New & Used Audi A8: In Depth
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The Audi A8 is the German automaker's flagship sedan. Offered with a choice of short- and long-wheelbase models, with all-wheel drive, and with drivetrains including a supercharged V-6, a twin-turbo V-8, a W-12, or a turbodiesel, it's an executive sedan on the order of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS, and Jaguar XJ.
MORE: Read our 2015 Audi A8 reviewPreceded in sales by an eight-cylinder version of the A6 sedan called the V8, the Audi A8 came into being when Audi split off the special model into its own line, and created an aluminum space-frame method of construction specifically for it.
The first generation of the A8 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.
Now 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.
The A8 has carried through into the 2015 model year with only minor changes.