- Dazzling cockpit finishes
- Sober styling
- High-speed in-car data
- Fantastic twin-turbo power
- Cross-country-worthy front seats
- MMI's multiple entry modes can be confusing
- So many features, requires its own prep course
The 2016 Audi S8 pairs thrilling acceleration with excellent big-car handling and discreet luxury.
When Audi's A8 made its debut with an aluminum space frame and an optional W-12 engine, it dazzled critics that thought of Audi as a more mid-range brand.
Indeed, the A8 took a long time to become a legitimate rival for the full-size sedans from Mercedes and BMW. But It's a real challenger now-competing at virtually every level, winning some of the battles along the way.
In its current generation, the A8 fully realizes Audi's aspirations in its luxury niche. The S-Class and 7-Series set the pace; the A8 catches up with an abundance of technology and compelling powertrains.
Changes for 2016 include the addition of a new trim level and the removal of the short-wheelbase versions, which were offered last year with the 3.0- and 4.0-liter gas engines. The new model, dubbed the A8 Sport, marries the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 with a sportier appearance-new front and rear fascias that give it more of an S8 look for less.
The A8 isn't the most compelling car in Audi's lineup. That would be the sexy A7 hatch. Being a bombshell isn't the A8's job, though. It's supposed to avert gazes, not draw stares. The shape is so familiar to Audi, the details have to do all the talking. The LED lighting looks like heirloom jewelry, the cockpit puts a leash on lavish trim.
A choice between W-12, V-8, and V-6 had been joined by a turbodiesel V-6. That diesel was pulled from dealers last year. Audi admitted that those cars intentionally cheated emissions standards and-while those cars are still legal to drive on the roads-voluntarily stopped sales until a fix is found.
The A8's drivetrain lineup has no minor-leaguers. The rev-tastic twin-turbo V-8 in the S8 would be our choice. It knocks out 520 hp, a decided advantage over the 333-hp supercharged V-6 or the 435-hp twin-turbo V-8. The 500-hp W-12 that powers top versions seems old-school and even a bit decadent, given the performance and economy of other models.
Audi fits all A8 sedans with a faultless 8-speed, paddle-shifted automatic and all-wheel drive. No matter the engine, it also adds Drive Select, which lets drivers toggle vehicle systems through comfort, automatic, sport, and individual programs. Unlike other Audis, the A8 makes the most of Drive Select. It can't dial in more steering feel, but it does narrow the multiple personalities into a few really great ones, highway cruiser and back-road bomber alike.
Audi only sells the A8 in long-wheelbase form now (the S8 continues in short-wheelbase form). Its 5 extra inches of wheelbase boost rear seat room to where it should be, and it lets Audi fill the back seat with all sorts of adult entertainment devices: quad-zone climate control, an extendable footrest, massaging seat, and power-reclining seatbacks.
On the options list: a rear-seat DVD player with two 10.2-inch screens mounted in the headrests, a fold-out tray table, and a 1400-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system.
Audi's infotainment system controls all the music, phone, and navigation functions. Input directions by voice, by buttons, or by writing on a touch-sensitive puck-the A8 doesn't care how you talk to it, only that you do talk to it. A live data connection pipes in Google Maps, courtesy T-Mobile.
The A8 checks in with fuel economy of up to 29 mpg highway on V-6 cars.
In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)
2016 Audi A8
The 2016 A8 is cool and conservative on the outside, warm and seductive inside.
While some luxury sedans strike out in a sensuous new direction (let's just call it "S-Class"), the Audi A8 refuses to call much attention to itself. Save the applause for the A7 hatchback, the A8 prefers to toil in anonymity.
It's a wonderful anonymity, though. The A8 takes a generic sedan shape and turns it into a showcase for subtle details. The proportions work, thanks to a long-ish nose that gives it a drawn-out elegance that pairs well with its broad shoulders. LED lighting front and back acts like brilliant jewelry.
Climb in, and the A8 shows why it's been holding back. Audi puts all that reserve energy in the A8's exquisite, finely honed interior. Every texture, whether it's aluminum or wood or leather, has a place of honor here. The dash has more than its share of switches and knobs and buttons, but Audi mutes them with beautifully rendered materials.
It comes down to details, like the rise of the audio system's tweeters from the dash on power-up, or the shift lever that looks like the throttle in a powerboat.
New for 2016, the A8 Sport bridges the divide between the standard A8 and the S8, at least in exterior appearance. Its more aggressive front and rear fascias give the car a fresh look, with a hint more aggression than the usual luxury bent the car wears.
2016 Audi A8
There's quite the range of performance, from the V-6 up to the S8.
The A8 punches a lightweight hole in its 2-ton class. It's aluminum under its skin, and that gives it a fuel economy and handling edge compared with its steel-bodied competition.
The former V-8 powertrain in the A8 has given way to a trio of new engines in four power outputs. The base engine is a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6, found in the A8 3.0T. It makes 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. It's vocal about its V-6 arrangement but responds to quick throttle inputs with lots of low-end torque. Coupled to the 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive standard on all A8s, it can reach 130 mph and can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds.
The middle models in the A8 lineup both rely on a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8. In 435-hp or 520-hp tune, the V-8 has visceral power in either the A8 or the S8, the performance offshoot. Sixty miles per hour arrives in 3.9 seconds, and top speed rises to 155 mph on the S8, which comes only in the short-wheelbase body.
The pinnacle of the lineup is the A8 W12. It's powered by an unusual 12-cylinder engine with cylinders arranged in a W shape. It makes 500 hp from 6.3 liters of displacement, and 488 lb-ft of torque. The W12 model can cruise to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and can reach a top speed of 130 mph.
The 8-speed on all A8 and S8 sedans has near-ideal calibration. It's almost never in the wrong gear, can double-downshift to tap into deeper power, and can help the car along to highway fuel economy of up to 29 mpg.
Sure-footed driving feel comes from the A8's independent suspension and standard all-wheel drive. The AWD system splits power 40:60 front to rear, but can shift up to 60 percent to the front when traction fails at the back. On the S8 and Sport-package A8s, a sport rear differential can split power between the rear wheels. It comes in a bundle with summer tires, variable-ratio steering, and an adaptive air suspension.
All these variations make the A8 a complex car to configure. You can have it as a W12 with summer tires, on S8 on 21-inchers, or as a 3.0T with 19-inch, all-season treads.
Factor in another tech add-on, and the A8 has an incredibly wide dynamic range. Drive Select plays with the electronic programming of the transmission, throttle, steering weight and feel, and suspension settings. Drivers can choose from comfort to sport modes and alter all the dynamic systems, giving a W12 flat and crisp cornering or an A8 a cushy, floaty feel.
2016 Audi A8
Comfort & Quality
The cabin of the 2016 Audi A8 is modern and superbly well-detailed; the only issue might be a shortage of knee room in short-wheelbase versions.
The A8 is a supremely capable long-distance tourer, and one with exceptionally high-quality fittings.
In front, 18-way power controls give the driver and passenger a firm foundation, cushy padding, and lots of perforated leather. The seats coddle almost any body type for long-distance road trips. If that's not enough, 22-way seats with massage and ventilation can be fitted. The seats and the tilt/telescoping steering mean it's almost guaranteed every driver will find a great position.
Audi's power-seat controls are pretty fantastic, too. A lever moves around a wheel on the side of the seat; it selects the pair of cushions to be deflated or inflated on the 22-way adjustable chairs. The A8 displays all this info on its screen.
The back seat deserves even higher honors. The long-wheelbase body is the way to go with the A8 now (the S8 continues as the only short-wheelbase model). The small premium and minor parking inconvenience will be overlooked when passengers ride in massaging, power-adjustable rear seats with their own climate controls, bathed in sunlight from a twin-pane glass roof.
Trunk space isn't large, at 13.2 cubic feet, but the space is long and wide. It should go without saying the cabin is refined and quiet, though tire noise is noticeable as the sizes increase. Blot it out with the Bang & Olufsen audio system, if you must.
2016 Audi A8
The A8 has plenty of safety equipment, but there are no U.S. crash-test results for it.
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash-tested the A8, and given its price and sales volume, neither is likely to test it.
The A8's aluminum frame is complemented by front knee and rear side airbags, and of course, standard all-wheel drive.
In terms of technology, the A8 has parking sensors, but leaves the rearview camera in a $3,000 option bundle, a shocking omission. Upper trim levels get a surround-view camera system.
Other options include night vision; active lane control; blind-spot monitors; and adaptive cruise control that can follow traffic and stop the car entirely if it senses an obstacle at up to 19 mph.
2016 Audi A8
The Audi A8 is very tech-centric, with wi-fi, night vision, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system that would bring you joy.
For 2016, the A8 lineup is simplified slightly to include one less variant overall. The choice between standard and long wheelbase is gone, as all A8 models adopt the longer wheelbase from now on and the S8 sticks to its sportier shorter length. Audi also has added an A8 Sport model, which combines the 4.0-liter turbocharged engine with slightly more aggressive front and rear bodywork. Prices start at $81,500 for a 3.0T A8 L and go up from there.
Every A8 comes standard with leather, navigation, and LED headlights. Infotainment features include Bluetooth, Bose audio, a USB port, and satellite radio. Also on the standard list: a sunroof, a power trunk lid, power rear seats, and rear-seat climate control.
With the V-6 or V-8 engines, Audi sells option bundles that include summer tires and ventilated seats, as well as a DVD entertainment system, night vision, and a 1400-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system with 19 speakers.
W-12-powered cars get just about everything, including the DVD system. Options include a Sport package, a rear-seat package with ventilation and an extendable footrest, and the B&O audio system. A five-seat layout can be ordered, too.
The universe of infotainment is under the thumb-and forefinger-of Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI). The system consists of a rotating knob on the console that scrolls through menus and clicks to select various phone, audio, climate, and navigation functions. Voice commands can also direct the system through most functions. Then there's the numbered touchpad near the driver's knee: on the A8, that MMI Touch pad mimics the old Palm Pilot, allowing text entry for some features with a fingertip. Steering-wheel controls are yet one more way to fine-tune your way through the system's vast capability-or to get yourself lost in it. Like all its competition, there are some gaps in MMI's moderately agreeable architecture-you can't click forward a track on Bluetooth-streaming audio from the steering wheel, for example-but we've come to grips with MMI over time with less fear than with iDrive and COMAND.
Front and center-on the awesomeness scale, at least-in MMI is Audi Connect. The service patches in cellular data piped in from T-Mobile's networks to render the A8's navigation maps right from Google Earth, resulting in lush, incredibly intuitive displays. The results are delivered to a beautiful high-resolution 8.0-inch screen that's easy to read from a wide range of angles. Audi Connect also includes an integrated wireless hotspot for up to eight devices. The only catch? The data service commands a monthly subscription fee.
2016 Audi A8
The 2016 Audi A8 is as fuel-efficient as you need it to be—or you can opt for the gas-guzzling W-12.
The A8's relatively lightweight frame and 8-speed automatic transmission help with fuel economy on all models, but its heft as a full-size luxury sedan is inescapable.
The most recent addition to the A8 lineup, last year's TDI, was specified with a turbodiesel engine with 240 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque. It's the slowest performer of the lineup, but it's the one with the biggest payoff in range. Audi says its A8 L TDI is EPA-rated at 24 mpg city, 36 highway, 28 combined. We've drove one, and saw 35.6 mpg in a 700-mile trip made up of mostly interstate miles.
That's good news for comfortable long haulers. The bad news? That engine is no longer available as Audi and parent-company Volkswagen work to make those cars compliant after the automaker cheated emissions tests.
Base A8s sport a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 with stop-start that's rated at 19/29/22 mpg. The A8 L can also be fitted with a twin-turbo V-8 that puts up ratings of 18/29/22 mpg.
At the bottom of the barrel, gas mileage takes a nose dive with the 500-hp, 6.3-liter W-12 engine. As a long-wheelbase model, the A8 L W12 is rated at 14/22/17 mpg, figures we'd associate with a large luxury SUV at first glance. That's why you'll see a $2,100 gas-guzzler tariff applied to its sticker, on top of its $134,500 base price.