2022 Audi A8 First Review

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2022 Audi A8 review 1

Can revisions to the Audi A8 limo make it a more effective rival for the Mercedes S-Class? We find out…

Perhaps it’s a size thing – or, at the very least, a purpose thing. After all, we’re on board with gratuitously powerful sports cars of any variety, but driving a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 Audi A8 in 2021 does feel like turning up to a bar mitzvah with a plate of pork chops.

Yet the new Range Rover and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, not to mention existing rivals such as the BMW 7 Series, all offer potent V8s, so why wouldn’t Audi? Of course, the A8 will come with a range of options, including a 3.0-litre V6 petrol or diesel in the 50 TDI and 55 TFSI respectively, and there’s also a plug-in hybrid, the A8 60 TFSI e, which is not confirmed for Australia. This boasts a more energy-dense 14.4kWh usable battery capacity, so will go a bit further on electric power than 45km. The 385kW Audi S8 still tops the line-up.

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Other highlights for this update include fresh styling with a wider, brasher grille, new OLED rear lights, and digital matrix LED headlights on top-spec Vorsprung models. These contain 1.3 million micromirrors, which can be adjusted 5,000 times per second. The new facelifted Audi A8 is due in Australia around mid-2022.

Our European-spec test car driven here has a detuned version of the S8’s V8, which Audi likely won’t sell in Australia. But every A8 will get all-wheel drive and adaptive air suspension, while our car’s four-wheel steering and predictive suspension are pertinent to the S8.

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Even with a low-fat, 330kW version of the V8, the Audi A8 is lavishly potent, with the enormous spread of torque making it easy for the smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox to keep the engine in its comfort zone; the shifts are barely perceptible unless the engine is under full load. Although it must be noted that the plug-in hybrid offers very similar performance to this V8, but is yet to be confirmed locally.

Hopefully the predictive air suspension will be available because it works seriously well and would improve the ride comfort on those standard cars that we know falls a little short of newer rivals.

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This system uses a camera to read the road ahead and adjusts the suspension for maximum comfort, while in high-speed corners it “leans” the A8 to keep it from rolling too much. It even helps to counteract any heavy pitch and dive under braking and accelerating, and lifts the car by 50mm when you unlock it to make it easier to get in.

It gives the A8 unflappable confidence no matter whether you’re on the freeway, chauffeuring clients into town, or making the most of a good road. Nothing flusters it, which is precisely what you want from a big limo. Sure, the Mercedes S-Class has more fluid, tactile steering, and SUV alternatives like the current Range Rover and Bentley Bentayga have more practical boots, but the Audi remains a precision masterpiece in all the ways that you expect it to be.

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Naturally, there’s enough room in the back for a couple of very tall passengers to recline in lavish comfort – especially in the long-wheelbase A8 that can be had with the full gamut of footrests, massage functions and entertainment and connectivity tech.

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Up front, the stack of twin touchscreens still dominates the A8’s dashboard, and although they don’t look as modern as the uninterrupted, single-screen architecture in the S-Class, the Audi’s are actually easier to use. A straightforward menu layout, pin-sharp graphics and a gearshifter that steadies your hand as you prod away at the screen all help, and of course you get sat-nav, Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charging and more on every model. The secondary screen for climate control isn’t quite so responsive, but it’s still perfectly easy to use while driving.

There’s no doubt that the Mercedes S-Class has a more cutting-edge feel, but don’t discount the Audi – especially given that its lease costs are likely to be usefully lower than those of its shiny new nemesis.

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This mild refresh for the A8 hasn’t transformed its eternal position as bridesmaid to the Mercedes S-Class. Even so, while we wish the S8’s predictive air suspension was offered across the full range, Audi’s largest sedan is still every bit the hi-tech tour de force you expect and, whether you’re in the driving seat or reclining in the back, the facelifted Audi A8 is a consummate professional.

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Vicky Parrot

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