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June Neary checks out Audi's luxurious A8
Will It Suit Me?
When I first heard that I was getting an Audi A8, I was rather caught on the horns of a dilemma. Part of me rejoiced in the fact that it was an Audi - a brand recognised for its cerebral left field thinking. The flipside of this was that here was a car that costs around £70,000. It's not easy to step out of a car costing this much money without a tinge of embarrassment. I checked the specification and noted the four-wheel drive transmission, the colossal dimensions of the body and the prodigious power output and began to feel a little intimidated.
The fourth generation A8 rectifies what many thought of as a flaw in the old car's make up. The key criticism levelled at Audi's otherwise impeccable interior design was that buyers of the top line A8 weren't getting anything markedly different to the rep who'd lucked into an A3. The themes were all the same, many of the materials felt much alike and there were so many common parts. Great if you're the one with the A3, but not so good if you want something a little more exclusive. Audi has recognised this and has now given this A8 an interior quite different to the usual classy coalhole. Where you go for the standard version or the lengthened long wheelbase bodystyle, occupants can now relax in sublime surroundings, with every detail radiating superlative bespoke quality - from the perforation in the seat upholstery to the electrically opening and closing shutters on the air vents. Up-front, the instrument panel is largely free of buttons and switches. At its centre is a 10.1-inch touchscreen display which, when off, blends almost invisibly into the high-gloss black surround thanks to its black-panel look. There's a wide choice of different leathers and trim inlays in wood and metal. And an absolutely huge boot.
Behind the Wheel
Under the bonnet, there are two extensively re-engineered V6 turbo engines: a 3.0 TDI and a 3.0 TFSI. The diesel develops 286PS, and the petrol version 340PS. There's also an eight-cylinder TDI - a 4.0-litre with 435PS - and as before, the exclusive top engine version is the W12 with a displacement of 6.0 litres. An e-tron quattro variant has also been developed, this derivative mating a 3.0 TFSI petrol engine with an electric motor to achieve a 449PS output and 700Nm of torque. Whatever variant you choose, on the move, Active Noise Cancellation ensures excellent acoustic comfort by using precise anti-phase noise to combat intrusive noise in the cabin while cylinders are deactivated. Active engine mounts also dampen vibration. It's clever. It's an Audi. What else did you expect?
Value For Money
Can any car priced from around £70,000 in its least expensive form be described as 'good value'? Discuss. It certainly doesn't offer twice as much of anything as, say, a £35,000 Audi A4, but the A8 is wonderfully executed. When put into comparison with direct rivals from BMW and Mercedes, it also seems to stack up quite well. There are more knobs, buttons and electronic toys to play with than in a Comet Superstore, although Audi has managed to integrate them into the fascia design without seeing brash. A major draw this time round is the automated driving technology that Audi has built in. The Audi AI traffic jam pilot takes charge of driving in slow-moving traffic at up to 37mph on major roads where a physical barrier separates the two carriageways. The system is activated using the AI button on the centre console. The traffic jam pilot manages starting, accelerating, steering and braking. The driver no longer needs to monitor the car permanently and can even switch to watching the on-board TV. As soon as the system reaches its limits, it calls on the driver to take back control of the task of driving. Whether this will be permitted by UK legislation is yet to be determined but from a technical perspective, the traffic jam pilot is revolutionary. And there's more. The Audi AI remote parking pilot and the Audi AI remote garage pilot autonomously steer the A8 into and out of a parking space or a garage, while the manoeuvre is monitored by the driver. The driver does not need to be sitting in the car - he or she can start the appropriate system from their smartphone using the new myAudi app. It broadcasts a live feed of the parking manoeuvre taken from the car's 360-degree cameras onto the owner's handheld device for easy monitoring.
Could I Live With One?
The Audi A8 is the luxury car for people who don't like luxury cars. Its understated yet elegant lines and lack of conspicuous ostentation make it something of a curio in a market where it generally pays to be as subtle as a thumb in the eye. In truth, I think there are plenty of better ways of spending £70,000, but that's just me. As luxury saloons go, it's an informed choice.
Whilst every effort is made to verify and ensure the accuracy of the data, the information should only be used as a guide and no purchasing decision should be made without verification of the data from either the manufacturer or franchised dealer. Our offers may be on a different model year to that represented by this data and so specification may differ accordingly.
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