2022 Audi A8 and S8 Review

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2022 Audi A8 1

We test drive the facelift 2022 Audi A8 and S8 ahead of its arrival in Australia this year.

The Audi A8 has long been a familiar sight at red-carpet events – mainly because it’s frequently the vehicle of choice for chauffeuring around Hollywood A-listers and other VIPs. And now, like a lot of those stars of the silver screen, it’s had a facelift for 2022.

Arriving in Australia around mid-2022, visual changes you can expect to see include an even wider front grille, which ditches the horizontal bars of old for more intricate detailing, flanked by more upright vents and reshaped headlights.

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Higher spec versions now incorporate digital matrix LED technology, which is said to allow a greater range of adjustment than conventional matrix lights. This helps them better illuminate the lane you’re in and widen the pool of light they produce on dark rural lanes – all without dazzling oncoming traffic.

Other cutting-edge technology includes predictive air suspension that uses a camera to ‘read’ the road ahead and prepare the car accordingly, although sadly that’s only fitted to the flagship Audi S8 model.

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The S8 is powered by a 420kW/800Nm 4.0-litre petrol V8, while the only engine option in Australia for the regular A8 is a 210kW/600Nm 3.0-litre diesel V6 (badged 50 TDI). However, overseas markets get a full suite of engines including a 250kW 3.0-litre petrol V6 (55 TFSI) and a plug-in hybrid (60 TFSIe), which pairs the same petrol V6 with a 94kW electric motor. The 60 TFSIe can officially travel up to 58km on electric power alone. While not coming to Australia, it should be noted that the hybrid system is impressively intelligent, switching smoothly between petrol and electric power, and choosing the right moments to activate the car’s regenerative brakes.

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The 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine is capable of a reasonable 7L/100km fuel economy claim and CO2 emissions starting from around 183g/km – not bad at all for a big, heavy sedan that can reach 100km/h from rest in less than six seconds.

Every A8 has Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system, which provides impressive all-weather traction and reassurance. Four-wheel steering is an option on lesser models, and standard on the S8. It turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the fronts at town speeds, making this huge sedan surprisingly manoeuvrable, while on faster roads the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts, which enhances stability.

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The A8’s four-wheel steering manages to avoid the unpredictable changes in response to steering inputs that can be an issue with such systems. However, while this ensures the car feels surefooted, you’d never call it agile, because its big body leans quite heavily through bends, even when the standard air suspension is in its Dynamic setting. As a result, the latest Mercedes S-Class is more enjoyable to drive on a road with lots of twists and turns.

Of course, pointy handling is far from the top priority with luxury sedans, and the good news is that the A8 excels when it comes to ride comfort. It takes the sting out of all manner of lumps and bumps without ever feeling floaty – you just notice a tiny bit of shimmy at times.

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In addition, the A8 is a quieter cruiser than the S-Class, keeping wind and road noise to an absolute minimum, even on a freeway. Only the engine disturbs the peace at times, because it doesn’t sound especially appealing when you put your foot down hard.

By contrast, you’ll want to rev the V8 in the S8 to hear it’s cultured growl. And while its steering doesn’t offer the feel you get from smaller performance sedans such as the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63, the way the S8 cushions yet controls over a winding, undulating road is seriously impressive.

Not much has changed here, but then it didn’t really need to, because the A8 is beautifully finished inside, with superbly luxurious materials, lashings of soft leather and a standard of assembly that trumps even the latest S-Class.

True, the infotainment system is more distracting to use on the move than the one in the BMW 7 Series, but the A8’s is still relatively easy to interact with. It’s based around two large touchscreens that respond quickly to commands, and have logical menus and sharp graphics.

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It also helps that you can operate many of the functions using steering-wheel-mounted buttons, and that the customisable digital instrument display provides a lot of information with admirable clarity.

You get acres of space in the back of the A8, too – especially if you go for the long-wheelbase stretched version. Plus, you can add two high-definition 10.1-inch screens to entertain back-seat passengers while the Relaxation Seats heat and massage their feet and bodies.

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Finally, the boot of most versions is big enough to take your long-haul luggage without any trouble, although the BMW X7, Range Rover and other SUV alternatives offer more practicality with their big, hatchback-style boot openings. However, the TFSIe makes do with just 390 litres, because its batteries take up a good chunk of boot space. For reference, the much smaller Audi A4 sedan offers 480 litres.

As for the S8, it doesn’t offer the cornering thrills of something like a BMW M5 but it is hugely appealing in its own right because it’s crushingly fast yet comfortable and quiet. For the A8, it is an impressive car that’s sure to raise Audi’s status as a maker of top-class luxury sedans. It has neither the restrained elegance and sumptuous ride of the S-Class nor the athletic responses of the 7 Series, but it has the technology to compete with both and may well appeal to buyers who like their luxury sedan to look a little more subtle.

Steve Huntingford

Final Verdict:

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