Audi A8 History
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The brand's flagship model, the Audi A8 is the largest sedan offered by the German automaker. Available in the U.S. since 1997, the A8 competes with other full-size luxury sedans like the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S-Class, Jaguar XJ and Lexus LS. The baseA8 is powered by a supercharged V-6 engine, but shoppers can opt for a twin-turbo V-8, W12 or TDI engine if they'd prefer. Those interested in all-out speed will want to consider the S8 model with its 520-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-8.See our 2013 Audi A8 review for pricing with options, specifications, and gas-mileage ratings.
Preceded in sales by an eight-cylinder version of the A6 sedan called the V8, the Audi A8 came into being when Audi created an aluminum space-frame construction.
The first generation was sold from the 1998 to the 2003 model year. This car was Audi's first mass-production aluminum space frame vehicle. Both short- and long-wheelbase A8L versions were offered, and the A8 was the first Audi to sport six airbags. While other countries were offered six-cylinder versions and a unique 12-cylinder model with cylinders arranged in a "W" pattern, the U.S. A8 came only with a V-8 engine and quattro all-wheel drive for much of this first production run. The U.S. market did get an S8 version at the end of this cycle.
In its second generation, the 2004-2010 Audi A8 brought with it the usual 4.2-liter V-8 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, with all-wheel drive. Both short- and long-wheelbase versions were offered to American buyers, and the 450-horsepower, 6.0-liter W-12 engine was offered to a very few select customers. This generation was marked mainly by the large grille that had become Audi's corporate hallmark. At the end of its model run in the 2010 model year, the A8 was back to the V-8 powertrain only.
In its third generation, the Audi A8 has delivered better performance, though the look isn't quite as dramatic as that of the Jaguar XJ, the other aluminum-bodied vehicle in the class, or even the current Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The new A8 went on sale in the U.S. in the 2011 model year, with a 4.2-liter V-8 rated at 372 horsepower, andpromised that it will push the A8 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, to a top speed of 155 mph (limited electronically). A W-12 engine was added to the long-wheelbase model in 2012.
For 2013, a pair of new engines replaced the former V-8. The current lineup includes a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 333 horsepower, and a 0-60 mph time of 5.5 seconds; a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 with either 420 or 520 hp, with 0-60 mph times of 4.7 seconds and in the S8, 3.9 seconds; and the 6.3-liter W-12, with 500 hp, and a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds. Audi Drive Select also coordinates steering, powertrain and suspension into different modes. The A8 feels a bit more nimble than some of the vehicles in its class, but it's still tuned for the tastes of its buyers--not shocking, never abrupt, always collected and calm even when it's accelerating at the speed of a supercar.
Interior space is ample in the A8; Audi sells it both in four-passenger trim and as a five-passenger vehicle with a three-person rear bench seat. But it's the plushest versions that are the most coveted--they have a reclining right-rear passenger seat that coddles a passenger in first-class airline style, surrounded by LCD screens, a cooler box, and supported by a heated and massaging chair.The A8's subtle looks steer attention toward its rich finishes and high-tech features. Its infotainment features are driven by a new MMI system, including MMI touch, which allows fingertips to trace out individual letters (of destinations, for example). There's built-in wi-fi hotspot capability and Google Earth 3D navigation-system data--with of the most detailed, attractive map interfaces. For the fitting final touch, there's a magnificent Bang & Olufsen audio system, with tweeters that rise from the dash surface.