Understate it in aluminium
BRIAN BASSETT drives way past his bedtime hour in the Audi A8 3.0l TDI Diesel Quattro
The A8 is a full- size luxury saloon first unveiled by Audi in 1994 and designed by Christian Winkelman.
The current model is the third generation of the vehicle and was shown for the first time at Design Miami in 2009. It has been popular, selling about 40 000 units worldwide in 2014.
The A8 is the best that Audi can do and at the top of Volkswagen’s many- branched tree. The muchlamented Jeremy Clarkson of Top
Gear fame once referred to the A8 as one of the best built cars in the world and, having driven one courtesy of Prunella Naidoo, New Vehicle Sales Manager at Audi Centre, Pietermaritzburg, I can see why.
The A8 looks a lot like the A4. In fact your neighbours will probably think you have bought an A4 just like theirs until they look at the car more closely.
The A8 is distinctive and infused with a subtle, understated elegance, which is true of most Audi’s. The A8 I drove was black and it was obvious that those in parking lots I used thought I was a senior government functionary. The big sallon rides on handsome 19- inch takkies, with sleek, moulded sides. The front has a slightly smaller Audi grille, with seven blades instead of eight in the previous generation and is flanked two LED light modules which provide brilliant night lighting.
The grille hangs over a single lower air intake, stretching across the width of the car, flanked by fog lights.
The rear lamps have been restyled and are now linked by a single chrome strip, which balances the rear design. There are exterior, folding, auto – dimming mirrors, parking sensors front and rear; as well as power door closers.
In flagship vehicles the interior is very important and usually Audi interiors are businesslike and somewhat austere in design.
The A8 however is luxurious in execution, with rich wood inlays and soft leather everywhere, including the door interiors and steering.
The car is spacious, with comfortable 14- way adjustable, electric front seats, which have a memory function. Should you have a bad back a lumber massager is available for both front and rear seats as an extra.
The electric powered, fully- adjustable, multi- function steering will move to your preferred setting as you start the car.
The buttons on the steering operate the usual range of functions, like the radio, Bluetooth, speed control and, via the flappy paddles, the Tiptronic gearbox.
The dash is ergonomically designed and the controls clear and easy to operate. Your driver will love it. A feature of the central stack is an eight- inch, full- colour touch screen also operated from a controller on the console surrounded by useful shortcut buttons.
The system connects to the rear- view camera, voice- controlled GPS and the rest of the car’s MMI infotainment system, which is equipped with plugs for a Sim and two SD Cards for the more old- fashioned among us who know memory sticks can and do fail.
The rear passengers enjoy a wealth of space and amenity, while the hydraulically- operated boot lid opens to acres of luggage space.
Safety and security
The A8 has a list of safety features too long to cover here.
The handbook lists some 40 items relating to safety, from the usual belts, ABS/ EBD and eight airbags of various types, to the more complex systems like Secondary Collision Brake Assist, Hold Assist, Lane Assist, Side Assist, and Park Assist with surrounding display, 360 degree cam- eras and Night Vision Assist as an extra.
There is also electronic assistance to cope with slip and stabilization a device called Pre Sense at the rear, which prepares the car for a rear impact.
Needless to say the car is also equipped a perimeter burglar alarm and auto locking. So the A8 has just about every possible safety device.
Performance and Handling
The A8 3.0 TDI Diesel Quattro has a V6, turbo- charged, diesel engine putting out 190kWs/ 580 Nm of torque.
The permanent AWD is driven by an 8- speed, tiptronic gearbox. 0- 100 kmh comes up in about 5.9 seconds and fuel consumption at about 7,1 l/ 100km, depending a driving style and terrain.
The car is splendid to drive with immediate steering response and surefooted and stable on difficult roads. The finely- tuned suspension, AWD and intuitive steering give it huge cornering prowess.
In fact it behaves more like a small sports car than a two- tonne luxury leviathan.
The car is all aluminium and if you balanced a Honda Brio on the roof, it would still weigh less than a Range Rover.
This gives excellent fuel consumption and improves performance.
In town the assists make parking easy and traffic a pleasure to negotiate.
D- Roads present no problem and even mud is handled without much trouble. On my favourite potholed, winding Midlands road, the car’s athleticism impressed considerably. This is indeed one of the finest cars in the world.
Costs and the opposition
The A8 3.0 TDI Diesel Quattro costs around R1,2 million new, but its quality and durability make it an ideal second- hand buy.
There are six models in the series. The top of the line ABL 6.3 W12 Quattro costs R2,1 million. All come with the Audi Extended Warranty and a 5- year, 100 000 km maintenance plan.
Also look at the BMW 7 Series, the Mercedes S- class, the Jaguar XJ, Porsche Panamera and Lexus LS.
Dubbed one of the finest cars on the road, our tester ( right) found himslelf driving the A8 far into the night just for sheer pleasure of it.