What's New for 2002
Audi will introduce the second generation of its flagship sedan next year, so 2002 sees only minor changes. Among them is a standard in-dash six-disc CD changer, OnStar telematics system as an option, an improved stability control system and updated navigation system software.
The A8, introduced to the U.S. in 1996 as a 1997 model, is in its final stages before a new generation makes its way. Sporting senior A4 styling, sumptuous interior appointments, and the revolutionary Audi Space Frame (ASF), the A8 is lighter and more responsive than many other super-luxury competitors.
Employing lightweight aluminum-alloy construction, ASF is designed to provide superior structural rigidity, improved handling and responsiveness, better fuel efficiency and easier recycling. Gas-filled shocks, beefed-up frame reinforcement and lightweight suspension components further contribute to ride comfort and handling in the A8.
There are two models available: the A8 and the A8 L. The A8 L offers an extended wheelbase, with more head-, shoulder- and legroom for rear occupants. Both models feature a 310-horsepower 4.2-liter twin-cam aluminum-alloy V8 engine. This engine sports 40 valves (five per cylinder) and makes peak torque of 302 pound-feet between 3,000 and 4,000 rpm. An adaptive five-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic shift controls is standard equipment.
Audi's vaunted quattro all-wheel-drive system is also standard. Additionally, Electronic Differential Locking (EDL) provides low-speed traction control operating through the standard antilock braking system. Electronic Braking-Pressure Distribution (EBD) is included with the ABS system, and ensures that maximum braking capacity can be utilized whenever needed, regardless of road or load conditions.
Safety is not ignored in the A8. Dual front airbags are supplemented by side airbags tucked into the front seats. Rear passengers also get side airbags, mounted to the seat rather than the door panel. Audi's Sideguard head airbag system consists of inflatable curtain airbags installed in the headliner along each side of the car, which cover the windows in the event of an accident and remain inflated for 5 seconds to protect the head in case the vehicle rolls over. Audi also offers a standard stability control system.
Inside, drivers will find an interior slathered in real wood and Valcona leather upholstery. Front seats are power adjustable in 14 different ways, and a memory feature accommodates four different settings for the driver seat, exterior mirrors, driver headrest height and steering wheel position. The front passenger seat also gets a memory feature and a multifunctional steering wheel with audio, telephone and Tiptronic controls. The steering wheel tilts out of the way when the key is removed from the ignition. The automatic dual-zone temperature controls employ two sunlight sensors to help maintain accuracy.
The A8 is a solid luxury sedan, and it can be a fine choice for consumers living in cold or rainy climates. But with more luxurious and less expensive competitors available, as well as a redesigned A8 on the horizon, we certainly recommend thinking long and hard before making a purchase.