The latest version of the big Audi A8 saloon, and its sporting brother the Audi S8, have finally arrived in Australia. They feature the very latest in mechanical and electronic technology, all of which is crammed into a lightweight aluminium body. We sent back a review on them after sampling them in Germany late last year, now we've had a turn behind the wheel in our home country.
DESIGN / STYLING
Revisions to the front of the new Audi A8 in this major midlife upgrade include squared-off corners, a flatter design of the headlights, a bonnet with more pronounced sections to give it a powerful look and revisions to the front bumper. At the rear the changes are minimal, with LEDs (light-emitting diodes) being the biggest difference. When the blinkers come on their individual LEDs travel outwards to really grab the attention of other drivers.
Explore the 2014 Audi A8 range
Space in the rear of the long-wheelbase models is stretch-out limo style, however, the legroom in the standard variants is on the tight side unless those in the front are wiling to give up a bit of their seat travel. Quality of finish is close to perfect and the interior of the big Audi is a testament to the craftsmanship that the company puts into the vehicles that sit at the pinnacle of its range.
Audi has long been recognised as a master at cabin design and the gen-four cars continue that tradition. The style of the cabin continues as before, with detailed changes to the soft and hard materials, as well as an expansion to the colour and material choices. Overall there are close to a billion possible combinations in the latest Audi A8, fabrics, leathers, stitching, paint colours, wheels.
The latest technology in the 2014 Audi A8 advances the somewhat mundane system of headlights to a totally new level of safety and sophistication. Using Matrix LED technology, headlights can be left on high-beam all the time. Then 25 small, LEDs on each side are automatically switched on and off, or dimmed individually. The headlight system ‘sees' then reacts to other vehicles and blanks out sections of light with great precision while continuing to fully illuminate the rest of the road.
Amazingly, the Audi headlight system tunes into the GPS via the car's satellite navigation to pinpoint its position so that it can turn on the lights going into corners the moment the bend arrives.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The biggest changes in the revised Audi A8 are out of sight under the new-design bonnet. All engines have been completely reworked to increase power and torque, shorten acceleration times and, most importantly of all, cut emissions.
The biggest seller is likely to be the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel that now produces 190 kilowatts of power. This TDI powerplant has an officially measured fuel consumption of just 5.9 litres per hundred kilometres, coincidentally the zero to 100 km/h time is 5.9 seconds. There's also a huge high-performance V8 turbo-diesel, its 4.2 litres produces up to 283 kW and an amazing 850 Newton metres of torque.
For those who prefer petrol power there's the Audi S8 with its 4.0-litre twin-turbo engine that generates 382 kW and 650 Nm and gets from standstill to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds. Each engine is connected to all four wheels by Audi's sophisticated quattro all-wheel-drive system. There are eight forward ratios in the automatic transmission.
The most noticeable sensation when we first got behind the wheel of the new Audi A8 at the international launch in Germany was near silence. That's chiefly due to the solid design of the body, as well as special glass in the windows. However, there's also an excellent noise cancelling system in the TSI petrol model which ‘listens' for unwanted sounds then puts out cancelling sounds on opposing wavelengths.
In Germany we found cruising at 150 km/h for extended periods was serene and easy. Here in Australia this week we managed to avoid losing our concentration when dithering along at 110 km/h on our motorways. It really would be nice to have a 130 km/h speed limit, where appropriate, in our country. This would sharpen drivers' attention, spread the cars out and make for safer roads all round.
We found more noise and vibration on Australian corrugated dirt road than we anticipated. Coarse-chip surfaces also challenged the big Audi's suspension at times. Power and torque are there for the taking and even the ‘small' 3.0-litre diesel will have enough grunt for most drivers.
A limo for the tech-heads, or simply for anyone who appreciate style and quality in finish. The Audi A8 probably has enough for just about every driver, but the Audi S8 will tempt those for whom too much power is just about right.
2014 Audi A8
Price: from $195,000
Engines: 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel 190kW, 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol 228kW, 4.2-litres V8 turbo-diesel 283kW and W12 368kW
Transmission: 8-speed auto, FWD
0 to 100 km/h: 5.9 seconds