Although the new Audi A8 is classified as a facelift, the car has received a raft of revisions that enhance its efficiency and comfort on the road.
I drove into Carton House, the launch venue in a Mini Paceman and felt every speed bump jar my spine. A few minutes later, I drove out in an A8 and hardly felt the bumps, despite a much higher speed.
It was immediately apparent that the standard air suspension was doing its job. In fact, I immediately felt at home in the car and given its dimensions, that came as something of a surprise. It often takes a few minutes to get used to the size of a large executive saloon.
The interior is up to Audi’s usual high standards. It’s beautifully built with top notch materials. My car had optional Alcantara headlining, which costs an eyebrow raising €2,400 so it’s easy to go mad on the options.
As it stands, though, the new A8 is very comprehensively equipped as standard, with items such as cruise control, four zone climate control, 6 channel 120W audio system with iPod and SD card support, satellite navigation, 7” touchscreen with touchpad, Bluetooth, multifunction steering wheel, keyless entry and go, rear view camera, electric lumbar support, heated leather seats, electric seats with memory function, front and rear park assist, LED headlights, 18” alloy wheels and start stop all included.
All A8 models come with quattro four wheel drive, with 60% of the drive going to the rear wheels in normal conditions. Power is transmitted through an eight speed Tiptronic gearbox, ensuring maximum efficiency.
As in previous models, extensive use has been made of aluminium in the construction of the car and the result is a 40% reduction in the weight of the spaceframe chassis. The adoption of electric power steering saves a further 7 g/km and the final result is emissions as low as 155 g/km for the V6 3.0 TD, which produces 260 bhp. All engines in the range are EU 6 compliant.
Other technological highlights are LED headlights, which are standard across the range. Although we didn’t get a chance to test these, there are also Matrix LED lights, which use an array of 25 switchable LEDs to provide the main beam. These are computer controlled, using sensors to detect oncoming traffic and data from the GPS system. Together, they control the beams to ensure maximum lighting while avoiding dazzling oncoming drivers.
Another optional feature is a Night Vision Assistant, which can detect humans and larger animals at a distance of up to 300m. The driver gets a warning and if the system detects that a human is in danger, the lights are flashed as a warning. Animals are not flashed in case they get startled and run into the path of traffic.
A Head up Display is also available, which projects important information such as speed and navigation directions 2m in front of the driver. It’s a useful safety aid and allows you to keep more of your concentration on the road.
The range starts at €92,800 on the road, which buys a 3.0 V6 petrol, with 310 bhp and tax of €750 per annum. More popular will be the 3.0 litre V6 diesel with 260 bhp. This starts at €94,080 and attracts tax as low as €390. Long wheelbase versions are available for €4,500 extra.
A new trim level, SE Executive has been introduced, which combines some of the most popular options at a greatly reduced price. In addition to SE, it adds comfort seats, 19” 10 spoke alloys, adaptive cruise control and a 360 degree camera. Together, these would normally cost €8,259, but as a pack, the charge is just €4,159 or 50% off.
Later in the year, the range will be joined by a V8 petrol powered S8 and the top of the range W12, which will sell for around €155,000 in long wheelbase form only. There have already been some serious expressions of interest in this version.
Audi have taken the number one spot in the premium segment for the last five years in a row. Although it won’t be a volume seller, the new A8 is an illustration of how they got to this envious position.
Motoring editor - The Clare Champion
Former Chairman and voting member of Irish Motoring Writers' Association