UK Drive: Is Audi’s updated A8 still a luxury car big hitter?

·5-min read

What is it?

Audi A8
The rear of the car benefits from upgraded lights


The Audi A8 is one of those cars people instantly link with prestige. Throughout the years, this flagship saloon has been one of the go-to cars for people after peerless ride quality and tip-top comfort, not to mention decent performance too.

And with a new wave of competitors on the horizon, Audi has seen fit to update the A8. Now, these changes might not be the most ground-breaking, but they’re being implemented to keep the A8 in fighting shape. We’ve been testing it out on the UK’s roads to see how it gets on.

What’s new?

Audi A8
The rear lights are distinctive in their design


As we’ve already mentioned, the changes to the A8 aren’t all that comprehensive. The thing is, when the A8 was first introduced back in 2017, it featured some pretty cutting-edge technology so, even now, it hardly feels behind the times. That said, Audi has given it some clever new digital lighting, as well a larger, more noticeable front grille.

Inside, there’s a cabin that boasts huge space for those sitting in the rear as well as a comfortable and focused place for the driver, too.

What’s under the bonnet?

Audi A8
The V6 diesel engine is a good match for the A8


Though the new A8 is available with plug-in hybrid powertrains, our test car came with a tried-and-tested 3.0-litre V6 diesel. Badged 50 TDI, it’s got 282bhp and 600Nm of torque, bringing a 0-60mph time of 5.7 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph.

But, when combined with a silky eight-speed gearbox, it becomes clear that this engine’s main focus is on refinement as it’s super-quiet when at a cruise. Plus, with Audi claiming up to 44.4mpg it’s remarkably frugal, while CO2 emissions of 171-177g/km are pretty respectable too. As you’d expect for a car of this type, air suspension is used to maintain a comfortable ride.

What’s it like to drive?

Audi A8
The A8 feels composed in the bends


Though of course most of the focus around the A8’s appeal is centred on sitting in the back, what’s it like for those behind the wheel? Remarkably easy to get along with, in truth. It’s a big car, of course, so it does take some getting used to, but once you’re up to speed with the car’s proportions it’s very simple and easy to pilot. The diesel engine has deep reserves of power and never feels out of breath, while the well-managed ride takes the worst out of the road surface.

It’s also impressively quiet, with very limited wind and road noise. The steering is accurate, too, and you can easily drive the A8 briskly should you need to. It is, however, at its very best on a cruise.

How does it look?

Audi A8
New lighting gives superb illumination at night


The A8 has got a pretty undercover design, but this latest tweak has given it more menace than before. The ultra-wide grille is the most noticeable change here, but it’s still a very classy affair overall and definitely takes a more conservative approach compared with competitors.

Around the back, there are new customisable digital OLED lights, connected with a full-width light bar which looks really impressive at night. In truth, it’s not an overwhelmingly different car to the one it replaces, but there are a good number of tweaks and edits made to keep the A8’s design looking fresh.

What’s it like inside?

Audi A8
The dual-screen infotainment is really clear and easy to operate


Inside the cabin, you’ll find the attention to detail that people expect from an Audi. There are plenty of high-end materials used throughout, though the metal interior door handles sit very flush and can be a little tricky to operate at times. Sitting up front you’ve got plenty of adjustment and it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position.

But of course, the main event is in the back. Our test car came in long-wheelbase form and in these versions there are acres of legroom to make use of. It also came with the rear seat package – a £3,000 extra – which adds comfort headrests, heated seats and more. Twin displays were also mounted to the headrests of the passenger and driver seats, giving a whole host of entertainment options for those in the back of the A8.

What’s the spec like?

Audi A8
Passengers in the rear have loads of legroom to enjoy


The A8 is Audi’s flagship saloon, so when it first arrived it was packed with the firm’s very latest technology. Now, however, its systems have filtered down to Audi’s more mainstream models, so they’re not quite as exciting as before – though they’re still very useful. The twin-screen layout, for instance, is just as good as the day it first hit the market, giving quick and easy access to many of the car’s key functions.

Our test car also came with a hefty chunk of options, including a panoramic glass sunroof, massage seats and a twin-spoke heated leather steering wheel which bumped the A8’s price to just under £99,000.

Verdict

The A8 remains a key contender in the luxury saloon segment. These small updates have definitely given a little bump to its appeal, but it does feel that with new versions of key rivals hitting the segment – including the upcoming BMW 7 Series – the A8 has its work cut out for it.

That said, this is still an excellent car with top levels of refinement, a high-end driving experience and a spacious, well-made cabin. It just might not be as cutting-edge as some drivers in this segment may want.

  • Model: Audi A8 L 50 TDI

  • Price as tested: £98,710

  • Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel

  • Power: 282bhp

  • Torque: 600Nm

  • Max speed: 155mph

  • 0-60mph: 5.7

  • Economy: 44.4

  • Emissions: 171-177g/km

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