- Smooth ride
- Modern and luxurious interior
- Thoroughly refined
- Comfortable and roomy
- Powerful in all versions
- Screens galore can confuse
- Priced for the elite
- Styling may be too conservative
features & specs
A worthy flagship, the 2021 Audi A8 is thoroughly modern and eminently comfortable.
Brimming with technology inside and underneath, the 2021 Audi A8 takes the flagship ball and runs with it. Its interior is awash with screens that can make it feel cold, but the smooth, powerful engines, sophisticated suspension, and high-end luxury warm our hearts.
We rate the 2021 A8 at 7.2 out of 10 and that’s before we’ve driven the plug-in hybrid or the sporty and powerful S8. (Read more on how we rate cars.)
Audi sells the A8 in four models: 55 TFSI quattro, 60 TFSI quattro, plug-in hybrid 60 TFSI e quattro, and S8. They’re all long-wheelbase versions of the car. Short wheelbase A8s are not offered in the U.S. The 2021 A8 55 TFSI starts at $87,495, including destination, while the S8 costs at least $131,895.
The base 55 TFSI quattro model is powered by a 335-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 with more than enough power. The engine is quiet and smooth and it teams well with a slick-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. The plug-in hybrid uses the same engine teamed with an electric motor and a 14.1-kwh lithium-ion battery for a total of 443 hp. It improves both fuel economy and acceleration.
The A8 60 TFSI quattro and S8 both get a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 that makes 453 hp in the 60 and 563 hp in the S8. Audi says the V-8 models can hit 60 mph from a stop in 4.5 and 3.8 seconds, respectively.
Audi tunes the A8 for comfort. The standard air suspension and adaptive dampers smooth out the ride even in Dynamic mode, though the A8 can feel floaty in its Comfort setting. The Comfort setting also neuters throttle response.
Buyers can opt for equipment to make the A8 sportier. An active rear differential improves traction, while rear-axle steering increases agility. The S8 comes standard with these features and has sportier suspension settings. An available predictive suspension uses cameras to read the road ahead and prepares the dampers for ruts and bumps to come.
The A8 isn’t here to ruffle any feathers design-wise. It’s stately and attractive but conservative on the outside with an interior that mixes that conservative nature with abundant technology. Three screens, including a digital instrument cluster and two touchscreens, provide a wealth of information and controls for the driver. The infotainment system may be complex, but it’s intuitive. With the right package, even the rear seat passengers can commandeer some controls. And every seating position, with the exception of the middle rear, has plenty of room.
Audi outfits all A8 models with automatic emergency braking, but most of the driver-assistance features are optional, which is disappointing at these prices.
2021 Audi A8
Audi gives the 2021 A8 a stylish but conservative exterior that hides a clean, high-tech cabin.
The 2021 Audi A8 doesn’t stand out as bold in a class that appreciates discretion. The look is clean and conservative on the outside, high-tech and smartly appointed on the inside. We give the A8’s body and cabin each a point above average for a score of 7 out of 10 for styling.
The A8 features a wide trapezoidal grill up front flanked by thin angular headlights that slot right into the grille’s upper section and have their own signature LED lighting elements. Lower air intakes complete the face and add to the wide look of the front end. The profile is largely slab-sided, broken up by a lower character line. The rear has a fill-width taillight panel that gives the car visual width and performs a little light dance upon startup. The rear also helps break up the slab-sided look with some curviness, and the whole car is highlighted with chrome trim to denote its luxury within.
Inside, the A8’s multiple screens and luxurious wood, aluminum, and leather comes off like a smartly appointed modern office. Warmer colors and wood create a more inviting environment, while colder colors and carbon fiber make for a starker, more clinical feel. No matter the trim choices, the A8 is assembled with care as evidenced by the tight fit and finish.
2021 Audi A8
The 2021 Audi A8 delivers smooth, effortless power and a buttery ride.
The 2021 Audi A8 lineup consists of four models with four kinds of performance, though we haven’t driven the S8 or plug-in hybrid. However, even the base turbocharged V-6 model offers plenty of performance. We award the A8 points for its power delivery, and combination of creamy ride and capable handling. That earns it a 7 out of 10 for performance.
Every A8 makes smooth luxury its first mission, though sportiness is also part of the mix when desired. It all starts with a multi-material platform that uses aluminum, steel, magnesium, and carbon fiber to save weight and create a rigid structure. That is underpinned by a standard air suspension with adaptive dampers, and an optional predictive suspension that can read the road ahead and prepare the dampers for what’s coming.
In its default setting, the suspension is a little too soft and the body can waft on the freeway and dip during braking. The suspension soaks up the bumps though, and passengers ride in tranquil comfort.
The ride even remains comfortable in Dynamic mode, which also takes the throttle response from dull to sharp. In Dynamic mode, the A8’s handling is impressively nimble for such a large car, and it can be improved with available rear-axle steering that steers the rear wheels as much as 5 degrees opposite of the fronts at lower speeds. An available active rear differential helps distribute power on the rear axle for best traction coming out of a corner, too.
The base turbo V-6 makes 335 hp and 369 pound-feet of torque to launch the all-wheel-drive A8 L 55 TFSI quattro to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. It works well with the smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission to deliver power when needed.
The A8 60 TFSI quattro summons 453 hp from a turbo 4.0-liter V-8 and cuts the 0-60 mph time to 4.5 seconds. Both engines provide waves of willing power aided by the smooth-shifting and alert 8-speed automatic transmission. Both engines qualify as mild hybrids due to their 48-volt electrical system and belt-alternator/starter that makes the stop/start feature quick and drama-free.
Also on the way are the S8, with a 563-hp version of the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8, and a plug-in hybrid that pairs the V-6 with electric motors powered by a 14.1-kwh lithium-ion battery pack to make 443 hp. The S8 gets rear-wheel steering and the active rear differential as standard, plus summer performance tires on 21-inch wheels. It hits 60 mph in 3.8 seconds while the plug-in hybrid balances fuel economy with performance and launches the car to 60 mph in about 4.9 seconds.
We haven’t driven either model, but will report back once we do.
2021 Audi A8
Comfort & Quality
The 2021 Audi A8’s interior is high tech and high comfort.
The 2021 Audi A8’s cabin is at once soothing, luxurious, and bristling with technology. Its roomy front and rear seats, ability to coddle passengers, and high-quality materials earn it a 9 out of 10 for comfort and quality on our scale.
Even base versions of the A8 do their best to coddle occupants in luxury. The standard seats have 22-way power-adjustments with four-way lumbar adjustments, cooling, and heating. Massaging seats and softer leather are available as well. No matter the choice, the front seats are all-day comfortable with plenty of room in all directions. The rear seat is almost as good, with more than 44 inches of leg room and wide door openings to ease entry and exit.
Rear-seat passengers can travel in first-class luxury with an option package that adds power-adjustable outboard seats with a massage function, heating and cooling, and the ability to recline, plus heated rear armrests and center console, tray tables, LED lighting, and rear remote controls. Front-seat passengers can also get heated armrests, extended leather, and even better materials than the already beautifully assembled leather, wood, and aluminum already in place.
Despite its size, the A8 has a small trunk with just 12.5 cubic feet of cargo space, smaller than some compact cars.
2021 Audi A8
The 2021 Audi A8 offers lots of driver-assistance features but lacks crash-test results.
High-end luxury cars aren’t usually crash-tested, and the 2021 Audi A8 is no exception. However, it comes packed with driver-assistance technology that helps the car stay safe. Without test results, though, we can’t give it a score for safety.
Audi makes a modest group of safety features standard on base A8s, but plenty more are optional. Every A8 comes with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, front and rear parking sensors, a spate of airbags, and, new for 2021, a surround-view camera system. Available optionally are adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, active lane control, traffic sign recognition, cross-traffic alerts, and a system that detects passing cars and bicyclists to warn occupants about when it’s not safe to open their doors. The predictive suspension also enhances safety by detecting oncoming side collisions and lifting the car 3.1 inches on that side so the structure can better absorb the crash.
2021 Audi A8
Loaded with equipment and technology, the 2021 Audi A8 is worthy of its flagship status.
Packed with standard and optional equipment and available in a variety of models, the 2021 Audi A8 wears its flagship status well. The feature sets teamed with the high-tech infotainment system and advanced driver-assist technologies qualifies the A8 as a 9 out of 10 for features on our scale.
Audi offers the A8 in only the long wheelbase L body styles and in four models that consist of A8 55 TFSI, A8 60 TFSI, A8 60 TFSI e, and S8. The base model is even better equipped for 2021 with heated seats that add cooling and 22-way power adjustments, a surround-view camera system, and the Audi phone box that includes wireless charging and a signal booster. Also standard are LED headlights and taillights, power soft-closing doors, an adaptive air suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, a 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, four-zone automatic climate control, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a two-screen infotainment system, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio, and HD radio. The base car costs about $5,000 more this year at about $87,500.
The A8 60 TFSI adds the formerly optional Sport style exterior kit, HD Matrix-design LED headlights, and Valcona leather. It costs about $9,000 more.
The A8 TFSI e plug-in hybrid costs about $97,000.
At the top of the lineup is the S8 model for about $132,000. It comes with front sport seats, a head-up display, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, a heated front armrest, an Alcantara headliner, ambient lighting, power sunshades for the rear and rear side windows, 21-inch wheels with summer tires, and Audi’s predictive suspension that uses hydraulics to counteract body lean and cameras to read the road ahead and prepare the dampers for road conditions.
Among the options, we’d pick the Luxury Package, which adds an Alcantara headliner, softer leather, aluminum buttons, and ambient lighting. We’d also add the rear-axle steering and the predictive suspension.
Audi’s dashboard is rife with digital screens. In addition to the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, it has two center touchscreens, one 10.1 inches across up top and an 8.6-inch screen below. The top screen handles navigation and entertainment functions while the bottom screen is for climate and vehicle controls, and handwriting recognition. The screens require slightly longer touch inputs than usual, but they provide satisfying haptic feedback and the control interface is intuitive.
We also like the standard navigation system, especially the Google Earth view even though it has a monthly charge for data use.
Audi has one of the better infotainment systems on the market, one whose bristling technology only adds to the experience in the A8.
Audi’s warranty is 4 years or 50,000 miles and it includes 4 years of roadside assistance with the first service call free.
2021 Audi A8
The 2021 Audi A8 60 TFSI quattro with the right features is a budget S8.
It’s a big car, so the 2021 Audi A8 isn’t very fuel-efficient. However, a plug-in hybrid improves upon the numbers of the base car while delivering more power. Our 4 rating for fuel economy is based on the 2020 rating A8 L 55 TFSI, which the EPA rated at 17 mpg city, 26 highway, 21 combined.
With the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 in the A8 L 60 TFSI model, the 2020 ratings fall to 15/23/18 mpg and the S8 with a more-powerful version of that engine is even thirstier at 13/22/16 mpg.
A new hybrid A8 L TFSI e model promises 18 miles of electric range and 23 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
Audi requires premium gasoline in all A8s.