Audi’s flagship

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By Nick Jones

The top end of the Audi stable is definitely the R8, now in Spyder form which means its even easier to hear that wonderful V10 powerplant wail.

But what about if you want more space, a chauffeur, a good boot and luxury? Look no further than the Audi A8, now looking trimmer than ever before.

Engineering excellence, style, quality and solidly built were among the descriptions I used the last time I reviewed the A8

Despite such enthusiasm back then, Audi has moved the benchmark yet again, taken all of the aforementioned to yet another level.

What I like about the big Audi is that the core value of the car hasn’t really changed much – but where changes have been made they have improved what was already good.

I was party to the A8 press launch a while ago now, but recently, and for a whole week, I enjoyed, I’ll repeat that, I enjoyed the 4.2TFSI version.

The vast majority of A8 owners (some 98% apparently) will go for a diesel option in preference to this mighty V8, which produces a healthy 372bhp – enough to see it easily achieve its governed 155mph, with the 0-60mph dash despatched in a trifling 5.7 seconds.

Yes, very nice it was, and I was pleasantly surprised by the figure of 30mpg on the combined cycle.

Prices start at £61,975.

Although I loved the mighty petrol-powered unit I feel obliged to give you some stats for the diesel variant.

Coupled to an eight-speed automatic gearbox (all A8’s have them) it will also easily achieve 155mph, but this time the 0-60mph sprint takes just 5.5 seconds and that near-silent diesel engine emits just 199g/km of emissions while returning 37mpg or more on a good run-out.

And to be honest, as you lose nothing in performance I can would join the majority and buy the diesel even though prices start at £63,900, no question.

It’s smoother, has more grunt mid-range (where you want the power) and is an effortless cruiser.

But as I looked at the petrol A8 on my drive I thought you’d have to have a real downer on diesel to prefer petrol power in this case.

Audi, however, has another problem to sales of either of these beautiful beasts – and it comes from a slightly smaller sibling. Owner-buyers can save themselves a shade over £9,000 if they opt for the new 3.0-litre TDI A8. Saving a significant chunck of cash brings problems though. I mean, the 3.0-litre car is 0.3 seconds slower from standstill to 60mph. So, for me, it has to be... oh come on, it’s a no-brainer, it has to be the 3.0-litre diesel, particularly in times when every penny counts.

The 4.2-litre is the better engine but I suspect most buyers will follow my suggested lead.

So what changes have Audi made.

For a start the new car looks slimmer than previous iterations but from a distance it belies its size. It’s quite big, impressively so, to be honest.

At the front you still get the single frame grille and those stylish LED headlamps that so shout Audi at you when you see one coming the other way.

The same can be said about the interior now too, with even more room and more gizmos.

It’s a great place to sit – luxury of the finest order with the different leather options, different trims and inlays of the highest quality materials.

All the fundamental operations are easy to locate and use and the design is clean.

One innovation I really liked is a touch-pad sat-nav on which the driver can scribble with a finger the postcode destination and the car recognises this and plots the route – ooh technology, whatever next. it’s quite brilliant.

The options list is quite breathtaking too, some of which are unique – like the sound system for instance, and the night vision assist, that picks up heat sources in the distance, and the rear seat entertainment system to name but three.

But buy carefully because with just a few additions its possible to wipe out the saving you made buying the smaller engine.