sitting inside the CLA 35, you can tell it’s a modern car thanks to the clean layout of all the controls, while the screen-heavy dashboard definitely makes it feel tech-focused.

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. 


Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class7/10

Measuring 4695mm long, 1834mm wide, 1399mm tall and with a 2729mm wheelbase, the CLA 35 is definitely a sizeable sedan in the metal.

This actually makes the CLA 35 slightly longer and wider than a non-AMG C-Class sedan that measures 4686 and 1810mm respectively, but don’t expect the same level of practical interior space.

With a heavily sloped roofline, rear-seat comfort takes a hit. My 183cm (6.0ft) frame could not sit upright behind my driving position without tilting my head, while legroom was also slightly lacking.

With such large C-pillars and a small rear window, the second-row can actually feel a little claustrophobic for full-sized adults, but will seat children quite comfortably.

Second-row amenities include air-vents, two USB-C ports, back-of-seat storage nets, bottle holders in the doors, and two cupholders in the fold-down arm rest.

Just like at a music concert though, the best seats in the CLA 35 are up front, with plenty of room for heads, shoulders and legs.

The cabin is also much more light-filled up front, making for a more pleasant experience.

The front seats are electronically adjustable, as is the steering column, but the headrests are fixed.

Storage options include sizeable door bins, a centre console cubby, glove box, two cupholders and a wireless smartphone charger.

Boot space is 460 litres, but can expand with the rear split-fold 40/20/40 rear seats stowed.

Though the boot looks small and shallow on the outside, the aperture is actually quite large, and can easily accommodate a large suitcase with plenty of room to spare.

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.


Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class7/10

Priced at $85,500 before on-road costs, the CLA 35 sits $15,300 upstream of the CLA 250 but is $25,700 cheaper than the $111,200 CLA 45.

Standard equipment includes leather interior, dual-zone climate control, electronically adjustable front seats with heating and memory function, keyless entry and push-button start, 64-colour ambient lighting, and a wireless smartphone charger.

AMG specific appointments include 19-inch wheels, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, sports exhaust, high-performance brakes with silver-painted calipers, blacked-out exterior highlights, sports suspension, a racy bodykit and speed-sensitive steering.

Instrumentation is displayed on a 10.25-inch screen, which can be customised and features AMG readouts.

The multimedia system, which includes satellite navigation, digital radio and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, is also outputted to a 10.25-inch screen, with inputs including touch, voice commands, centre touch pad or steering wheel controls.

Our test car also came with a ‘Mojave Silver Metallic’ paint finish and 'Vision Package', adding $1190 and $990 to the bottom line each.

The Vision Package adds LED headlights with adaptive high beams, a panoramic glass sunroof and surround-view monitor.

Straddling the lines between a small- and mid-size sedan, the CLA 35 doesn’t really have any direct competitors, which is reflected in its pricing that slots it between the Audi S3 and S4 sedans.

Though the CLA 35 features a long list of equipment, it is still a sizeable chunk of coin, costing more than the C300 sedan and Volvo S60 T8 PHEV, the latter boasting higher engine outputs.

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.


Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class8/10

Powered by a 2.0-litre, turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, the CLA 35 punches out 225kW/400Nm.

Drive is sent through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions to the road via Mercedes’ '4Matic' all-wheel-drive system, enabling a 0-100km/h sprint in the 1603kg sedan in just 4.7 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h.

Though I didn’t get a chance to test the latter, the former certainly feels accurate when taking off from a freeway on ramp, however, there is some hesitation from the turbo in getting on boost.

Peak power comes in at 5800rpm, while maximum torque is available from 3000-4000rpm.

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.


Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class8/10

Officially, the CLA 35 sips 7.5 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but we managed a 9.9L/100km figure in our week with the car.

The majority of our driving was done in inner-city environments, with the two trips down the freeway to seek out twisty country rounds.

Minimum fuel grade in the CLA 35 is 98 RON.

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.


Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class8/10

The CLA 35 might not offer the outright thrills or breadth of capability of the CLA 45, but don’t think the cut-price AMG offers up a cut-rate driving experience.

From the driver’s seat, one of the cool things about the CLA 35 is that it doesn’t actually look any different from its more expensive sibling.

The drive-mode selector that is now embedded on the steering wheel is fantastic, a feature first seen on the Mercedes-AMG GT 4-door, and makes changing the driving dynamics on the fly an absolute breeze.

In fact, we think all cars where you can select drive modes should have a selector on the steering wheel like this, which lets you quickly and easily dial it up or down while keeping your hands on the wheel.

'Comfort', 'Sport', 'Sport+' and 'Individual' modes are available, while the transmission can also be put into manual mode independently for those that prefer to use the flappy paddles.

Suspension settings can also be tweaked regardless of which drive mode you are in, and it’s this level of customisability that we appreciate.

You want loud exhaust pops and the engine in full attack with manual shifting and the softest suspension? Sure, that’s doable here in the CLA 35. And toning it down to its most comfortable settings is just a flick of the wrist away.

The steering feels a little numb on centre and at slower speeds, though feedback picks right up with speed and is communicative enough when the road starts to get twisty.

Fitted with wide and sticky Michelin rubber, as well as the aforementioned all-wheel drive system, the CLA 35 is certainly not lacking in grip.

The suspension does an okay job of absorbing bumps, but uneven surfaces, like Melbourne’s tram tracks, can send uncomfortable jolts into the cabin if travelling quickly.

In fact, we think the ride comfort of the CLA 35 is probably its weakest aspect, offering not enough variability in its Comfort and Sport settings, and instead settling somewhere in between, regardless of drive mode.

The CLA 35 is ultimately still a fun and engaging sports sedan, though there are some sacrifices made to get it there.

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.


Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class7/10

The CLA 35 has not been tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, but the standard CLA range was awarded a five-star rating in September 2019.

Standard safety equipment in the CLA 35 includes autonomous emergency braking, automatic high beams, nine airbags, drive attention alert, blind-spot monitoring with exit warning, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and tyre pressure monitoring.

The standard CLA also comes with these features, and was awarded 96 and 92 per cent respectively in ANCAP adult occupant and child occupant protection tests.

For the vulnerable road user and safety assist examinations, the standard CLA scored 91 and 76 per cent respectively.

ANCAP says the AEB system works from seven-200km/h.

Of note, adaptive cruise control is not standard in the CLA 35 like it is in the CLA 45. Instead, buyers will have to tick the 'Driving Assistance Package' box for the feature, which also comes bundled with cross-traffic alert and lane change assist.

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.


Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class9/10

As with all new Mercedes-Benz models, the CLA 35 comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is one of the best assurance periods offered by a premium carmaker.

It also comes with five years of roadside assist.

Scheduled service intervals are every 25,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.

A three-year service plan is available for $2150 for new CLA 35 buyers, saving $500 when priced individually.

Four- and five-year plans are also available, and are priced at $4200 and $4950 respectively.