2012 Audi A8 Review

The Car Connection Expert Rating Breakdown?

8.8
on a scale of 1 to 10
Styling
8.0
Expert Rating
Performance
8.0
Expert Rating
Comfort & Quality
9.0
Expert Rating
Safety
9.0
Expert Rating
Features
10
Expert Rating
Fuel Economy
7.0
Expert Rating
Consumer Reviews
0 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
See the nominees and vote »
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 8, 2012

The 2012 Audi A8 models might still be fighting for the most prestige among flagships, but they're in the top tier from inside, thanks to their impeccable cabin, innovative cabin tech, and a lean, athletic driving feel.

Audi's flagship A8 sedan had already been inching closer to the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class with each iteration, and with its major redesign last year it's finally surpassed those other flagships in many respects. A new set of aluminum body panels, revised space-frame structure, broad spectrum of drivetrain choices, stunning interior design, and new, more intuitive MMI interface altogether make the current A8 a standout for those who want more than just a large luxury car.

While on the outside the 2012 Audi A8 is a bit conservative--especially when parked next to the swoopier A7 fastback--it has an interior that's truly worth gushing over. It's one of the most stylish, best-detailed cabins we've seen, ever, and it's carefully trimmed in wood, leather, aluminum and plastic, with a sueded headliner and rich colors throughout. 

At just 4,400 pounds, the A8 is one of the lightest large luxury sedans, and that key attribute--along with some carefully done electronic controls--helps it drive like an even smaller, lighter sedan. Just as its predecessors, the A8 is built on an all-aluminum space frame that helps keep the heft down—which in turns makes the 372-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 feel a lot peppier than you'd think when you put your right foot in it. Audi simply nailed the calibration of the eight-speed automatic transmission, and the quattro all-wheel drive system makes the A8 feel more surefooted in the corners yet not more cumbersome overall. Gas mileage is actually quite impressive, at 18 mpg city, 28 highway.

Review continues below

One of the keys to the A8's light, surefooted feel is Audi Drive Select, a series of electronic vehicle controls for powertrain, steering, and suspension feel; with it, you get Dynamic, Comfort, Auto, or Individual modes. Overall, it's an excellent setup that brings out the best in this big sedan, whether you're in tight switchbacks or cruising on the highway. The only letdown is that the steering feel (or lack thereof) leaves enthusiasts much to be desired.

For 2012, the A8 and A8 L have now been joined by an A8 L W12 model. With a much higher price ($133,500), the much more exclusive W12 packs a 6.3-liter, twelve-cylinder engine, making 500 hp and capable of getting to 60 mph in less than five seconds. It also comes with an eight-speed automatic.

The V-8 Audi A8 comes in standard-length A8 and extended-length A8 L models; and without hesitation we'd recommend the A8 L to nearly all U.S. shoppers. With five inches of additional wheelbase and overall length--nearly all of it going to rear legroom--you get a roomier rear seat, with easier entry and exit, and no significant sacrifice in maneuverability. Trunk space is abundant in both versions. Included in the W12 and available in V-8 models are lavish individual seats in back that might just be cause to get someone else to do the driving. Four-zone climate control keeps everyone comfortable, the rear seats are power-adjustable, and the right-side one includes a footrest while the left-side seat includes massage and recline functions. We'd also recommend you spring for the two-panel panoramic sunroof as it brightens the interior without interfering with headroom.

The 2012 Audi A8 comes with the latest version of Audi's MMI system, which is completely redesigned versus the previous generation. Once again, you get a rotating controller to scroll through menus, but the special new feature is MMI Touch--a scratchpad that makes address or info entry much easier by simply scratching out individual letters. Steering-wheel controls also let you see an abbreviated list of options, and a new Google Maps–based navigation system uses its own data connection to get live-updated mapping and routing information. For 2012, that system and an integrated wi-fi hotspot have been made standard.

Serious audiophiles will want to go for the top Bang & Olufsen Advanced sound system, which has 19 speakers, including small tweeters at the front of the cabin that emerge at startup, along with more than 1400 watts of power. Also on offer in back is a rear-seat entertainment system with its own 20-gig hard drive and two 10.2-inch screens, or—for the classic executive car need—a folding table. Another new option for 2012 is a special 'Audi design selection' interior package, offered in Balao Brown.
8

2012 Audi A8

Styling

The 2012 Audi A8 has one of the most beautiful, finely detailed interiors among luxury sedans--although its exterior pushes no boundaries.

On the outside, the 2012 Audi A8 is a bit conservative--especially when parked next to the swoopier A7 fastback. But it has an interior that's truly worth gushing over. It's one of the most stylish, best-detailed cabins we've seen, ever, and it's carefully trimmed in wood, leather, aluminum and plastic, with a sueded headliner and rich colors throughout.

The A8 was all-new last year, but its exterior looked like a clear evolution of the previous model--albeit one with its proportions slightly different, its stance more aggressive, and its sheetmetal nicely nipped and tucked. There's some awesome detailing this time around, as you could get lost for minutes in the fine detail in and around the LED headlights and taillights.

This time around, the A8 has proportions that are more like those of a traditional rear-wheel-drive sport sedan--a little more long-hooded and broad-shouldered--and while we like how it looks from the side or from the back, the proportions don't pop in quite the same way from the front. Audi's eggcrate grille and front airdam, which used to look brash and different now feels more ordinary. But a major benefit from the redesign appears to be aerodynamics; the A8 is now in the same range as the Toyota Prius for drag, with a coefficient of just 0.26.

Inside, the Audi A8 is one of the most stylish luxury-vehicle interiors we've tested or seen, ever. With plush materials, and the impression that not a detail has been missed if it pertains to styling, it impresses from first glance or even after you've scrutinized the details. The instrument panel is trimmed with finishes that you don't typically see in other luxury vehicles, with a hazy, glossy-matte metallic surface that's used throughout in accents and in the dash's center beltline. And the instrument panel angles gracefully into the wide center console, reserving audio and climate controls for a section that's nicely angled up toward the driver. The rich wood and leather and complemented by aluminum and plastic trim, rich color schemes, and a sueded headliner.

On closer look, it's some of the details that really enforce the wow factor. Audi has modeled the throttle lever after those in yachts and powerboats (though it's a bit like a golf putter), while on startup, two tweeters rise almost silently from the dash.

8

2012 Audi A8

Performance

The 2012 Audi A8 feels athletic and responsive--thanks in part to its lightweight aluminum structure.

At just 4,400 pounds, the 2012 Audi A8 is one of the lightest large luxury sedans, and that key attribute--along with some carefully done electronic controls--helps it drive like an even smaller, lighter sedan. Just as its predecessors, the A8 is built on an all-aluminum space frame that helps keep the heft down—which in turns makes the 372-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 feel a lot peppier than you'd think when you put your right foot in it.

The V-8 is already a sweet engine, but Audi simply nailed the calibration of the eight-speed automatic transmission, too, so it always seems to quickly grab the right gear and simply (and smoothly) go. If you're in its Comfort or Auto modes, the transmission doesn't mess around and shifts early—just short of lugging the engine, likely one of the reasons for this big sedan's excellent fuel economy—while if you squeeze the accelerator, say, halfway, the transmission very rapidly downshifts a gear or two. Floor it and it's just as quick, only you end up going from, say eighth to third, in a dramatic and quick rush of passing power.

And the quattro all-wheel drive system makes the A8 feel more surefooted in the corners and not at all cumbersome. In regular driving, it sends about 60 percent of power to the rear wheels, while up to 60 percent can be sent to the front wheels when needed. For enthusiasts, there's also an available sport differential system that brings an active torque split from left to right as well.

One of the keys to the A8's light, surefooted feel is Audi Drive Select, a series of electronic vehicle controls for powertrain, steering, and suspension feel; with it, you get Dynamic, Comfort, Auto, or Individual modes. Overall, it's an excellent setup that brings out the best in this big sedan, whether you're in tight switchbacks or cruising on the highway. The only letdown is that the steering feel (or lack thereof) leaves enthusiasts much to be desired--even though it has a little too much heft dialed into Dynamic mode.

And thanks to the suspension, there's nearly no lift under hard acceleration or nosedive under hard braking—adding to the sophisticated, uber-composed yet athletic feel of the A8.

For 2012, the A8 and A8 L have now been joined by an A8 L W12 model. With a much higher price ($133,500), the much more exclusive W12 packs a 6.3-liter, twelve-cylinder engine, making 500 hp and capable of getting to 60 mph in less than five seconds. It also comes with an eight-speed automatic.

9

2012 Audi A8

Comfort & Quality

For discerning luxury shoppers interested in getting the best long-distance comfort, the 2012 Audi A8 L won't disappoint.

Audi might have packed a lot of performance into the A8, but it's at no expense of comfort. In all A8 models, a quiet cabin, supportive seats, and a quiet ride make this one of the best long-distance vehicles on the market.

The V-8 Audi A8 comes in standard-length A8 and extended-length A8 L models; and without hesitation we'd recommend the A8 L to nearly all U.S. shoppers. With five inches of additional wheelbase and overall length--nearly all of it going to rear legroom--you get a roomier rear seat, with easier entry and exit, and no significant sacrifice in maneuverability. In the A8L models, you also get longer doors, but any inconvenience from that is also worth it. The extra length might slightly affect maneuverability a slight bit, but it's a positive for ride.

Front seats are ample and supportive, combining cushiony softness at first with an underlying firmness that should make them all-day comfortable. They have great mid-back support, combined with headrests that are supportive without forcing your neck forward. In back, while the standard backseat setup has long cushions good for lankier passengers, there's simply not enough legroom back there in the normal-length A8; so do get the A8 L unless you're tight on parking space.

The A8's cabin is a very quiet, refined place, and while you won't hear much wind or road noise, you will hear the engine somewhat during acceleration. The air suspension system also recalibrates itself to Comfort, Dynamic or Auto modes, though it rides reasonably well in all three with not a lot of discernible difference on most roads (though we did notice a slight bit more road noise in Dynamic than the others on one particularly coarse Interstate stretch).

Available on the A8L (and included in all W12 versions) are lavish individual seats in back that might just be cause to get someone else to do the driving. Four-zone climate control keeps everyone comfortable, the rear seats are power-adjustable, and the right-side one includes a footrest while the left-side seat includes massage and recline functions. Also on offer in either model is a two-panel panoramic sunroof that makes the interior considerably brighter without interfering with headroom. In either case, the A8 has plenty of trunk space, and the rather long trunklid allows a wide opening.
9

2012 Audi A8

Safety

The 2012 Audi A8 hasn't been rated for occupant protection, but with the A8's surefootedness plus all the onboard safety-tech features, you're probably much less likely to be in an accident.

The 2012 Audi A8 hasn't yet been crash-tested by either of the two major U.S. safety organizations, and because of its rather low-volume status, it might not. But it has all the fundamentals for a very safe, large sedan, including a strong aluminum space-frame structure, an extensive array of airbags (including front knee bags), and an advanced stability control system.

And there are a number of more advanced features in the A8 that are likely to help reduce the severity of a crash, even if you don't manage to avoid it. For instance, all A8 models include automatic emergency braking, which activates to lessen the impact of a collision it deems unavoidable, and a Pre Sense system adjusts seats, cinches seatbelts, and adjusts ride height to the safest position, while partially braking to lessen the severity. There's also a braking guard feature that warns the driver with a chime and jolt of the brakes. And whenever the accelerator is released abruptly, the brake system now primes itself and cleans the brake discs for best stopping response.

10

2012 Audi A8

Features

With a smart touchpad system, night vision, integrated wi-fi, and high-end Bang & Olufsen audio, the 2012 Audi A8 has true geek appeal to match its luxury platform.

The 2012 Audi A8 is a true luxury sedan through and through, but when it comes to bragging rights the German automaker has put a lot of emphasis on technology in addition to traditional flagship comforts.

Rest assured, all the luxury-car basics are covered--and a lot more, for limo-like accommodations in some versions. Of course leather interior, power everything, navigation, Bose audio, satellite radio, and of course quattro all-wheel drive are all included. But there's also a four-zone climate control keeps everyone comfortable; the rear seats are power-adjustable; and the right-side one includes a footrest while the left-side seat includes massage and recline functions. We'd also recommend you spring for the two-panel panoramic sunroof as it brightens the interior without interfering with headroom.

The 2012 Audi A8 comes with the latest version of Audi's MMI system, which is completely redesigned versus the previous generation. Once again, you get a rotating controller to scroll through menus, but the special new feature is MMI Touch--a scratchpad that makes address or info entry much easier by simply scratching out individual letters. Steering-wheel controls also let you see an abbreviated list of options, and a new Google Maps–based navigation system uses its own data connection to get live-updated mapping and routing information. The eight-inch display is beautiful and easy to read from a wide range of angles. For 2012, that system and an integrated wi-fi hotspot have been made standard.

Serious audiophiles will want to go for the top Bang & Olufsen Advanced sound system, which has 19 speakers, including small tweeters at the front of the cabin that emerge at startup, along with more than 1400 watts of power.

Available as part of a safety-minded driver assistance package ($3,000) is adaptive cruise control, which will now bring you to a complete stop and restart automatically, plus lane assist and side assist. Also available is a night vision system that will help spot and identify pedestrians.Also on offer in back is a rear-seat entertainment system with its own 20-gig hard drive and two 10.2-inch screens, or—for the classic executive car need—a folding table.

Another new option for 2012 is a special 'Audi design selection' interior package, offered in Balao Brown.

7

2012 Audi A8

Fuel Economy

The 2012 Audi A8 is quite impressive for those who want a luxury flagship but are mindful of their carbon footprint.

For the 2012 Audi A8, a lightweight structure helps make this luxury flagship more of a miser than you might think. Thanks to that, and lots of efficiency-minded engineering in general, the A8 achieves an EPA-rated 18 mpg city, 28 highway. That's really impressive, and actually better overall than the BMW ActiveHybrid 750Li.

The top-of-the-line W12 model might not provide acceleration that's all that much quicker, but buyers are bound to appreciate the smoothness and flexibility--and probably not care all that much about the ratings, which are 14/21 mpg nevertheless.

We still haven't driven the W12, but grom what we—as well as other auto critics—have seen, the A8 returns impressive gas-mileage numbers in real-world driving; with a lot of stop and go, we still managed an 18 mpg average.

Continue Reading

The Car Connection Consumer Review

Rate and Review your car for The Car Connection! Tell us your own ratings for a vehicle you own. Rate your car on Performance, Safety, Features and more.
Write a Review
Compare the 2012 Audi A8 against the competition
Compare All Cars
Looking for a different year of the Audi A8?
Read reviews & get prices
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
See More Used