Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Audi A8 4.2 TDI Quattro 2010 review

EXPERT RATING
8

The best part of a decade ago, Audi's second generation A8 was the car that had heavyweight German rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz looking over their shoulder in 2003.

A fresh challenger with a technological tour de force that included an aluminium space frame construction and a brilliant interpretation of BMW's own iDrive system -- so good that BMW borrowed facets of it back for their later generations of the interactive system -- the A8 seemed worthy of its place in elite company.

While that challenge didn't quite live up to early expectations, here's an early tip for the super-luxury segment leaders: take another good look behind -- because the third generation of Audi's limousine is closing fast.  For their latest offering, Audi has kept the best and improved the rest to produce a car that pleases the eye nearly as much as the senses.

Drivetrains

For Australia, the A8 will arrive for its July launch party boasting a pair of 4.2-litre V8 engines -- a 258kW and 800Nm turbo diesel and a marginally less brutal FSI petrol offering with 273kW and 445Nm. Both engines, driving all four wheels through a standard eight-speed gearbox, are more powerful than those in the outgoing models and yet up to 22 per cent more efficient the TDI boast an impressive 7.6L/100km on the official ADR test cycle while the petrol is an equally frugal (for its size) 9.5L/100km.

A 3-litre V6 TDI version will reach Australia by the end of the year, but unlike the front-drive European eco-leader the Aussie car will have quattro AWD and boast fuel economy of 6.6L/100km enough to benefit from the government's sub-7L/100km tax incentives.

Pricing and equipment

Pricing and specification for Australia have not been finalised but given the likely level of new equipment and the new engines it would be fair to expect some price increase over the $206,600 (FSI) and $211,400 (TDI) of the outgoing models.  Favoured as standard equipment along with the usual raft of safety and comfort technology expected in any luxury car approaching a quarter of a million dollars by the time you get it in the garage are a couple of delight features that will set the A8 apart.

Once again, the techno think tank at Audi has taken the MMI (multi media integration) to a new level with the inclusion of a human-machine interface scratchpad that allows phone dialing and navigation instructions to be delivered by writing on the pad with a finger. The integration software recognises the character or numeral and then offers a voice confirmation before accepting the next character.

Also expected to be standard on the Australian A8s are adaptive air suspension, comfort seating with 22-way adjustment, the playful ambient lighting which allows for a choice of three mood settings for the interior, parking system with rear camera, adaptive Xenon headlights and 19-inch alloys.

If you still have some change left there will be a good range of optional extras including LED headlamps, Google-map ready adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, night vision, lane assist, side assist (which clearly warns of a car in the blind spot), a spanking 19-speaker sound system and rear seat entertainment.

Driving

The A8 is a big car… and you can't help but notice that as you walk around it. Sit inside it and the space equation is again driven home.  There is room to spare, front and rear ... and all of it in an environment of quality luxury styling and trim that lifts this car to the benchmark of anything sub-Bentley. It is quite simply a beautiful execution.

Yet, the real magic of the A8 is that it does not drive like a limousine. There is all the refinement at speed and isolation from just about any noise intrusion that you expect from a true luxury vehicle, but the feel of the car and the driving dynamics are that of a sports-oriented mid-size sedan.

There is no doubt that the big Audi benefits from its aluminium construction … a claimed 200kg weight saving over a similar-sized steel chassis car is no small thing. But it is more than that.  The chassis and suspension teams have performed a minor miracle in getting a balance of ride quality and connection with the road almost in spite of the adaptive air suspension, a system which across any number of marques has been acknowledged to average off driver's-edge performance for comfort.

There is a similar fuzzy definition between the A8s basic comfort settings and the dynamic mode. Ride stiffness and steering feel are ... different ... in the dynamic setting, but not necessarily a great deal more engaging. Where the A8 wins is that even in the basic armchair setting there is still a grand degree of driver engagement rarely found in the limousine class.

We simply left the system on automatic and allowed the computers to make their own choices. It didn't diminish the enjoyment of the drive.  Across motorways and dauntingly narrow, steep and twisting mountain roads the A8 rode and reacted with a confidence-inspiring assuredness and the aplomb of a true aristocrat.

Power delivery from both the FSI and TDI engines is excellent but there is no doubt that the pick is the diesel which boasts better urge across a wider rev range that, when coupled to the eight speed auto, delivers a seamless willingness to reach for the horizon.

The enjoyment of the drive is helped in no small part by the power split through the quattro system that leans towards the feel of a rear-wheel drive giving the confidence to tip the car into even the tightest of corners with the capability of balancing it on the throttle.  What Audi has done for the generational change in the A8 is extraordinary.

Whether it will be enough to unseat the reigning segment champions is problematical. What is beyond question is that if you are planning on spending more than $200,000 on a sedan, this car must at least be on the shortlist.

Audi A8

Price: from $210,000 (est)
Engine: 4.2L/V8 FSI, 273kW/445Nm; 4.2L/V8 TDI, 258kW/800Nm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Economy: 9.5L/100km (FSI, supplied), 7.6L/100km (TDI, supplied)

Rivals

BMW 750i ($274,200)
Mercedes-Benz S500 ($289,900)
Lexus LS460 ($191,250)

Pricing guides

$39,450
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$20,600
Highest Price
$58,300

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
L 6.0 Quattro 6.0L, PULP, 6 SP $46,100 – 58,300 2010 Audi A8 2010 L 6.0 Quattro Pricing and Specs
4.2 Quattro 4.2L, PULP, 6 SP $27,500 – 36,410 2010 Audi A8 2010 4.2 Quattro Pricing and Specs
L 4.2 Quattro 4.2L, PULP, 6 SP $30,100 – 39,380 2010 Audi A8 2010 L 4.2 Quattro Pricing and Specs
4.2 TDI Quattro 4.1L, Diesel, 6 SP $40,600 – 51,920 2010 Audi A8 2010 4.2 TDI Quattro Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.