- Beautifully crafted interior
- Huge backseat, even in the shorter S8
- Driving it just as much as you'll like riding in it
- The A8 isn't as "prestigious" as some of its rivals
- Knowing that a next-gen car is just over the horizon
Audi A8 Expert Review
New for 2017
The big news for the new model year is just that: big. For 2017, Audi has decided that the majority of the A8 lineup will come in long-wheelbase (LWB) A8 L trim only, with the S8 plus being the sole remaining A8 model available with the shorter wheelbase. The A8 L is a little over 5 inches longer than the S8, with the majority of that extra room going to passengers in the backseat. The only other change to the A8 lineup is a subtle tweak of the V-6-powered A8 L's front fascia.
The A8 is Audi's flagship sedan. The A8 sits at the top of the lineup, reigning over all along with the R8 supercar. The A8 has traditionally been the model that Audi uses to introduce its latest and greatest technology innovations to the public.
With Audi's German rivals significantly revamping their flagship executive sedans in the past few years, Audi is trimming the fat on the A8 lineup as it works to develop the next-generation A8. Even still, 2017 Audi A8 shoppers will have plenty of choices to make. First, there's the choice of wheelbase length—the A8 L (now the "base" car for 2017) is 5 inches longer than the S8 Plus, which retains the previously stock wheelbase.
Then, buyers will have to select a choice of engine. The base version of the A8, the 2017 Audi A8 L 3.0T comes standard with a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 that produces 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. A step up the line is the A8 L 4.0T Sport, which is powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 good for 450 hp and 444 lb-ft of torque. A step up the line is the short-wheelbase 2017 Audi S8 Plus. The S8 Plus picks up where the A8 L 4.0T Sport leaves off, using the same engine but boosting power to an eye-watering 605 hp and 517 lb-ft of torque. Topping the lineup is the A8 L W12. This big cruiser is powered by a 6.3-liter W-12, which produces 500 hp and 463 lb-ft of torque. No matter the engine choice, all A8s feature eight-speed automatic transmissions and all-wheel drive.
Given the power outputs, the A8 lineup isn't the most miserly bunch. The most efficient is not surprisingly the A8 L 3.0T, which is EPA-rated at 19/29/22 mpg city/highway/combined. The More powerful A8 L 4.0T Sport gets one less city mpg, but otherwise posts similar results with an 18/29/22 mpg rating. The S8 Plus achieves 15/24/18 mpg on the EPA cycle. Official EPA numbers haven't been released for the 2017 Audi A8 L W12, but the 2016 model was rated 14/22/17 mpg rating.
No matter the choice of engine, Audi A8 buyers are getting tremendous cars. While they may not be as dynamically thrilling as some others in the segment, the A8s are notable for their gorgeously crafted interiors, comfortable seats, and for how well technologies like Wi-Fi and Google Maps are integrated into the cabin.
With such a low production volume, it's not surprising to learn that neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has ever crash-tested an Audi A8. While we can't speak to non-existent crash tests, it is worth noting that the A8 is available with what Audi calls the Driver Assistance Package. This package includes automatic high-beam, adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, and a pre-collision braking system. While pricey at $2250, the system has proven effective at improving crash test scores in other models of the Audi lineup available with the tech.
What We Think
The Audi A8 may be up for replacement for the 2018 model year, but we were still lucky enough to score some seat time in an S8 Plus pretty recently. We were particularly smitten with the S8's power output. We described what a stab of the throttle feels like thusly: "Rather than feeling like being shot from a circus cannon like the R8 supercar's amusement park acceleration, this acceleration feels more inevitable, like what would happen if you were to step off a cliff. Maybe it's the cars' stately proportions, the double-pane sound-insulating glass, or the dignified seating position, but the landscape simply grows ever more cone-shaped, focused at the tip, blurring more at the edges, and then you take notice of the speedometer registering super-legal speeds. Oh, that's 120 mph. Wait. That's 120 miles per hour?!"
As for the Audi's creature comforts? Well, they're pretty great, too, as we found out driving an A8 L 4.0T. On the tech front, the A8 is particularly strong, with the MMI infotainment system being a particular highlight. "The MMI system is essentially the same version as that found in other Audi sedans, but it really shows its stuff in the A8. Google Maps takes the navigation system a step above anything else out there. Not only is it available for the driver, but it can be viewed on the rear screens as well."
While in most cars, the driver's seat is the best in the house, that's not so in the A8. "We journalists often compare luxury cars to jets, more specifically to flying business or first class. As someone who flies back and forth to Europe an average of once a month or more, I feel qualified to use this analogy, especially here. This is the first car that truly feels like sinking into a Lufthansa Business Class Seat. Let me clarify, for an additional $11,250 (a number I have seen printed on the face of a business class ticket from LAX to Munich), you get the Executive Rear Seat Comfort Package. For the price of renting a seat on a 747, you get upgraded leather, a small refrigerator, a power footrest that deploys from the back of the front passenger seat, and rear seats with heat, cooling and massage functions. Obviously, this is intended for a car that will be shuttling executives around — or someone who really loves their kid — because this is one the best seats in the entire automotive world to ride in."