2017 Audi A8 Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
May 31, 2017

Buying tip

The 2017 Audi S8 Plus is the type of power we can only dream of; the Dynamic Package is $11,000, but raises the top speed to 190 mph. Go ahead

The 2017 Audi S8 is the super sedan by which others are measured.

Simple is too often confused for simplistic.

For 2017, Audi has halved its number of available powertrains in the A8 from four to two, and made more simple its approach to potential buyers of its luxury barge. All sedans are now long-wheelbase models, with sport exteriors that mimic the high-po Audi S8 (covered separately), and black exterior accents are available as packages.

Every A8 gets all-wheel drive, an 8-speed automatic, leather and power everything, everywhere. The biggest decision may be between a supercharged V-6 or twin-turbocharged V-8, which get near-identical mileage returns.

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Yet, the 2017 Audi A8 is anything but shallow.

The A8 earned an 8 out of 10 overall, which reflects our opinion that, despite its relative age, the A8 is still supremely quiet, elegant, and comfortable. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Styling and performance

The refined A8, which is built on an aluminum space frame, is now a legitimate contender to full-size Mercedes-Benz and BMW cars. It lacks the same panache and verve as the others, but the A8's sophistication and simple creases have helped it age well into the sunset of its life cycle.

This year, Audi removed from the A8 lineup both its hulking-and expensive-W-12 engine option and a turbodiesel V-6, which won't appear at least until the company fixes that engine. (Last year, the automaker pulled from sale those models after it admitted those engines illegally polluted.)

The base engine, a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 makes a respectable 333 horsepower, but the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 may be our pick. The bigger engine produces 450 hp now-up from 435 hp two years ago-and propels the sedan from a standstill to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. A uprated version of the same engine sits in the S8 and is raucous fun in that application.

Quality, safety, and features

The A8 makes its bones as being one of the most comfortable and quiet luxury sedans on the road, with plenty of room for four adults. Rear-seat passengers may have the best seat in the house with available rear-seat entertainment, power massage, and luscious leather.

Although major U.S. rating agencies have never crash-tested an A8 (and likely never will) the full-sizer gets a full complement of safety features and construction that help it be among the leaders in its class.

While the price of entry is still in the mid-$80,000 range, a fully spec'd A8 can fall short of where many competitors start. Among this year's features are a dynamic handling package that includes a rear sport differential borrowed from the S8 and a rear-seat executive package that rivals many first-class airline lounges. Audi's standard infotainment is impressive, but we could do without some of the redundant controls.

As far as full-size luxury sedans go, the 2017 Audi A8 carries with it one of the more subdued exteriors and conservative order sheets, but its details continue to impress.

The A8's appeal isn't difficult to understand.

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2017 Audi A8

Styling

The 2017 Audi A8 sophisticated and elegant, without being flashy.

After several years on the market, it's clear that energy conserved on the 2017 Audi A8's exterior has been spent on its interior.

The A8 earns an 8 on our styling matrix mostly because of its elegant-and exceptional-interior design. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

As far as already conservative executive-luxury sedans go, the Audi A8 is class-leader in restraint. The A8 isn't as sleek or sharp as the A7, but at least its details aren't overlooked. The drawn-out elegance of its hood and shoulders are punctuated by full-LED lamps up front and in back, and the now-standard sport appearance gives the A8 a little edge. Still, you'd be hard-pressed to find sheet metal worth raising an eyebrow for on the outside.

The inside is a different story altogether. No matter how it's trimmed-wood, leather, plastic, aluminum, everything-the cabin doesn't miss a step in detail or depth. It's finished in fine materials that draw together the lines and surfaces that aren't distracting, but rather exciting.

Thoughtful details abound: the shifter apes the throttle lever in yachts, the sound system's tweeters rise out of the dash silently on startup, and lashes of chrome accent clean lines around the dash.

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2017 Audi A8

Performance

The A8 lineup is fairly simple: one V-6 and two V-8 options this year.

The 2017 Audi A8 has a simplified powertrain lineup that's been halved from prior years. The heavy, expensive, and mega-powerful W-12 is gone, and the turbodiesel is long gone. (Last year, Audi admitted the engine polluted beyond legal limits.)

That said, the best support comes from the chassis wrapped around the engine, and that says a lot. Thanks to an aluminum space frame, the 2-ton Audi A8 feels relatively light and nimble. No doubt, your chauffeur will agree.

We gave the A8 an 8 on our performance scale thanks to a good base engine and transmission, and excellent ride. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The two powertrains in the A8 have their own agendas. The base 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 is the entry into the deep-end of super luxury sedans. It checks in with 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Like the rest of the lineup, the V-6 is mated to all-wheel drive (Audi calls it "quattro") and an 8-speed automatic. The V-6 isn't as smooth as previous entry V-8s, and the 3.0-liter is uncomfortably vocal when pressed into duty. Instead, we'll give it kudos for being fast and responsive, and making the most of its low-end torque and good spacing from the paddle-shifted 8-speed transmission. On paper, the V-6 runs up to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and its 130 mph top speed are impressive when taken alone.

Across the showroom from the V-6, the 4.0-liter twin turbocharged V-8 model awaits. The visceral mill stuffed between the A8 4.0T's shoulders is actually the same engine in the haughty S8, albeit in a lower state of tune. Last year, Audi bumped the performance of the V-8 up to 450 hp and 444 lb-ft of torque, which is responsible for propelling the sedan up to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds. You'll pay for the privilege: The 4.0T is $9,000 more than the entry engine.

The long-running Audi all-wheel-drive system gives the A8 a sure-footed feel, even through the complexity of its suspension and numerous wheel and tire options. Quattro can split torque front to rear at a 40/60 ratio from take off, eventually shifting up to 60 percent of the power to the front tires if needed. A sport differential was available last year as part of a Sport plus package, along with dynamic steering, air suspension and summer tires.

Drive Select is the electronic godhead that controls the A8's powertrain responses, steering weight, and suspension feel. The programmed Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic modes can toggle between sedate and dramatic; the driver-programmable Individual mode can live somewhere in between. The Drive Select system has gotten better, but the electric power steering rack in the A8 hasn't: it didn't have much feel in earlier A8's we've driven and still works hard to overcome disparate sensations in other places of the car. (We haven't yet driven a 2017 model, but we'll report as soon as we do.)

All A8 sedans share an 8-speed automatic with excellent shift quality and calibration. The right gear is never more than a half-second away, and shifts take place without drama. The transmission also boosts fuel economy to new highs-up to 29 mpg highway on supercharged V-6 models.

If you're in its Comfort or Auto modes, the transmission shifts early; if you press intently, it's happy to fire off multiple downshifts before you can click the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. Even in the V-6 long-wheelbase models, an eighth-to-third downshift brings about a rush of meaty passing power.

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2017 Audi A8

Comfort & Quality

Between the doors, the A8 is one of the most comfortable and spacious sedans on the market.

Few sedans match the comfort of the Audi A8. Although its exterior shape is relatively anonymous and subdued, the interior is plush and comfortable-and likely one of the best road-tripping machines on the planet.

We gave the A8 high marks for good front and rear seats, good interior cargo room, and excellent fit and finish. It earns a 9. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The standard seats fitted on the A8 can be adjusted myriad ways by its 18-way power controls that complement the seats' firm foundations, soft padding, and luscious perforated hides. Extreme road trips are no problem in the base A8, or in the upgraded 4.0T version, which come with 22-way adjustments and ventilation and massaging controls. You can tailor a driving position that's ideal for a wide range of body types, between the seats and the telescoping/tilting steering wheel and the relatively compact dash structure.

A word about Audi's power seat controls, which control all 22 adjustments: a lever orbiting a seat-mounted wheel lets the passenger flick through various sets of cushions for inflating or deflating, all of it displayed on the A8's big LCD screen. We think it's very clever.

If you're looking to climb into the back seat—please ma'am, we'll get your bags—you'll see firsthand why a long wheelbase car is such a grand execution. For 2017, all Audi A8 models will have an extended wheelbase, which has the space its previous standard-wheelbase mate lacked. Multi-zone climate control keeps everyone comfortable, and the rear seats can be power-adjustable. On equipped models, the right-side position includes a footrest while the left-side seat includes massage and recline functions. A two-panel sunroof keeps the interior bright without sacrificing head room.

The A8 has plenty of trunk space, but it's not excessively large. At 13.2 cubic feet, it's covered by a rather long truck lid that provides a wide opening. The interior has a standard set of interior storage, and is supremely quiet for serene drives or getting work done in the back seat. You won't hear much road clatter or wind noise, but you may hear the tires chatter while accelerating or briskly taking corners. It's a shame too; the crisp notes emanating from the premium Bang & Olufsen audio system don't need any interference.

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2017 Audi A8

Safety

The 2017 Audi A8 is packed with the latest safety gear, but it lacks official data.

Like other expensive, luxury sedans, the 2017 Audi A8 hasn't yet been tested by either of the two major national safety agencies, and considering its price and age, it won't likely be rated any time in the future.

We're withholding our rating until more data becomes available. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Audi A8 is built on an aluminum space frame that's not only light, but also very strong. The A8 has extra airbags above the usual set, including front occupant knee bags and rear side passenger airbags.

Like many Audi models, the A8 also includes Audi's Pre Sense system that tightens seat belts ahead of an impact to protect occupants. The 2017 Audi A8 also comes with standard all-wheel drive, which is one of the earliest passive-safety measures we can name.

Curiously, a rearview camera is optional but parking sensors are standard. More expensive models are equipped with a surround-view camera system that's wildly helpful, but we can't help but take issue with a luxury sedan omitting a common feature.

The A8's more exotic safety technologies are sold as options bundled in packages. They include adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability in traffic and full brake ability at speeds of under 19 mph; blind-spot monitors; lane-keeping assist; and night vision.

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2017 Audi A8

Features

The latest is all here: wi-fi, night-vision, and supreme Bang & Olufsen stereo—except self-driving tech.

In likely the final year of its current generation, the 2017 Audi A8 is relatively simple. The sedan is only offered as a long-wheelbase model (the S8 keeps the short wheelbase and we cover it separately) and with two different powertrains, down from four last year. Audi has also made standard its sport package across all A8 models, which includes a more aggressive front and rear bodywork. The 2017 Audi A8 starts at $83,450 (including $950 for destination), which is an increase of $1,000 over last year.

The A8 nearly aced our features test with good base content, excellent optional content, a very good infotainment system, and good customization. Want the bad news? It doesn't have the latest in self-driving tech, which others are already offering. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All Audi A8 sedans are awash in luxury, which you'd expect from from the chauffeur-ready superset of luxury four-door sedans. Leather and navigation are both standard, as is full-LED headlights. The standard infotainment boasts satellite radio, Bluetooth pairing and streaming, Bose speakers, and a USB port. Everything that moves is power-operated, and the climate control is zoned off for front and rear passengers. Quattro all-wheel drive is also standard, as are power rear seats, a sunroof, and a power-closing trunk lid.

From there, the Audi A8 only climbs in comfort and cost. Audi offers ventilated seats, sport tires, and even more cowhide for the console and armrests. The A8 can be equipped with night vision cameras and rear-seat entertainment. 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 1,400 watts of power.

Audi's Multi-Media Interface (MMI) is included in all A8 models. 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. The system can also be controlled via voice, but we've found the Audi system to somewhat struggle with natural commands.

If the first two controller options don't suit you, there's a numbered touchpad near the driver's knee. On the A8, that MMI touchpad 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.

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2017 Audi A8

Fuel Economy

The 2017 Audi A8 isn't particularly frugal, not that many buyers will care.

The 2017 Audi A8 has a simplified powertrain lineup this year that effectively makes it a coin flip for fuel efficiency.

For the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, the A8 manages 19 mpg city, 29 highway, 22 combined, according to the EPA. For the 4.0-liter turbocharged V-8, those numbers barely dip to 18/29/22 mpg. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Last year, the A8 was offered with a fuel-swilling W-12 or a long-legged turbodiesel V-6. Both of those options are gone—the former was shelved, and the latter was involved in the automaker's widespread emissions scandal—and have left the two middle-of-the-road options.

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8.0
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety N/A
Features 9
Fuel Economy 6
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