- Nimble handling
- Great front seats
- Vast rear-seat room (A8 L)
- Quattro all-wheel drive is standard
- Looks a bit stale
- No more high-performance S8
- Lacks brand presence
The 2010 Audi A8 and A8 L wear its subtle suit well-and outhandles some of its more exotic-looking competition.
The 2010 Audi A8 is Audi's largest luxury sedan, and it's available for a final year in its current body style. A major redesign is coming for the 2011 model year, and will bring with it new V-8 engines, both gas and diesel, as well as a much more sophisticated interior with touchpad technology for audio and communications systems. In its current body style, the A8 comes in a single powertrain combination, with a V-8 engine, automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive-though it's sold in standard and extended-length body styles. With a base price of $75,000, the A8 competes with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS range, and the new Jaguar XJ.
It's long, and it's lithe, but the 2010 Audi A8's exterior shape is somewhat forgettable. It predates the era of Bangle-designed BMWs and follow-up Benzes that turned Germany's automakers into purveyors of style-and it's outshaped by the lovely new 2011 Jaguar XJ, which renders all these cars in somber shades of grey. The A8 doesn't suffer for its sedate looks, and the large Audi grille up front has begun to grow on TheCarConnection.com's editors-if only on large vehicles that can handle its overbearing size. Elsewhere, the cues echo those of older Audis-the gentle downward drape of the roofline, squared-off tail lamps, and discreetly creased fenders. The A8's interior reads exceptionally clean and simplified, thanks to the Multi-Media Interface (MMI), which brings a single tactile controller to access a range of audio, climate-control, and navigation functions. Fewer buttons collect on the A8's dash and armrests, and high-dollar finishes add more than a veneer of rich look and feel. Audi's interiors have always looked a bit brighter and friendlier than other German sedans, and even at its advanced automotive age, the A8's cockpit shines.
Performance has been an asset of the Audi A8 since its current form took shape in the early 2000s. Drivers will enjoy its V-8 whir and the subtle shifts of its six-speed automatic transmission-though in this final year, the high-performance S8 and the 12-cylinder versions have been dropped from the U.S. product lineup. Soldiering on is the 350-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8, which has plenty of muscle for the lighter, more agile, aluminum-frame A8. The lightweight body contributes to its energetic feel, giving the biggest Audio less baggage to carry around and lending it a nimble overall handling and steering feel, particularly for its class. It simply handles sharp curves better than most other large sedans its size, due to weight savings and the confidence its naturally weighted steering and all-weather traction bring. Ride quality is another high point, with the A8's air suspension delivering a well-balanced ride that's far from springy or tight. Fuel economy is rated at 16/23 mpg, a mild surprise in this class.
Passenger comfort is a strong suit of the latest big Audi. The 2010 A8 sports some of the most comfortable front seats in any vehicle at any price. The multi-adjustable chairs are large enough for big adults, for instance. They're firm enough to hold front passengers in place during brisk driving maneuvers, yet superbly cushioned for long-haul drives. The backseat in the standard-wheelbase model is more than spacious enough for average-size adults; the extended-wheelbase A8 L offers near-limousine legroom to please even the longest-limbed passengers. Trunk space is good for the class, and the quality of the interior is exceptionally high even in the class, with soft-touch surfaces, tightly fitted trim pieces, a sueded headliner, and custom wood trim among the highlights.
Neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested the 2010 A8. Its vast list of safety features earns TheCarConnection.com's relatively high safety rating. That list includes dual front airbags; separate front and rear side airbags; side-curtain airbags; front knee airbags; front active head restraints; and electronic stability control. All-wheel drive is standard, as are LED daytime running lights. The older A8 does not lack for advanced safety features; an optional Technology Package includes a rearview camera, as well as lane-departure and blind-spot alert systems.
The 2010 Audi A8 sports the expected, lengthy list of standard luxury and convenience features. Among them a navigation system is standard, as are heated front and rear seats, 19-inch wheels, a trunklid spoiler, and adaptive bi-xenon headlamps. Ventilated, massaging sport seats are standard on long-wheelbase A8 sedans and optional on the short-wheelbase car. A Sport Package brings big 20-inch polished alloy wheels, summer performance tires, the adaptive air suspension, and steering-wheel shift paddles. Other options include rear dual-zone climate controls, an awe-inspiring Bang & Olufsen sound system, a solar-powered ventilation system, and a power rear sunshade. Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI) uses a roller wheel and buttons to provide control over audio, climate, and entertainment systems while leaving the driver's eyes on the road. Compared to BMW's iDrive or Mercedes-Benz's COMAND, MMI is much easier for newbies to figure out, and TheCarConnection.com's editors feel that it's less distracting overall-particularly in the new software adopted for the 2010 model year.