The Audi A8 is a full-size luxury or F-segment class sedan, manufactured since 1994 as a successor to the Audi V8 and currently in its fourth generation. Established as the flagship of Audi’s fleet, the A8 offers the best in terms of luxury and comfort. It comes in a longitudinal front-engine, front-wheel drive or four-wheel (Quattro) drive layout.
The First Generation (1994-2002)
Pitched against the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-series, Audi A8 was revealed at the Geneva Auto Show in 1994. BMW built it on the VW D2 platform with an all-aluminium design, making it lighter to compensate for the weight of the Quattro four-wheel-drive system. It was available as a sedan exclusively, in the standard version and the long-wheelbase A8 L, with 127mm more legroom in the rear.
Powertrain options include V6 and V8 petrol and diesel engines, offering competitive power at the time, as well as 0-100km/h acceleration in less than 10 seconds even with the weakest engine and under 6 seconds for the top-of-the-line engines. These come paired with a five-speed manual gearbox, 4-speed or 5-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive, or Quattro four-wheel drive. A W12, 6.0L engine in A8 L produced 309kW (414hp), 550Nm of torque, and could accelerate to 100km/h in 5.8 seconds.
The Audi S8 4.2L Quattro is a high-performance version of the A8, featuring minor cosmetic changes and luxury sports seats but most importantly, a 4.2L V8 petrol engine with a power output of 250kW (335hp). Formerly a four-valve-per-cylinder system, it was updated in 1999 to five valves per cylinder, raising the power output to 265kW (355hp). It was paired with the standard 6-speed manual gearbox or modified 5-speed automatic transmission.
The Second Generation (2002-2009)
Built on the VW Group D3 platform, the second-generation Audi A8 features a slightly-restyled design with an overall longer body. The seating layout offered room for five people or four with the more comfortable individual seats in the rear. It introduced many innovative features to the Audi lineup, such as Multi-Media Interface (MMI), bi-xenon HID headlamps, 4-wheel adaptive air suspension, Audi's first GPS system, 6-speed automatic transmission, and driver identification system. The facelift of 2007 brought updates to the front fascia, with a standard single-frame grille, redesigned headlights, and fog lights, which made the car look more modern.
The Audi A8 came available in Standard Trim, Quattro, SE, and Sport trim levels.
Under the hood, the engine range offered include V6, V8, V10, and W12 petrol engines. As for the diesel, V6 and V8 turbocharged engines were available. All models could either reach close to 250km/h top speed or were electronically limited at that threshold. Acceleration to 100km/h was 8.0 seconds for the weakest 2.8L V6 petrol engine and down to 5.1 seconds for the 5.2L V10 and 6.0L W12. The manual gearbox option was not offered. Instead, customers had a choice between 6-speed or a continuously-variable automatic transmission, powering either the front wheels or all wheels via the Quattro system.
Audi A8 L W12 Quattro Security offered an armoured option for high-profile clients, such as pyrotechnic blown-out doors, fire extinguishers, smoke extractor, run-flat tires, and bulletproof glass, among the most notable features.
The S8 5.2 FSI Quattro offered the high-performance option, with custom grille, S8 and V10 badges, and a subtle spoiler. The 5.2L all-aluminium-alloy V10 petrol engine with a four-valve-per-cylinder system offered 331kW (444hp) and 540Nm of torque.
The Third Generation (2011-2017)
Revealed at the Design Miami in late 2009, the third-generation A8 was based on VW D4 platform. Just like the last model, it introduced many innovative features, including new headlamp options, updated Multi-Media Interface, driver assistance systems, Infrared Night Vision Assistant, and the collision-avoidance system Pre-sense. In 2014, Audi released a facelifted A8 with the changes to their Multi-Media Interface System, HUD display, park/active lane/blind-spot assist systems, and an improved noise reduction system.
The A8 L retained the aluminium construction of its predecessor, was the lightest all-wheel-drive vehicle of its class, and had the best fuel economy.
The A8 L Security and S8 variants remain available. The range also welcomed the introduction of an Audi A8 hybrid, which comes with an electric motor producing 40kW (53hp) and 210Nm of torque.
The Audi A8 comes in a variety of trim levels, namely, Standard, Executive, Executive SE, SE, Edition 21, Sport, SE Executive, Black Edition, and Sport Executive.
- Standard trim level offers the base equipment package including 3x3 point rear seat belts, ABS, Alarm, Alloy wheels, Audio remote, Cruise control, Full set of Airbags, DVD, Headlight washers, Heated seats, Heated mirrors, Height-adjustable driver's seat, Isofix child seat anchor points, Lumbar support, Leather seats, Metallic Paint, Parking sensors, PAS, Power driver's seat, Power mirrors, Power passenger's seat, Power front and rear windows, Sat Nav, Service indicator, Side airbags, Steering wheel reach and rake adjustment, and Traction control.
- Black Edition trim level adds: Body-coloured bumpers, CD, Remote locking, Space saver spare wheel, Sports seats
- Executive adds: Body-coloured bumpers, Front fog lights, Space saver spare wheel
In Australia, available engine options include:
- 4.2L FSI Quattro drives the petrol engine producing 274kW (367hp) at 6800rpm and 445Nm of torque at 3500rpm, paired with 8-speed automatic transmission
- 3.0L TDI Quattro drives turbocharged diesel engine producing 184kW (247hp) at 4000-4500rpm and 550Nm of torque at 1500-3000rpm, paired with 8-speed automatic transmission
- 4.2L TDI Quattro drives turbocharged diesel engine producing 257kw (345hp) at 4000rpm and 800Nm of torque at 1750-2750rpm, paired with 8-speed automatic transmission
The Fourth Generation (2018-present)
The current A8 and A8 L were revealed at the 2017 Audi Summit in Barcelona, followed by the Frankfurt Motor Show of the same year. The modernized design includes a wider, trapezoidal single-piece grille with horizontal bars and an overall aggressive front. The efficiency and weight remain at the top of the competition, in part due to mild-hybrid engines, while air suspension ensures the quality of the ride remains smooth. However, it loses out to the S-Class when it comes to interior space, and both to S-Class and 7-Series in boot space.
The Audi A8 comes with the following standard and optional equipment: 4-Zone climate control, Adaptive air suspension, Adaptive cruise control, Full set of airbags, Active steering, Adaptive drive, Autonomous emergency braking, Automatic Start/Stop, Alcantara trim, 19-inch alloy wheels, Collision avoidance systems, Panoramic Sunroof, Satnav, Power seats, mirrors, tailgate, lumbar support, Park assist, Lane-keeping Assist, Heated seats, and others.
The Australian market received a 3.0L Hybrid-Diesel engine with a power output of 210kW (281hp) and 600Nm of torque, and a 3.0L Hybrid-Petrol engine with a power output of 250kW (335hp) and 500Nm of torque. Both engines were available only with an 8-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
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Author: Luka Kusic