What's New for 2008
For 2008, the Audi A8 receives a host of updates. Exterior freshening includes distinct grilles for each trim -- the V8 model features a horizontal theme while the W12 has a vertical theme. Restyled foglights and taillights, along with side mirror-mounted turn signals and new wheels complete the mild face-lift. The cabin sees more sound insulation, more aluminum accents and the addition of satellite radio and heated seats (front and rear) to the standard features list.
Choosing the 2008 Audi A8 as your premium luxury sedan is sort of like buying a pair of Brooks running shoes. They may not impress most of your jock friends as much as Nikes, but you (as well as serious runners) would have the smug satisfaction of knowing you chose a product built with an unwavering dedication to its purpose.
With Audi's flagship, it's the same deal. Unlike the status seekers who automatically go with the status quo, true car enthusiasts know all about this dark-horse candidate. In fact, the Audi A8 has consistently been one of our staff's favorite luxury sedans for the past half-decade. A few reasons for our Audi adoration include a roomy, impeccably finished cabin, powerful performance and a polished demeanor on the road.
Compared to the somewhat busy styling of its chief rivals -- the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LS 460 – the Audi A8's crisply tailored sheet metal exudes a subtle yet powerful confidence, much like an athlete in a custom-made suit. The cabin exhibits the same handsome, elegant theme along with top-grade materials and many thoughtful features.
A couple of other attributes are typical A8: all-aluminum construction and the standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Contributing to its serene ride quality and composed handing is the A8's adaptive air suspension that provides a plush freeway ride as well as buttoned-down handling when the car is being pressed on a twisty road. For power, there is a pair of very capable engines: a 350-horsepower V8 and a 450-hp W12. Either powerhouse will swiftly bring the A8 up to speed and easily show off its autobahn breeding via effortless cruising at seriously illegal velocities.
Although the 2008 Audi A8 is certainly impressive in terms of design, performance and build quality, it still lags behind some of its fellow Germans (as well as the Lexus) on the sales charts. We're betting that's due to Audi's perceived lack of prestige. Let's face it. Most folks want it painfully obvious to their friends and neighbors -- via a three-pointed star or blue-and-white roundel -- that yes, indeed, they drive a premium luxury sedan. Sadly, these people probably never even test-drove the fully competitive A8. We strongly urge you to do so if you're shopping this segment.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Audi A8 comes in three trims: A8, A8 L (the "L" signifying a long wheelbase for increased rear-seat legroom) and A8 L W12 (the "W12" indicating that it's powered by a W12 engine). The A8 and A8 L come with virtually every luxury feature as standard, including a navigation system, leather upholstery, 16-way power front seats, heated seats (front and rear), xenon HID headlights and a 12-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio and a CD changer.
The W12 adds keyless startup, power door closers, parking sensors, four-zone climate control, ventilated/massaging front seats, four-way lumbar adjustment (for all passengers), an Alcantara headliner and a wood steering wheel. Most of the W12's features are optional on the other A8s. Other options include a 1,000-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system, adaptive cruise control, a personal refrigerator, a sunroof and a Sport package for V8 models that includes a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch wheels and steering wheel shift paddles.
Powertrains and Performance
Both the A8 and A8 L come with a 4.2-liter, 40-valve V8 that makes 350 hp and 325 pound-feet of torque. Named after its special engine, the W12 model has a 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine that makes 450 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. The W12 actually consists of two narrow-angle 15-degree V6 engines joined at the crankshaft, which makes it more compact than a conventional V12. Both engines are matched to a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that drives all four wheels through Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
With either engine, this is a quick luxury sedan. The 4.2 V8 version can hit 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and cover the quarter-mile in 14.2 seconds, while the W12 betters those stats by about a half second in each case.
Standard on all A8s are antilock brakes, stability and traction control, full-length side curtain airbags, front- and rear-seat side airbags and active front headrests.
Interior Design and Special Features
All passengers should find comfort in the A8. This is particularly true with the L version, as it boasts 42 inches of limolike rear legroom. Fit and finish throughout are superb, with generous amounts of wood, Alcantara and aluminum accents lending a luxurious ambience.
With 16-way power adjustment (including upper seatback angle) and a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, finding a comfortable driving position is easy for folks of all body types. The dash is uncluttered by buttons thanks to Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI), which handles everything from the navigation and audio systems to the adjustment of the driver-selectable air suspension. Mounted in the console and operated via a simple twist-and-press knob and four large surrounding buttons, Audi's MMI may draw comparisons to BMW's iDrive system. But unlike iDrive, MMI is simple and intuitive to operate once one gets past the initial learning curve.
Regardless of which A8 you're piloting, throttle response is gratifying. Whether taking off from a stoplight or jetting up to cruising speed on the freeway, a solid rush of power is always on tap. Powerful and easily modulated brakes have no problem reining in the A8. The air suspension is well sorted; left in automatic mode the system works just fine, providing a soft but not mushy ride and solid composure through the twisty bits. Select the "Dynamic" setting and body lean is kept to an absolute minimum, making the 2008 Audi A8 feel more like a compact sport sedan rather than a large flagship luxury car.