The new Audi A8 arrives in Australia and reinvents automotive art.

A masterpiece of design, engineering and execution, the A8 impresses with the first glance and just keeps impressing as each new 'layer' of this extraordinary car is revealed. 

James McRory

Chris Benny

19 July, 2018

Imagine you were tasked with producing the world’s most luxurious and technologically advanced car, but one that also excited and rewarded the driver with outstanding performance and handling.

Of course it would have to be a picture of elegance – nothing garish or overtly showy – and it would have to take the very concept of a luxury conveyance to completely new levels. Tough call, but not impossible. The flagship of the Audi range – the all-new A8 – has arrived in Australia, delivering in spades on the very brief described and furthering the A8’s incredible record of creating the benchmark in the luxury class with each successive model.

The new Audi A8 is in fact the fourth incarnation of the A8 designation. Audi’s original foray into the modern day large luxury class really began with the Audi V8 of 1988 although the company’s history back to the very beginning contains numerous luxury specials.

In 1994 the A8 (D2) appeared – the first production all-aluminium luxury car built on the now famous Audi Space Frame (ASF), followed by the A8 (D3) in 2002 introducing the Audi MMI concept along with adaptive air suspension and bi-xenon headlights. Then the A8 D4 arrived in 2010, and introduced LED headlight technology infrared night vision assist and Audi pre sense collision avoidance to the A8’s increasing list of world firsts.

This new A8 – the D5 – builds on its groundbreaking predecessors in all respects, already hailed the ‘World Luxury Car 2018’ and widely considered the most technologically advanced production car in the world.

From its capability for Level 3 autonomous driving, to HD Matrix LED headlights with Audi laser light to standard-setting automotive technology in every area, the new A8 impresses across the board – and that’s before you even start to take in the level of luxury appointment and an attention to detail that is astonishing even by Audi standards.

The A8 is the first new series production model from Audi’s Head of Design, Marc Lichte. Taking numerous design cues from the Prologue show car from 2014, the new A8 features a much larger, wider Singleframe grille than seen before, and a more chiselled, muscular form overall. At the rear, a new light configuration is integrated into the vehicle’s styling – a strip light running right across the rear accentuating the car’s width and strong stance, while the subtle flared guards are a nod to the quattro heritage and brand’s champion quattro rally cars.





The new Audi A8 is in fact the fourth incarnation of the A8 designation

Yet for all its size, the A8 in both models, has the uncanny ability of being able to perform like a much smaller car whenever required

The A8 is bigger than its predecessors, measuring 5.17 metres long, 1.95 metres wide and 1.47 metres tall which makes for tremendous interior accommodation and storage for luggage. Add an addition 130mm to length for the A8 L (long wheelbase) model which is also fractionally taller at 1.47 metres, and interior space takes on a even more impressive dimensions.

Yet for all its size, the A8 in both models, has the uncanny ability of being able to perform like a much smaller car whenever required – whether that be handling relentless switchbacks on country roads or manoeuvring in tight parking situations. A luxury limousine without peer, but a driver’s car nonetheless.

Available with either a 3.0-litre V6 petrol or TDI drivetrain designated 55 TFSI quattro and 50 TDI quattro respectively, the A8 (and A8 L) lack nothing in terms of performance either. With 210kW of power and 600Nm of torque from the TDI and 250kW and 500Nm from the petrol, acceleration and top end performance also belie the vehicle’s size. Both drivetrains feature mild hybrid technology – another first – using a belt alternator starter (BAS) and a compact lithium-ion battery with a 10 Ah electrical capacity, which allows the A8 to coast at speeds between 55 and 160km/h with the engine off. 

This new 48-volt system operates as the A8’s main electrical system and allows power recuperation of up to 12kW plus start-stop operation from 22km/h, which equates to fuel savings of up to 0.7 litres per 100km. 

Working through an eight-speed tiptronic transmission in both cases, power delivery is silky smooth and the presense of quattro permanent all-wheel drive with self-locking centre diff as standard adds another dimension to the grip, handling and ride in all conditions.

Adaptive air suspension with electronically-controlled dampers that creates a ‘magic carpet’ ride around town and out on the highway, also allows the A8 to hunker down on the twisty stuff, firming up at a touch of the Audi drive select to go from luxury conveyance in ‘comfort’ to ‘beast mode’ with dynamic selected. Well perhaps ‘beast’ is the wrong word, but the change in personality and dynamics is extraordinary. 

Go from the excellent progressive steering to the optional dynamic all-wheel steering and the handling is simply next level. At low speeds – manoeuvring in tight spaces – the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction to those in the front, resulting in a turning circle of a car half the size. At higher speeds though, the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the front wheels adding tremendously to the A8’s stability and composure. And it is this unflappable sure-footedness, handling and incredible throttle response that make the A8 shrink around the driver when the road and conditions allow.

All this, and a veritable raft of the very latest driver assistance and safety systems, quietly attentive and ready to render assistance in an instant if require.

But there is no such shrinkage inside the opulent A8 though. Audi has challenged its own reputation for outstanding interiors with the A8, with a sleek new interior design language that retains the sophistication of old, seamlessly melded with the latest in automotive technology.

The new MMI touch response operating system, featuring two centrally mounted touch screens remove the need for myriad buttons and dials, giving the A8 a sweeping, clean dash area. Indeed, the screens –10.1 and 8.6-inch – literally form part of the dash design, coming to life with the car to give the driver easy access to all car functions as well as comfort and infotainment. 

With haptic and acoustic feedback, even this state-of-the-art technology is given a ‘human’ feel, that also allows for handwritten directions to be read by the A8’s operating system off the screen (no matter the quality of the handwriting), or for those preferring to keep their hands on the multi-function wheel, the voice control system responds to completely natural spoken requests and even asks (very politely) for clarification if unsure.

Operation of the myriad systems is intuitive as with all Audi operating systems, be it the climate control, MMI navigation plus or multifunction seats, complete with heating and massage functions. Little touches abound, from the beautiful panel that silently conceals the air-conditioning vents when not in use, to the tiny perforations in the seats, to the bespoke air fragrances created specifically for A8, absolutely nothing has been overlooked. Indeed, throughout the interior, the level of craftsmanship is nothing short of extraordinary coupled with a list of standard equipment that is second-to-none.

Go from the excellent progressive steering to the optional dynamic all-wheel steering and the handling is simply next level

Of course all this luxury need not be at the expense of getting some work done for the business minded

The rear occupants in both variants also travel in absolute comfort and with every conceivable luxury at their disposal. From LED reading lights that can be directed to shine exactly where the occupant desires, to the vast array of functions controlled by the rear seat remote – a removable device the size and shape of an elegant smart phone that controls everything from rear seat climate to optional rear seat massaging, entertainment, online activities (of course the A8 becomes its own wifi hotspot) and can even be used to make phone calls.

Opt for the rear seat entertainment system with its two removable Audi tablets, and passengers can relax and watch television, stream movies, monitor car functions and navigation or surf the net. Rear seat passengers in the A8 L can also luxuriate in the ultimate on-bard pampering, as a panel in the back of the front passenger seat folds down to provide not just a footrest that warms the soles of the feet, but massages them as well.

Of course all this luxury need not be at the expense of getting some work done for the business minded. Folding tables with two-stage adjustable inclination are just the place for the laptop – indeed, with the four-seat executive package, the A8 L is more like the cabin of a luxury airliner than the rear seat of a road car.

The feeling of quiet luxury, particularly at night with the ambient lighting creating another dimension, is incredible and a delight to behold, whether behind the wheel, or luxuriating in one of the passenger seats. In fact, the decision as to which seat to take is perhaps the greatest dilemma facing those travelling in the new A8 – although both driving and relaxing bring their own rewards.

The new A8 just does everything so well. It exudes that quiet confidence that comes with complete mastery, and that is the best way to sum up the A8. This is a car that continues to surprise, delight and impress with each successive drive.