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Audi A8 2014 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2014 Audi A8 3.0 TDI, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

The Audi A8 is a big car, but it's not exactly a common sight on our roads. At $195,000 for the 3.0 TDI, that's hardly a surprise. It's really for people who make money driving others or are the ones paying to be driven.

What's surprising, though, is that this isn't a wallowing, softly-sprung boulevardier - one could equally steal out into the early morning hours and have more than a little fun at the wheel.

VALUE

At $195,000 for the "base" TDI, one would expect a lot of goodies. And Audi delivers. Just reading through the standard equipment list requires a meal break.

The cabin is lined with leather, including across the dashboard. The huge front seats are electrically adjustable in about a hundred directions and are heated and ventilated for those long days behind the wheel.

Arrayed on the console is Audi's MMI with a little slot for a data SIM card to bring Google Maps overlays on the sat-nav (if there's no signal, it reverts to the stored maps) and also adds in-car wi-fi.

The MMI features DAB digital radio, television, DVD and an onboard hard drive for music. You can also select the drive mode from eco through to sport as well as set the ride height for the air suspension in a suspiciously similar way to its (distant) cousin, the Bentley Continental.

Climate control is split across the front passengers as well as the rear with all able to choose their own temperatures. There's also active cruise control, active LED headlights and tail lights, quattro drivetrain and the always brilliant eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.

DESIGN

To some eyes it's a big A6 or a really big A4. The A8 does bear a very strong resemblance to every other Audi sedan and that's going to decide whether you like it or not.

It's got a lot more presence, of course, because it's huge, even in short wheelbase form. The 19-inch alloys fitted to our test car look fantastic and help visually to draw the big, long body down to the ground.

It's not overbearing in the way of an S Class and is almost entirely free of bling (that's left to the hot S8). If you ever want a big getaway car that will blend in, the A8 is the one for you.

The interior is the usual Audi mix of restraint and tech. The LED lighting strips add a real sci-fi feel to the interior and can be changed to suit your colour preferences - white, ebony or a mix of white and red.

Audi's MMI is controlled with a small rotary dial surrounded by a series of well-chosen shortcut buttons. In the A8 there's a separate panel with the numbers 1-6 for radio station shortcuts but it also doubles as a touchpad for writing. The problem is, of course, in right-hand drive cars that rather rules out a large proportion of the population who are right-handed.

The large screen sits high in the dash and is very crisp to look at. As MMI evolves it is improving demonstrably. 

Added to the infotainment is a series of cameras to help manoeuvre the beast in tight spots. A 360 degree around view camera kicks in during parking and the screen can be switched between that view, the rear-facing camera or the forward facing camera. The 14-speaker stereo pumps out a rich, clear sound.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

The 3.0-litre TDI engine found in a number of Audis produces 190 kW and 580 Nm of torque. In this tune it's a quiet and frugal unit. Its frugality is all the more impressive given its 1955 kg kerb weight.

Coupled with the ZF eight-speed automatic, and everything dialled to comfort, the A8 wafts along quietly and swiftly if you need to. Switching to Sport sharpens the shifts and throttle response but it never gets uncouth.

We saw 6.9L100km on a long freeway run to the Blue Mountains from Sydney, which is mighty impressive and close to its claimed 5.9 L/100 km on the combined cycle.

SAFETY

Eight airbags, ABS, brake force distribution, low-speed crash avoidance, stability and traction control, as well as front and rear sensors and cameras all round. You have almost no excuse for running over someone in the driveway. With active cruise and low-speed collision avoidance, you'll probably also find it hard to run into others out on the road.

DRIVING

The A8 is a lovely thing to drive but even better to just ride in. For the driver, everything is within easy reach, the dashboard a model of clarity with its big electronic panel between the traditional dials. The steering wheel could probably do with being different to an A4's, but then again, that's the sort of thing spoilt motoring journalists notice and nobody else does.

On your own and on a twisty road, the A8 is surprisingly agile, with that big torque figure letting you power out of corners or overtake slow pokes with exactly zero fuss, body roll or unwanted understeer.

It's incredibly comfortable for passengers – on that aforementioned drive up to Katoomba, the A8 thundered along at 110km/h in near silence which saw everyone but the driver sound asleep within minutes. The driver did not take it personally.

Verdict

The A8 is a wonderful thing, even if it only finds a small market here in Australia. It's quiet, composed and doesn't use much fuel. It can also swallow gigantic people and bags without fuss and carry them in quiet comfort wherever you may want to take them - from hotel to airport or across the continent.

The price is immaterial really – there's not a lot of choice for cars this big and capable - it's about what you want from that type of car. The A8's refined cool makes its own case.

Pricing guides

$86,140
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$50,400
Highest Price
$121,880

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.0 TDI Quattro 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $59,900 – 75,790 2014 Audi A8 2014 3.0 TDI Quattro Pricing and Specs
4.2 TDI Quattro 4.2L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $50,400 – 63,690 2014 Audi A8 2014 4.2 TDI Quattro Pricing and Specs
L 3.0 TDI Quattro 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $55,700 – 70,400 2014 Audi A8 2014 L 3.0 TDI Quattro Pricing and Specs
L 4.2 TDI Quattro 4.1L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $79,300 – 100,320 2014 Audi A8 2014 L 4.2 TDI Quattro Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$50,400

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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