The flagship Audi A8 is a full-size luxury sedan meant to appeal to wealthy consumers looking for maximum luxury and space. Although competing models from the premium German and Japanese marques may sell in greater numbers, the A8 does possess a distinct advantage because of its aluminum frame and body panels. Significantly lighter than a traditional steel frame, the Audi Space Frame (ASF), as it's called, helps offset the bulk of the car's all-wheel-drive system; the A8's competitors are primarily rear-wheel drive.
Thanks to the all-wheel-drive system, winter weather capability is one of the Audi A8's strengths. Luxurious accommodations are another, particularly with the latest redesigned model and the prior second-generation A8. As with other Audis, understated luxury and cutting-edge electronics combine to form an experience that delivers refinement in abundance. Though it's sometimes overlooked, the A8 is a fine choice for a luxury flagship.
Current Audi A8
As with previous Audi A8s, the current model offers a near-perfect blend of luxury, performance, amenities and style, and is one of our favorite full-size luxury sedans. The A8 is available in standard and long-wheelbase (A8 L) forms, with the latter version laying claim to being the biggest luxury sedan.
Yet the A8 still weighs less than most of its rivals thanks to its unique aluminum construction. The 4.2-liter direct-injected V8 makes 372 horsepower and 328 pound-feet of torque and sends its power to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. It's plenty capable for the vast majority of drivers. For more power-hungry pilots, there's also a 6.3-liter W12 that produces 500 hp and 463 lb-ft. The all-wheel-drive system has a rear-biased power split, which helps to provide the more sporting feel of a rear-drive performance sedan. For even more athleticism, a torque-vectoring limited-slip differential is available.
Of course the A8 comes loaded with all the latest high-tech features. Highlights include a dynamic steering system that can intervene with automatic countersteering in a slide, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, automatic emergency braking, and night vision with thermal imaging and pedestrian detection. Audi's MMI electronics interface is still in use but now features an additional touchpad interface that reads fingertip gestures as letters and commands. Google Earth mapping for the navigation system is another A8 exclusive.
Beyond the sumptuous cabin and all the luxury features, you're bound to be impressed by the big sedan's ride and handling characteristics. The suspension provides a comfortable ride without excessive float over bumps, and when pressed on a curvy road it proves surprisingly agile, with nicely weighted steering. Both trims boast generous standard features, including amenities like a navigation system and heated front and rear seats. Rear seat room is ample in the regular-wheelbase model, while the A8 L provides more than enough legroom for a pair of 6-footers.
The A8 undoubtedly lacks the snob appeal of its fellow Germans, but don't let that stop you. With its roomy, best-in-class cabin and excellent driving dynamics, this sedan shines as one of the strongest picks in its segment.
Used Audi A8 Models
The current A8 represents the third generation in the model's history, debuting in 2011. In this inaugural year, only the 4.2-liter V8 engine was offered. The 6.3-liter W12 became available the following year.
The previous, second-generation Audi A8 was sold from 2004-'10. Relative to its predecessor, this generation offered a lighter chassis and a more muscular V8, along with lots of comfort, safety and suspension upgrades. This A8 was offered in both standard-wheelbase (A8) and long-wheelbase (A8 L) versions. The base engine was a 4.2-liter V8 that generated 335 hp and later rose to 350 hp for 2007. A six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive were standard. From 2005-'09, there was an A8 L W12 model that featured a 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine that produced 450 hp.
Changes were light during this generation. There were slight styling alterations for '08, while the equipment list was bolstered nearly every model year. Regardless of which year you may be considering here, cabin furnishings were superb and the MMI interface made accessing the car's numerous audio, climate and navigation functions fairly easy. This A8 was often overlooked by luxury sedan shoppers, but we always found it to be a great alternative and certainly equal to other flagships in terms of luxury, performance and craftsmanship.
The first-generation Audi A8 was offered from 1997-2003. Although it was one of the most technologically advanced cars on the market by virtue of its aluminum frame, it never had its successor's flair for style or performance. Understated in its adornments inside and out, the original A8 failed to deliver the over-the-top ambience that's so important for high-dollar luxury sedans sold in the United States. However, if you like the idea of owning a discreet luxury car, you can buy a used A8 for considerably less than you'd pay for a used BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
Early Audi A8s were offered only with a 113-inch wheelbase, which meant that their backseats were cramped compared to the other full-size luxury sedans. The longer and roomier A8 L arrived for the 2000 model year and would be our pick if you're planning to carry adults in back. Most first-generation A8s were sold with a 4.2-liter V8 and Quattro all-wheel drive. Thusly equipped, the A8 was one of the quickest large luxury sedans of its day, though the V8 was deficient in off-the-line torque. It was a comfortable car but not a particularly entertaining one due to overly soft suspension tuning. Audi also offered a less expensive front-wheel-drive model from 1997-'99. This rare A8 had a small 3.7-liter V8 and a modest 8.3-second 0-60 time.
Read the most recent 2014 Audi A8 review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Audi A8 page.