2018 Audi A8 — Road Test

Posted on Oct 25, 2017 by
Audi A8
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Review Summary:

Audi's fourth-generation A8 flagship saloon is a demonstration of Ingolstadt's immense technical knowhow, but they've forgotten to make it exciting to look at, and drive...

Pros

Technological powerhouse, with helpful rear-wheel steering and useable driverless parking aids, as well as an intuitive infotainment system and voice control that works

Cons

Lacks in performance and dynamics, and excitement, although it's a fine cruiser, plus you need to spec a lot of cost options to get all the really good stuff in the A8...

Ingolstadt’s latest flagship, the 2018 sedan, introduces the company’s design evolution and loads of firsts for the brand, such as four-wheel steering and a 48-volt electrical system, not to mention a carbon fibre reinforced structure…

2018 Audi A8 UAE

The fourth-generation, 2018 Audi A8? I heard this thing can drive itself.

It can and it can’t. The A8 is the first Level 3 production car meaning you can press the Audi AI button on the dash to let the car autonomously take over using five radars, 12 ultrasound sensors, 360-degree cameras and a lot of tech wizardry to drive itself, and then go ahead and fiddle with your phone, legally. Except it’s not legal anywhere yet.

So, um…

Yes, instead of the Audi AI button like on some of the demonstrators Auto Middle East tested in Valencia, Spain, you’ll just get a blank switch in your AED400,000 flagship Audi because no government on the planet has yet fully regulated Level 3 autonomy. The tech is all there but you can’t use any of it. Audi will gradually start rolling out the really clever AI stuff from later in 2018 if the rule makers can catch up to the future.

2018 Audi A8 UAE

Nope…

But, the Level 3 stuff is kind of the biggest deal about this car?

For now, you get every assistance system you can think of and autonomous avoidance maneuvers handy in parking garages everywhere. With this car, you can step outside and park it in and out of a gap using your smartphone. You can parallel park it on the street remotely too, while sitting in the sidewalk cafe.

That’s quite a trick.

The A8’s got a full bag of them. It starts underneath with the new structure, now made of multi materials including bits of carbon fibre at the back and magnesium around the suspension, all in the name of lower noise and 24 percent higher body rigidity compared to the outgoing third-gen model.

Like some of its VW Group cousins, the 2018 Audi A8 also features rear-wheel steering that can tuck the rear wheels in or out by up to five degrees, which is massive, giving the car a city-friendly turning circle of 11.4 metres, which means it’s been reduced by a metre.

2018 Audi A8 UAE

How does it drive, then?

The electric steering is great in urban environments and at low speeds, and the steering ratio is adaptive from 9.5:1 to about 17:1. This makes it easy to place such a big car, because after all the 2018 Audi A8 is 37mm longer and 13mm taller than its predecessor.

Visibility outward from the driver’s seat seems improved too with the minimalist dash designed lower , so on our twisty route we had no trouble in the 55 TFSI model, powered by a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 driving all four wheels via a new eight-speed transmission.

It only makes 340 horsepower and 500Nm of torque from 1,370rpm, and it won’t set your world on fire. Zero to 100km/h comes up in 5.7 seconds and top speed is limited to 250km/h, but if you’re too aggressive with the throttle pedal the A8 doesn’t respond best, with a squat, pause, and then a heave before you really get going.

Part of the problem is perhaps turbo lag, and part of the blame lies with the wide gearing and the ‘box sort of contemplating each upshift a bit too long. The V8 and the W12 model might rectify all that, but the V6 is the one that’s arriving in the Middle East first early in 2018 way before the others.

And in the corners?

The standard adaptive air suspension lets you choose between Comfort mode and Dynamic, although the latter doesn’t really make that much of a difference. The car’s new 48-volt electric system makes it possible to order up some snazzy extras though like fully-active suspension in the future, and a sports differential, but our tester had neither. It went where we asked it to go competently, but without really egging you on to explore further. There’s no urgency in the engine rewarding an open throttle, and little in the way of road feel. This is a cruiser.

So how does it cruise?

Very well, particularly with the suspension and longer wheelbase on this generation coping so well over speed bumps and pot holes, where you hardly have to slow down for them at all. The car is also quiet and smooth and now the transmission’s aversion to aggressive shifts makes sense. The interior is worth a discussion too, because the design is unrestrained and sort of diffused — there are few distractions, but lots of pleasing details in the fit and finishing.

The two large screens minimise physical buttons and voice control is genuinely useable, so that you can simply speak to the sat-nav lady asking for example, to find the nearest Mexican restaurant. Get creative. Handwriting recognition is also more intuitive, and you’ll get some novelty retracting air vents too.

The interior on the whole is 32mm bigger than before, with big gains in the headroom and legroom areas. The panoramic glass sunroof is a nice extra, although it wasn’t fitted to our tester. Even so the rear seat is a very comfortable place to be in the new A8.

It doesn’t sound like a driver’s car…

It’s not, and it doesn’t really set out to be — the 2018 Audi A8 is about demonstrating Audi’s tech punch and Ingolstadt is hitting high with the fourth-generation model, making leaps from its predecessor with that multi-material chassis, all-wheel steering, and driverless tech. It’s not quite a showy statement that the is for example, nor does it drive nearly as well as something with an M or AMG badge, but we’ll have to wait to try the V8 and W12 models to call that verdict.

Unless you spec it lavishly with some large 21-inch wheels and in a loud colour your Audi A8 will blend into the background a bit too well, and it’s not the most exciting car out there. But perhaps that’s the car’s whole point, to quietly go where no car has gone before. Well, as soon as they fill in the blank switch.

2018 Audi A8 UAE

Gotcha. How much?

The standard wheelbase 3.0-litre, badges as the Audi A8 55 TFSI, will cost you around AED390,000 and you’ll see it at next month’s Dubai motor show starting on November 14. The long wheelbase A8 L will start from AED410,000 or thereabouts, but for the V8 and W12 flagship you’ll have to wait until later next year.

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