Audi A8 4.2 TDI Sedan 2014 Review
Derek Ogden road tests and reviews the 2014 Audi A8, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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The Bavarian range-topper adds a hand gesture and makes a grand gesture — it's become fun to drive again.
There is such a thing as overkill and luxury car makers flirt with it on a regular basis.
In their continuing efforts to lift the bar they sometimes come up with technology that does things differently rather than better. Occasionally they end up with something as needlessly complicated as one of those heated, squirting toilets you get in posh hotels.
For BMW that something is gesture control. With a waft of the hand you can answer a call, change the volume on the radio or select home in the satnav. It all sounds wonderfully space age but it's not really necessary and it doesn't work as well as the myriad systems already in place — for example the buttons on the steering wheel, the touchscreen, the voice-activated commands or the centre iDrive dial.
The kerfuffle over whether it works had drawn attention from the real story on BMW's range-topper: it's fun to drive again.
The new 7 Series puts daylight between itself and lesser models
Where the previous model was designed to cosset rear passengers, the new one is a proper driver's car with some seriously progressive technology, including suspension that effectively reads the road and adapts to driver inputs.
We're driving the diesel model because it's the cheapest and most efficient and is only half a second slower than the turbo six in the benchmark sprint to 100km/h.
As BMW expanded into more affordable markets, it created a problem for itself: the outgoing 7 Series looked all too familiar to a 1 Series driver, down to the orange colour scheme for the instrument readouts.
But the new 7 Series puts daylight between itself and lesser models with a cabin that looks and feels more luxurious and special.
Ambient lighting fills every crevice of the cockpit and the driver can change between half a dozen colours.
The wide centre screen dominates the dash, while a fully digital instrument panel changes the readout based on whether you're cruising or have the hammer down.
In eco-pro mode it's all about efficiency readouts, while in sport the tacho and speedo dominate.
Other hi-tech touches include a much bigger head-up display to show car speed, street speed limits, turn instructions for the satnav, call details and radio station choices.
Elsewhere in the cabin, the big BMW is everything you'd expect from a luxury limousine. The attention to luxury detail extends to the rear, where there's a removable tablet for controlling comfort, infotainment and communications functions.
BMW has included every piece of driver assistance under the sun
The seats and armrests are covered in stitched leather and there are electronically operated sun blinds for the windows and rear screen. There aren't acres of legroom, though — about as much as a Falcon or Commodore.
The boot is roughly the same size as an Aussie six but can be opened — if all goes according to plan — by a sweep of the foot under the rear bumper.
As nimble as it is on the open road, the 7 Series is still a big beast to manoeuvre around city streets and carparks.
Thankfully, BMW has included every piece of driver assistance under the sun on its signature limousine.
It will hit the brakes if you're about to back into something and let you know whether it's safe to pull out of a perpendicular car parking spot. It will also help you steer into a park and keep between the lines when you're driving in traffic.
A surround-view camera gives you more angles than the Big Brother house, including rear, forward, top and side.
The BMW traffic jam assistant gives you semi-automated driving in traffic, while the speed limit warnings are particularly helpful for school zones.
The head-up display deserves an honourable mention for allowing you to follow the satnav without taking your eyes off the road.
Of less use is the key, which has an in-built screen to tell you whether the car is locked and how much range is left. It can also start the car remotely and pre-load the aircon.
In comfort mode, the self-levelling air suspension with adaptive dampers gives a plush ride around town, while the diesel rarely makes itself heard, even under acceleration.
The new model is up to 130kg lighter, thanks to the use of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (borrowed from the i8) and other lightweight materials.
That gives the BMW a significant weight advantage over the rival Mercedes S-Class and Audi A8. On a twisting road, the BMW defies its dimensions with a willingness to turn in to corners quickly and change direction just as quickly when asked.
There's plenty of grip available, the steering is sharp and, although you can feel some lean through the bends, it is supremely composed and nimble for its size.
The 3.0-litre diesel is a ripper. Power is up slightly to 195kW and more importantly it delivers a healthy 620Nm of torque for great performance low in the rev range.
It lopes along the freeway, barely raising a sweat when asked to overtake or climb a hill. It's also whisper-quiet and perfectly matched to the slick-shifting eight-speed auto.
There's little to complain about with the 7 Series. The cabin is a modern mix of technology and quality appointments, while the engine is smooth and powerful and the adaptive drive modes finally endow the BMW with genuine flexibility.
It can be an authentically comfortable boulevard cruiser one minute and a sporty grand tourer the next. Just don't mention the gesture control.
A key with a screen that can remotely start the car and tell you how much fuel you have, gesture control, lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, self-levelling air suspension.
The dynamic damper control, panorama sunroof and night vision of the 750i, spare tyre, tyre pressure monitor.
The first three years of servicing are free. Services are condition-based, which basically means the car will let you know when it's due for a trip to the workshop. BMW also provides free roadside assistance for the first three years.
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