Un­der­state it in alu­minium

BRIAN BAS­SETT drives way past his bed­time hour in the Audi A8 3.0l TDI Diesel Qu­at­tro

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

Styling

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.

In­te­rior

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.

PHOTOS: QUICKPIC AND AL­WYN VILOEN

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.

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