2008 Audi A8 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 29, 2008

Perky, nimble handling and frisky, refined performance is what separates the 2008 Audi A8 from the rest of the super-sedans.

The A8, Audi's large luxury sedan, gets a number of minor cosmetic improvements--including a redesigned front end and LE taillights--and newly available high-tech features for 2008.

Changes for this model year include updated steering hardware for more road feel. The air suspension has also been retuned. The styling is still beyond subtle; it's almost impossible to detect how the A8 looks much different from the rest of the Audi family.

The 2008 Audi A8 develops 350 hp from a 4.2-liter V-8 in most cases. On some long-wheelbase models, power comes from a 450-hp W12. The V-10-powered S8 is covered separately. With the V-8 there's plenty of power on tap, but don't test-drive the W-12 until you're sure you want it. Its immense power comes with a tremendous shove from stoplights, and its quiet whir is the only indication at the effortless way it accelerates the car.

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Audi puts some of the best seats we've sampled in the A8. They're big, firm, snugly bolstered, and supportive in the ways you need for long-haul driving. The base car has fine room for adults in back, but "L" cars have limo-like space in back, enough room for the most lanky of bodies.

The Audi's instrument panel looks remarkably clean and clearly laid-out. It's due to the infotainment interface that uses a simple controller to direct audio, navigation, and climate-control functions. The system in the 2008 Audi A8 works quite well, especially when compared with BMW iDrive and Mercedes COMAND.

New high-tech options for 2008 include a side assist system that uses radar technology to scan blind spots alongside the car, and a lane assist system that uses a small camera to warn the driver with a steering-wheel vibration if the vehicle strays from lane markings. Audi also offers an awe-inspiring Bang & Olufsen sound system, rear climate control, a rearview camera, and a power rear sunshade, as well as a Sport Package. All models come with heated seats front and rear, bi-xenon headlights, and navigation.

The 2008 Audi A8 has not been crash tested, but the list of safety features is vast, including separate front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, front knee airbags, front active head restraints, and electronic stability control.

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2008 Audi A8

Styling

The 2008 Audi A8 is a sober-looking sedan with a subtle richness inside—but if you want a new look, wait for 2009.

The 2008 Audi A8 is largely a carryover version of a car styled to blend into the Audi lineup, instead of striking a bold new path.

Audi sells the A8 in two body styles. The long-wheelbase car, the 121-inch-wheelbase A8 L, is some 5 inches longer than the standard car. Automobile.com says "Aesthetically, Audi took the safe road." Audi, the magazine says in its online site, has designed a "well-proportioned" car that's "subdued," but praises its "long, arc-shaped roofline and the familial front end."

Car and Driver reports changes are minimal, amounting to LED turn signals and taillights and minor trim changes. Edmunds says the A8 is lacking in "snob appeal".

Inside, the A8 has impeccable details. It's "handsome and spacious", according to Edmunds. Automobile thinks it's "conservative as the lobby of a Ritz-Carlton hotel."

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2008 Audi A8

Performance

The 2008 Audi A8 can please the most rabid performance hound, and it shows a softer side, too.

If you're seeking a difference between 2007 and the 2008 Audi A8, performance is where you'll find it.

The 2008 Audi A8 uses a 4.2-liter V-8 to churn out 350 hp, though a 450-hp W-12 engine is fitted to the A8 L W12.

The V-8 offers an extra 20 hp this year, says Automobile, as well as an extra 15 pound-feet of low-end torque. Audi says the A8 can hit 62 mph about 6 seconds and can reach a top speed of 155 mph. The V-8 engine "gives up little to the V-12" according to Motor Trend, and delivers 18 mpg highway.

Both versions of the A8 use a 6-speed automatic. Forbes Autos says it can be "taken through the gears like a manual." Cars.com says "considerable downshifting occurs on even moderate upgrades," but it has no qualms with the shifts themselves.

The A8's retuned steering and air suspension could use more work. The suspension can "induce unsettling wallow when at softer settings," ConsumerGuideAuto says. Cars.com instead found the full-size sedan "stays beautifully flat while cornering and responds immediately to driver inputs." Motor Trend likes the steering's "perfect feel and weight."

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2008 Audi A8

Comfort & Quality

There are more luxurious and more comfortable cars on the market than the 2008 Audi A8--but not many, and not by much.

The Audi A8 offers a superior level of comfort and room for the daily commute as well as the long road trip. As Automobile.com observes, “there is plenty of wood and leather, the adjustable driver's seat is comfortable, and the materials and fit and finish are first-rate.”

Cars.com admires the natural wood trim and leather. Edmunds says the interior is "superb."

The A8 is quiet, but ConsumerGuideAuto says its 19-inch tires "rumble and whine" when they encounter "coarse pavement."

Few reviewers commented on the actual room in the 2008 Audi A8, but TheCarConnection.com found it had excellent seats for most any kind of driving. The A8 L's long rear doors make entry and exit a no-fuss procedure, and the limo-like leg room in back guarantees a luxurious perch for all.

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2008 Audi A8

Safety

The 2008 Audi A8 has cutting-edge safety equipment, but hasn’t been crash-tested.

Are 10 airbags enough? The federal government hasn't tested the A8, but that number indicates how extensive the Audi's safety package is.

The 2008 Audi A8 has a vast list of safety features, including the usual airbags and stability control, Cars.com reports.

Forbes Autos counts adaptive headlights among its features. The headlights turn with the wheels for a brighter night drive. All-wheel drive adds to the A8's secure handling, they add.

Two of the more innovative pieces of standard (yes, standard) safety equipment to be found on the A8: Audi's side assists and the lane assist. According to Motor Trend, the side assist, which warns the driver of the presence of vehicles in the "blind spot," is "subtle and useful." Lane assist vibrates the steering wheel when the car veers over the stripes. Motor Trend says to turn it off unless driving on little sleep, as the feature quickly becomes "more annoying than helpful."

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2008 Audi A8

Features

The 2008 Audi A8 has enough high-tech gadgets and features for the most demanding driver.

Standard features abound in this year's Audi A8. Cars.com counts navigation, keyless ignition, automatic climate control, and electric sunshades on the list.

All versions also have leather, a 6-disc CD player, and and "powered everything," Automobile says. Options include heated seats, parking sensors and ventilated and massaging front seats.

Bluetooth is standard, and permits hands-free phone use. Voice commands can run the stereo as well as navigation, Forbes Auto says.

These many features can also be accessed with Audi's proprietary MMI--a series of buttons and controls mounted on the steering wheel with which the driver can operate the vehicle's numerous devices and controls easily and in greater safety, according to Edmunds. While this system looks intimidating to the uninitiated, Forbes Autos tells us that it's actually easier and more intuitive than the BMW iDrive system (albeit "more distracting than traditional knobs and buttons").

Other options include rear dual-zone climate controls, an awe-inspiring Bang & Olufsen sound system, obstacle-detection systems, a rearview camera, a solar-powered ventilation system, and a power rear sunshade. A Sport Package is also available on the 2008 Audi A8.

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8.4
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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