Audi A8 (2021) review: brilliant in places

Published:15 November 2021

Audi A8 (2021) review: brilliant in places
  • At a glance
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By Keith Adams

Devout classic Citroen enthusiast, walking car encyclopedia, and long-time contributor to CAR

By Keith Adams

Devout classic Citroen enthusiast, walking car encyclopedia, and long-time contributor to CAR

► First drive of facelifted Audi A8
► Driven in Euro-spec 60 TFSI form
► Luxury limo tested in Norway

Life for the Audi A8 has been tougher since the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class sashayed into view in 2020 to reset expectations of what's expected of a luxury car. Up to that point, the Audi A8 was easily the most advanced car money can buy – and as such, proved to be a brilliant luxury limousine.

For 2022, the ingredients have been ever so slightly remixed – a tacit admission from Audi that the S-Class is now king, and that if you want the ultimate from Ingolstadt you're going to have to wait for the all-electric replacement for the A8. That's not to say it doesn't cut the mustard – far from it.

What's new about the 2022 Audi A8?

There are visual tweaks to the grille, front bumper and rear diffuser, as well as new headlamps, and the latest version of its split-screen infotainment set-up. For the first time, it comes with Digital Matrix LED headlights and organic LED (OLED) taillights. Each headlight features 1.3 million micromirrors and the ability to project pools of light onto the road surface.

a8 rear static

The engine line-up comes in five flavours, starting with a 282bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel in the 50 TDI Quattro. A 335bhp 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine powers the 55 TFSI Quattro, while a 454bhp 4.0-litre V8 appears in the 60 TFSI Quattro. The performance-focused S8 has 565hp from the same engine, and all cars come with a new eight-speed automatic transmission.

As before, all models are mild- or plug-in hybrids, and you can buy them with self-parking technology, and they either come with computer-controlled air suspension or the really clever predictive adaptive suspension set-up that pushes the A8 to the front of the pack dynamically. The new A8 comes in standard- and long-wheelbase forms, with orders opening in December 2021 ahead of UK deliveries early in 2022.

What's it like inside?

The dashboard remains pretty much as it was. It's a sleek and polished affair with the latest version of Audi's Virtual Display and a haptic-touch sensitive screen and central infotainment screen. There are three digital screens facing the driver, but they're not particularly large or intuitive and are a long way behind Mercedes-Benz's brilliant set-up in the S-Class.

a8 rear seats

Other tech you can specify on your A8 include a remote parking system, active pedestrian protection, anti-kerbing warning, adaptive cruise control, and fully active suspension (called AI Control) with road surface recognition technology. Finally, the car's navigation and infotainment systems feature car-to-x capability.

What about those new headlights?

Those new headlights really something else, and are capable of some pretty impressive lightshows and they tell us they're capable of painting light on the road surface like no other car. We gave them a good testing, and can confirm that as adaptive headlights, they are very good, casting a strong beam that never blinded oncoming drivers.

a8 front end

But we also found it difficult to see much improvement over the existing – excellent – A8 set-up, other than a swanky light show when you turn it off at the end of a journey. They're likely to be optional on the Vorsprung and S8 models, and your neighbours will love you for specifying them.

And what's it like to drive?

The driving position is excellent, and visibility blindspots, such as the one created by its bulky A-pillar, are handled by a 360-degree camera system. Various other safety systems, such as one which warns you if you're about to kerb a wheel take up the strain, too. All the necessities needed in a flagship saloon are present and correct.

It's the same story in the rear, where head and legroom are excellent, and the seats are supremely comfortable and adjustable. There are optional reclining systems, and even a massaging footrest for those who spend lots of time in the back of their Audi.

a8 keith driving

On the road, it's good news too. We tried the predictive active suspension, which does a wonderful job of eliminating body roll regardless of how hard you drive it. The result is that it turns the A8 into a faithful handler with a surprising amount of agility. All without losing any of the standard air-suspended model's ride quality.

In the system's Comfort+ mode you get it all – cosseting ride, cornering precision and a slightly mixed message over whether this is a driver's car or a luxury limo. For the UK it looks like it's an option only for the Vorsprung and S8 models.

The standard air suspension system is hardly shabby though. You get three driving modes: Comfort, Balance and Dynamic. But if you value handling, even in Comfort mode, you'll be surprised at just how agile it is in bends. There is some body roll in Comfort mode, though, but not enough to cause concern, and all in all, it's a remarkable performance for a car of this size

What are the petrol engines like?

We were only able to drive the V8-powered 60 TFSI model at the facelift launch, but it's a peach – as is the case in pretty much all cars it's used in. There's power all through the rev range, and it's instantly accessible no matter what speed you're driving it. We particularly like how hushed it is when you're not pushing and how much it snarls when you are.

a8 rear tracking

Our previous experience of the V6 A8 55 TFSI is also very positive. It's refined, eager, responsive and happily revs cleanly to 7000rpm. Ditch the rear seat passenger, and you'll prefer driving the A8 in Sport mode. In Efficiency mode, the A8 will coast when off the throttle, but only between 35 and 100mph, exaggerating its more lugubrious nature.

What is the diesel like?

With 282bhp to haul this large saloon, it goes rather well in TDI form and will accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds, and on to a limited maximum speed of 155mph. Drivers won't be disappointed, even if it's far from being the nicest A8 to drive. The best way of describing it is effortless. Acceleration is rapid, but in Efficiency mode, it never really feels it thanks to a slightly lazy throttle.

If you want the most efficient A8 these days, go for the plug-in hybrid, which is covered in a separate review.

Audi A8: verdict

We love the tech on offer, and the tweaked looks are suitably subtle enough for these straitened times. We can see why Audi is so proud of it, especially in terms of ride and handling. It's comfortable, good to drive and incredibly capable, but starting to feel its age inside compared with S-Class.

Specs

Price when new: £73,375
On sale in the UK: December 2021
Engine: 3996cc V8-cylinder petrol twin turbo, 454bhp @ 5500rpm, 487lb ft @ 1900-5000pm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive
Performance: 4.4sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 26.1-26.4mpg / 245-247g/km CO2
Weight / material: 2225kg / steel/aluminium
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 5172/1945/1473

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  • Audi A8 (2021) review: brilliant in places
  • Audi A8 (2021) review: brilliant in places
  • Audi A8 (2021) review: brilliant in places
  • Audi A8 (2021) review: brilliant in places
  • Audi A8 (2021) review: brilliant in places
  • Audi A8 (2021) review: brilliant in places
  • Audi A8 (2021) review: brilliant in places
  • Audi A8 (2021) review: brilliant in places

By Keith Adams

Devout classic Citroen enthusiast, walking car encyclopedia, and long-time contributor to CAR

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