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- Highs Sophisticated design, refined powertrains, well-equipped luxury interior.
- Lows Suffers from terminal understeer, not very fuel-efficient, lacks infotainment technology found in rivals.
- Verdict The A8 combines excellent power with a luxury interior and surprisingly agile handling wrapped in a handsome large-sedan package.
Audi’s push upscale from “premium Volkswagen” to Mercedes-Benz/BMW competitor in the 1980s culminated in the launch of its first V-8 flagship in the 1990 model year, which had been renamed A8 in 1994. It was redesigned with an aluminum structure and bodywork for the second-generation 1997 model. That lightweight structure and body, offset by the weight of the A8’s standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system, helps distinguish the flagship from its primary competitors, the Mercedes-Benz S-class and BMW 7 series, both of which it undercuts in price. The Audi A8 offers a competitive ride quality and generally better handling than its rivals with the brand’s typically exquisite interior design and materials, and yet it sells in much smaller numbers than the S-class.
What's New for 2018?
A new Executive package is available for the base A8, with 20-inch wheels, lane-keeping assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, head-up display, blind spot monitor, ventilated and massaging front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel with shift paddles and panoramic sunroof. A new Executive Plus package for the Sport model includes separate power rear seats with ventilation, massage, and power lumbar support control.
- Base: $83,475
- Sport: $92,975
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Audi has dropped diesel and W-12 engine options offered earlier in the current A8’s lifecycle. The two engines available for 2018 are the base model's 333-hp 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 and the 450-hp 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 that comes in the Sport. Both are equipped with a ZF eight-speed automatic and Quattro all-wheel drive. Our first drive of the base A8 3.0T noted that while it falls short of the V-8’s power, torque is nearly the same in a car that weighs 70 pounds less. The result is our estimated 5.4-second 0-60 mph time for the V-6, just 0.4-seconds slower than the V-8’s time. With adaptive air suspension, the A8 turns in with not much body roll despite a velvety-smooth ride. It eagerly changes direction, savors switchbacks, and thrives on decreasing-radius turns. We found, however, that the A8 suffers from terminal understeer due to its forward weight bias.
EPA fuel-economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest numbers on current and older vehicles, visit the EPA’s website and select Find & Compare Cars.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Audi dropped the short-wheelbase (117.8-inch) versions of the A8 a couple of years ago and now offers only the A8L with its 122.9-inch wheelbase in the U.S. That adds up to a very large rear seat, available in the current model with either a three-passenger bench or two-passenger “executive” seating with a center console in back. Standard luxury touches include heated leather seats, four-zone automatic climate control, refrigerated compartments, and genuine wood trim. Like the rest of the Audi lineup, the A8 has long been considered the benchmark in its segment for its material fit, finish, and design, though competitors have nearly caught up in recent years.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The A8 features Audi’s MMI infotainment system, with an 8.0-inch display and an attached mouse-like control device on the center console. With an all-new A8 due for 2019, the current model does not have all the latest technology packed in. For example, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available. Nevertheless, standard features include navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 14-speaker Bose sound system with satellite radio. The A8’s optional premium high-fidelity stereo is the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System with 1920 watts and 23 speakers, including two in the headliner.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
For more information about the Audi A8‘s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites.
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer's Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer's CPO program.