This is the facelifted Audi A8, the revised version of the flagship all-aluminium limo that’s a rival for everything from the Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series, to the Porsche Panamera and Bentley Flying Spur.
Changes as part of the mid-life nip ‘n’ tuck include: all engines now meeting EU6 emission standards, with each boasting more power but less CO2 and improved fuel consumption; a 10-litre bigger boot; some oh-so-subtle re-sculpting of the bonnet, huge single-frame grille and bumpers; plus different LED tail lights and some fancy new headlights.
Ooh, the facelifted Audi A8 has some new lights…
Yes, we understand your skepticism, but the optional Matrix LED headlights are darn impressive. The headlights on the A8 are already 100% LED, but the Matrix system has 25 LEDs (in five groups of five) in each cluster to make up the high-beam function. And their trick is to stay on all the time without ever blinding other road users or pedestrians.
A camera mounted at the top of the windscreen in the rear-view mirror can detect oncoming vehicles up to around 800m away, or 600m for those you’re following (as tail lights aren’t as bright as headlamps). And then the individual LED clusters dim or turn off – so other drivers aren’t dazzled – but the rest of the LEDs remain on, meaning you still get the increased visibility elsewhere.
Browse secondhand Audi A8s for sale
Complicated to explain, but simple to understand the benefits once you’ve experienced it. So you can follow the car in front with your high beams on, and while that vehicle won’t be illuminated by anything more than your standard headlights, the verges and oncoming lane will be fully lit. And if a vehicle comes the other way, again the appropriate LEDs dim or turn off so the other driver sees no more than your regular headlights. We spent a week trying to outfox the system, but it was never caught out, and we were never flashed by an irate driver either.
The system will also detect pedestrians 80m away, and the LEDs will pulse in their direction to help highlight the potential hazard. Don’t worry, the system won’t be doing this through every town centre at night – the camera also detects streetlights, and together with the GPS, turns off the high-beam headlights in urban areas.
The fancy lighting tech is standard on the S8, hybrid and Sport Executive models, so the only downside is they’re a £840 extra on other A8s.
Enough about larking about in the dark with some pricey headlights, what about the rest of the driving experience?
Our test car was powered by the same base 4.0-litre V8 that’s in everything from the S6, S7 and S8, to the RS6 and RS7, and even the Bentley Continental GT V8. So it won’t be the chauffeurs’ choice when it comes to fuel consumption or running costs, but with an ignition instead of compression engine beneath the bonnet the refinement is so much better.
Audi’s 3.0 and 4.2 TDI motors are good, but for whisper-quiet sophistication in a limo, neither can beat this petrol engine. Especially now it’s got active engine mounts to dampen vibrations, and Audi’s Active Noise Cancellation technology that plays ‘antiphase noise’ through the speaks to combat the sounds of a 2.0-litre four-pot when the cylinder deactivation system kicks in.
Twin turbos mean there’s 443lb ft from 1500rpm all the way through to 5000rpm, Quattro four-wheel drive helps it to scamper to 62mph in 4.6 seconds, and you’ll never once think you need the S8’s extra 36bhp and 84lb ft as you sweep majestically along on a big wave of refined torque.
You can dial the A8 between Efficiency, Comfort. Auto, Dynamic and Individual settings, but Comfort strikes the best balance. The four-wheel drive gubbins offsets any weights saving afforded by the aluminium chassis, and despite high grip levels, strong traction, and the ability to hustle along at great speed when you wish, the A8’s much better when driven briskly rather than abruptly. It doesn’t quite have the verve or dynamism of the lighter Jaguar.
What’s the interior of the facelifted A8 like?
An extremely pleasant space in which to pass the time. Step inside a BMW 7-series and it could be a 5-series, the latest S-class is a tad too chintzy, and while the Jaguar XJ looks delightful, its infotainment system is actually a fiddly mess.
The A8 strikes a good balance – the button count is not so minimalist (like the A3) that it’ll have its wealthy middle-aged owners shouting for their secretary to figure out how to change the radio station, but despite a plethora of dials and switches nor does it confuse and confound. Few parts are shared with lesser models, so it does feel genuinely special, but it could also do with a few surprise-and-delight features to help justify its near-£80k price tag.
Ours was also a long-wheelbase A8, which adds an extra 130mm between the wheels for £3,965. That means plenty of space to stretch out, but the ride is a tad too choppy and can’t deliver the ultimate isolation that an S-class can.
Minor changes mean Audi’s revised A8 still sports the same slight failings as before, namely that it’s neither as dynamic as some rivals, nor as cosseting as others, but that doesn’t stop it still being a very likeable limo.