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Audi A8 quattro 4.2 FSI and TDI SE Exec road test report

quattro 4.2 FSI and TDI SE Exec

When Audi first locked horns with the S-Class, 7 Series and Lexus LS back in 1994 its A8 had two major Unique Selling Propositions: an all-aluminium body and chassis, and all-wheel drive. Sixteen years on those USPs are no longer unique in the luxury executive sector, but the all-new, fourth-generation A8 has other aces up its sleeve.

Road Test Reports Says4.5 star rating
A front-facing image of the Audi A8

Image number 2 of the Audi A8Image number 3 of the Audi A8Image number 4 of the Audi A8

Performance Performance - 5 stars

A 250PS 3-litre TDI is due in Sept 2010, with a supercharged 290PS 3.0 FSI, a low-CO2 3.0 TDI (and LWB versions) to follow sometime thereafter. For now there’s just the 372PS/445Nm 4.2 V8 FSI (petrol) and the 350PS/800Nm 4.2 V8 TDI (diesel), and both are very swift. The 4.2 FSI storms to 62mph in 5.7secs and on to a governed max of 155mph, while the big bi-turbo diesel shaves two-tenths off that 0-62 time and has the same governed top speed. The TDI motor also feels that bit stronger, and with enormous torque it can accelerate and overtake with immense authority. Amazingly, the new A8’s standard satnav system communicates with its 8-speed tiptronic transmission, and so by knowing in advance what the road does ahead it avoids unnecessary gearchanges on narrow or twisting roads!

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 5 stars

The new A8’s Drive Select system integrates the adaptive air suspension, engine, transmission and steering so that the driver can choose between comfort, auto and dynamic modes, or a programmable ‘individual’ mode. Suffice to say that the A8’s ride is never anything other than ultra comfortable, but driven hard in dynamic mode it steers, handles and grips like a pukka GT car. Particularly sporting drivers will prefer the slight extra agility of the 160kg-lighter FSI, but both V8 A8s are bewilderingly nimble and well-controlled for near 2-tonne, 5-metre luxury saloons. And should you louse it all up then, in extremis, the ESP instructs the steering to automatically countersteer and reduce either under- or oversteer.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

After my few hours with the new and ultra-refined and near-silent A8 I’m at a loss to find any words to describe its build, fit and finish other than ‘perfect’, inside and out. Apologies for the well-worn cliché, but it really does feel ‘hewn from solid’. The doors close with a subtle but gratifying thunk, the likes of which I’ve not heard on any other car – it’s a distinctly up-market, high-echelon 2010 thunk! Audi as a brand scored well-above the industry average in the ’09 JD Power ownership satisfaction survey, while the little-sister A6 came top of the same survey’s executive car section.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

The new A8 takes safety to a new, and in some respects, unparalleled level. Various standard and optional accident Pre Sense systems will close all windows, activate hazard warning and tension belts, emit warning signals and automatic braking jerks, or, as a last resort, initiate up-to-maximum braking according to the severity of the situation. There are also adaptive, range adjusting LED headlamps, airbags in the back of the front seats, a radar-aided proximity control system, lane assist systems, a traffic monitoring camera above the rear view mirror which is linked to the satnav, an optional thermal-imaging night vision camera which detects and alerts you to errant animals or humans, and loads more. In short the A8 has everything going, plus much you never imagined or even thought possible.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

The A8 is Audi’s range-topping saloon and as such affords occupants with the highest levels of comfort and luxury. The forthcoming LWB version will have more rear legroom – the standard car isn’t over generous in that respect, and a little more oddments stowage wouldn’t go amiss in the front – but again, it’s hard to fault. The boot is neat and spacious, and there’s an optional load-thru hatch, but if you want to go to town on the options list then there’s also 22-way power adjustable front seats with heating, cooling and massage functions, powered rear seats, Bose or Bang and Olufsen surround-sound systems, a solar panel sunroof, 4-zone climate control… The list goes on, and on…

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

The 4.2 FSI SE Exec I drove costs £64,525 otr, and it was loaded with a further £25,000’s worth of options. The similar 4.2 TDI costs £66,450 otr, with its options (in my case) bringing it up to £95,050 all in. The CO2 output is 219g/km (tax band K) and 199g/km (tax band J), with combined fuel consumption at 29.7mpg and 37.2mpg respectively. So, the new A8 can be specced to £100k or more, but state-of-the-art, internet-connected infotainment, ultra high-tech driving and safety systems, plus the more traditional lures of fine wood, rich leathers, quietness, solidity and refinement, should all sugar the pill.

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