Predecessor: A8 Mk1
used to divide opinions. Technology admirers loved its innovative ASF
space frame) chassis which made it the first mass production aluminum
in the world. They also loved its quattro 4-wheel-drive system which
unique in its class. Nevertheless, an honest appraisal would find it
lagged behind Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series in most important
from comfort to driver appeal. Automotive journalists concluded that
advanced technologies did not materialize into a Mercedes or BMW beater.
After 8 years,
again with the second generation A8 - or 3rd generation if you also
their predecessor Audi V8. This time they chose a more conservative
No new technologies nor innovation was introduced. They just polished
components, cured the weakness and enhanced the strength. The result is
a far more matured car, if less stunning than that in 1994.
new A8 is no
its German rivals alone, because it gets a sister called Volkswagen
They are built in the same factory, share a lot of components (such as
engines, transmission, 4WD and suspensions) but they have a fundamental
difference: different chassis. The Phaeton's is a conventional steel
while the A8, unsurprisingly, favors aluminum space frame. Like A8
ASF technology has entered the 2nd generation - it has reduced the no.
of parts by half, thus reducing assembly cost as well as improving
rigidity. However, one thing is unchanged - the all-aluminum chassis
body is 40% lighter than steel. That translate to between 150 and 200kg
how light is it? pick a 4.2-litre A8, you will find it tip the scale at
1780kg, some 20kg and 90kg lighter than direct rival Mercedes S500 and
BMW 745i respectively. If the Audi were not 4-wheel-drive, like its
it would have been even lighter. By the way, I always hope A8 could
to rear-wheel-drive to utilize the full potential of lightweight
This could also move the engine a little rearward thus improve weight
closer to 50:50, compare with today’s 59:41. That’s why I am so eagerly
awaiting the new Jaguar XJ...
be a major
player in the segment can be seen in its wide range of power units. It
offers a choice of 4 petrol engines and at least 2 diesels. The petrol
consists of 3.7-litre V8, 4.2-litre V8, 6.0-litre W12 and an
3.0 V6. The diesel side includes a 3.0 V6 turbo and a very fast 4.0 V8
twin-turbo. Phaeton’s 313hp 5-litre V10 twin-turbo is also a possible.
Audi seems confident that the demand of A8 is sufficient to sustain all
At the moment
only the petrol V8 duo is on sale, so let us confine our report
the V8s. Basically, they are enhanced version of the previous V8s,
employing 5 valves per cylinder, variable intake valve timing and
intake manifolds (the 3.7-litre offers 3 stages while the 4.2 has 2
Audi didn't talk about detailed changes, but ironically these V8s have
become more efficient - the 4.2 generates 335hp instead of 310hp, the
is up from 260 to 280hp. They also drink less fuel, although not as
as BMW's Valvetronic V8s. In fact, the reduction of fuel consumption is
mostly contributed by the new 6-speed automatic transmission, supplied
by ZF. Yes, this marvelous gearbox is exactly the same one used by
and Jaguar S-Type.
a 6-speed gearbox and stronger engine, Audi claims 0-60mph improves to
6.0 second for the 4.2 V8, a bit faster than its direct rivals. With a
drag coefficient of 0.27, the car can slip into 155mph air flow without
generating much wind noise.
the road, the
V8 never disappoints. Like that of BMW 745i, it is near-silent at
speed but can also emit a sporty growl when being pushed. It might not
match BMW’s fuel efficiency and superior torque curve, but by any
this is still a very good engine. Powerful yet refined. The 6-speed
gearbox shifts seamlessly.
new A8 continues
to impress. You won’t doubt the superior traction and grip offered by
4-wheel drive, what you can’t believe is how nimble it behaves in
You know many Audis - RS6 and S4 included - feel nose heavy, but the A8
has none of such feeling. It turns into corners keenly, feeling far
than lighter than its actual size suggests. Its steering is crisp and
At low to medium effort, it remains fairly neutral. Only at the limit
will run into safe understeer, which is a good thing for a luxurious
What did Audi
the suspensions - front 4-links, rear trapezoidal-type multi-link,
alloy suspensions arms... none of these are the reason, because they
carried over from the previous generation. What made the difference is
a 60% stronger chassis as well as the addition of Mercedes-style
air springs and adaptive dampers. Whenever you want to enjoy handling,
suspension setting is stiffened automatically to reduce pitch and roll.
That’s why A8’s chassis feels better sorted out than other Audis. On
other hand, whenever you want to enjoy comfort, the softened damping
air springs work pretty well to filter out unwanted harshness. The
is a ride quality smoother than 7-series while not much behind the
about comfort, A8 seems not the last word in the segment. To prevent
competition from Volkswagen Phaeton, A8 biases towards driver appeal
than luxury. That doesn’t mean it were uncomfortable. In fact, it
all things you expect in this segment, from space, comfy chairs,
to quality material. What it lacks is a sense of occasion. The interior
design is no more special than an A6, this could hurt those who pay the
extra in pursuit of something really luxurious.
exterior. It might be not as pure as its predecessor, but it is still
enough. From far away, it looks like a grown-up A4, with length
to over 5 meters. Unlike the BMW 7-series, its body profile looks
and smaller than it is. Closer, you will appreciate its high quality
(e.g. fine assembly gaps and uniform paint) and attention to details. A
lot of chromed frames deliver a sense of prestige which you cannot find
in a S-class as well as 7-series.
Audi’s version of iDrive. However, it is more user-friendly than BMW’s
system, which has been notorious. Like a computer mouse, MMI uses a
control and buttons to navigate menus in the LCD screen, getting
access to various functions, such as video, audio, satellite
Right now, Audi
A8 has to
beat 2 rivals in order to top the class. First one, the reigning
Mercedes-Benz S-class. Surprisingly, the big Benz achieves an even
balance between handling and ride. It loses nothing to the Audi in
contest while winning the ride comfort test. Its rear passenger space
much bigger, but it also lose a lot of marks in material and build
still has an edge in driver appeal. Its active anti-roll bars and
setting of suspensions result in flatter and sharper cornering. Its
V8 also wins by a small margin. However, it also sacrifices too much
quality to achieve sporty handling.
them, the Audi
is surprisingly all-rounded. It performs well in nearly all areas,
it doesn’t top any area either. Overall speaking, it is a more
choice than the BMW and runs neck to neck with the mighty big Benz.
important, the new A8 has finally got out of the shadow of its rivals
become a formidable player in the luxurious segment.
the first Audi car that tops AutoZine’s rating.
above report was last updated on 15 Jan 2003. All Rights Reserved.
my opinion, 12-cylinder engines are rather unnecessary for luxurious
They are more the symbol of status, showing how superior the car is and
how wealthy its owner is. In fact, most of their owners never need
400-plus horsepower and 5-second 0-60mph acceleration.
as arch-rival Mercedes has S600 and BMW has 760Li, Audi needs to
with a 12-cylinder A8. This is not the first ever W12 A8, as the engine
was also briefly used in the previous generation A8. Its
is implemented by mating a pair of narrow-angle VR6 at 72°. This
in a very compact package, measuring about the same length as an
engine. 4 camshafts operate 48 valves, all with variable timing. It
450 horsepower and 428lbft of torque, exceeding the old engine (which
still being used by Volkswagen Phaeton) by 30 horsepower and 13 lbft.
though the car weighs a hefty 2 tons, Audi estimates the W12 can push
car from 0 to 60mph in 5 seconds flat. That’s faster than BMW 760Li but
slower than the 500hp Mercedes S600. Again, few people need that kind
is higher level of comfort, which is less successful in the flagship
While the regular A8 is never renowned for ride comfort, the W12 rides
even stiffer, blame to its wider and lower profile tires. Customers
more smoothness and quietness from the powertrain, but the W12 is
more throaty than the V8 and brings no extra smoothness. Being a
limousine, this is inevitably disappointing.
only thing the W12 matches our expectation is space and quality.
in only the long wheelbase body, its extra 13cm wheelbase provides
space at the rear - more than people actually need. The high quality
wood and leather, and the classy fit and finish of the whole car
the tradition of A8. Unfortunately, the huge grille - unique to the W12
- looks muscular rather than graceful. It actually devalues the
fact, a long
A8L 4.2 is more convincing than the W12 to fulfill the need for luxury
and comfort. It is a lot cheaper too.
above report was last updated on 11 Mar 2004. All Rights Reserved.
years after the launch the current generation A8, Audi
finally introduces its sporting version, S8.
Unlike the last generation S8, the new car no longer uses a sport-tuned
but adopted a detuned version of Lamborghini Gallardo's V10 engine -
forget the Lamborghini engine is actually developed by Audi based on
architecture of its 90-degree V8. With a bore enlarged by 2 mm, the V10
capacity increased to 5204cc. This help it to increase maximum torque
Lamborghini's 376 lbft to 398 lbft. The max torque also occurs at lower
now 3500 rpm instead of 4500 rpm. Moreover, 90 percent of the peak
available from 2300 rpm.
Power, however, is detuned to 450 horsepower at 7000 rpm (Lamborghini:
500 hp at
7800 rpm). Strangely, the Audi engine retains the dual continuous VVT
2-stage intake manifolds of the Lamborghini V10. It even added FSI
injection to raise compression ratio to 12.5:1. But the emphasis is on
spread of torque, lower fuel consumption and reasonable cost – as it
need to rev as fast, lightweight pistons and connecting rods are no
450 horsepower is no more than the A8 6.0 W12.
Audi claims both cars accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 5.1 seconds and
speed are electronically limited to 155 mph. So, how to distinguish
W12 is the luxury flagship, while S8 is the sportiest A8. First of all,
20 kg lighter than a SWB W12 (don't laugh). Then, its suspensions are
- stiffer and has 20 mm lower ride height. Its steering is made 10
quicker. Its new Quattro drivetrain - like that in the new RS4 -
percent drive to the rear wheels normally. Its brakes are larger (385
335 mm rear) and can be chosen with ceramic discs. Its wheels measure
and wear 265/35 tires. Besides, its Tiptronic gearbox has a lower final
ratio to deliver quicker response.
to lift it above its brothers, but what about
BMW M5 ?
V10 cranks out 507 horsepower to push 1755 kg. The
S8 relies on 450 horses to pull 1940 kg. They are not in the same
level at all. While we can describe M5 as a 4-door supercar, the same
said to the S8. Yes, 4.9 or 5.0 seconds to 60 mph is still very fast,
fast enough to be the company's top performer - that should be the
last generation S8, or the outgoing Mercedes S55
AMG (to be replaced by S63 AMG), the new S8 does not intend to be a
full-blooded performance sedan. Instead, it wants to make a compromise
luxury and performance. From this viewpoint, it does quite well. It has
most tasteful design in the class - especially enhanced by the larger
and the tail spoiler. It has the highest build quality. It has a
automatic transmission and 4-wheel-drive to deliver effortless and
performance. Its air suspensions and adaptive damping provides a firm
composed ride. Moreover, being a class higher than M5, its cabin offer
space and luxury.
does not engage its driver through the helm or
through the way it respond to driver's input. With the whole V10
its nose, the S8 is not an inherently balanced machine. While the
tuning and electronics hide most drawbacks very well, they cannot
sharp handling and a communicative steering like a well-sorted
machine. The size and weight do not help either. This means the S8
bends rather than the twisties.
can be easy to confuse with other A8s. The
easiest way to distinguish it is from the single-frame grille, which
chrome finish at the vertical bars. The air intakes below the grille
different from other A8s, as is the bigger wheels and a tiny spoiler
incorporated at the trailing edge of boot lid. Many people prefer this
"understated beauty". But will they also prefer its "understated
driver appeal" and "understated performance" ?
above report was last updated on 21 Dec 2005. All Rights Reserved.