The lightness of being

Underneath, the skin the new A8 is a technological wonder. As with the new Jaguar XJ, the A8 heavily utilizes aluminium in its construction and body. Aluminium is light compared to conventional steel and hence brings performance and dynamic benefits to the A8.

To put things in perspective, a BMW 750i weighs in at 2020kg compared to 1835kg for the fully laden A8 4.2 FSI quattro with its all-wheel drive hardware.


For now, the only petrol engine available in the A8 is an updated version of the 4.2 FSI V8 from the previous model. A more tax friendly V6 motor (most likely the 3-litre supercharged from the S4 and A6) and a long wheelbase model will be available by the time the new model gets here in the second half of 2010.

The 4163cc V8 now makes 372bhp, 22bhp more than in the previous model. Maximum torque output is up 15Nm to 445Nm at 3500rpm. Mated to the new 8-speed automatic gearbox, the V8 engined A8 accelerates from rest to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds, an improvement of more than half a second over its predecessor. In terms of performance, the 4.2 FSI quattro A8 sits somewhere in between the 740i and 750i.

On the Autopistas and A roads outside of Malaga, the direct injection V8 proved to be more than sufficient to endow the A8 with spirited go. Mid-range torque isn't as strong as the 750i's turbocharged V8 but the engine is very refined and quiet in its operation.

Also on hand for us to sample were the TDI diesel models - the 4.2 TDI quattro and the V6 3.0 TDI quattro variants. Despite being oil burners, the two TDIs were almost as refined and quiet as the petrol V8 model. The 4.2 TDI V8 was a real powerhouse - 350bhp, 800Nm, 5.5 seconds 0-100km/h time. The real surprise though was the 3.0 TDI. The 250bhp, 550Nm motor, mated to a start-stop system offers a fantastic blend of efficiency, refinement and performance (6.6 seconds 0-100km/h).

All variants come with new 8-speed automatic gearboxes. The new Tiptronic box is a wonderful tool indeed - its shifts are lightning quick and incise while there's a nice space of ratios to exploit the engine's urge. The gearbox also adapts its shift programs very well according to driving and road conditions - go downhill and it sticks to a lower gear for improved engine braking. Audi also claims up to 22 percent improvement in fuel consumption over the old A8 across the new model range.

Also new to the A8 is the futuristic looking electronic gear selector. It has the same P-R-N-D selector pattern as a conventional gear lever but instead of a mechanical linkage, the A8's gear selector is an electronic one. You can't operate manual mode via the lever though - only the familiar steering mounted paddles are used in manual ‘+/-‘ mode.

Despite being a full-sized limo, the A8 feels nimble and light footed when hustled along the Spanish B roads. The steering is a major improvement over the A4/A5 models' - it relays a reasonable degree of feedback and is linear, sharp and precise. With standard Audi Drive Select, one can adjust the driving characteristic of the car from the MMI system. Select Dynamic mode and the adaptive air suspension firms up, the gearbox shift patterns get more aggressive and the throttle more responsive. Switch to Comfort and the ride becomes a little less busy and more soothing over the bumps. Also can be selected are the Individual and Auto modes.

Overall ride is sporty rather than tuned for maximum comfort. The A8 doesn't glide and waft as effortlessly over bumps like the S-Class even though the ride is more pliant than say, a 7 Series'. Added stability comes in the form of quattro all-wheel drive with an active sport differential as an option

 


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Engine

Engine Capacity 4163cc
Engine Type V 8
Bore x Stroke (84.5 x 92.8)mm
Power 372bhp @ 6800rpm
Torque 445Nm @ 3500rpm
Power to Weight 202.7 bhp per ton

Performance

Acceleration 5.7s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 250 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 9.5 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 8 -speed Auto Tiptronic
Drive Type F4

Measurements

Body Type Sedan
Dimension
(L x W x H)
(5137 x 1949 x 1460) mm
Wheelbase 2992 mm
Kerb Weight 1835 kg

Brakes

Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Ventilated Discs