2014 Audi A8

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Two things about the Audi A8.'14 A8 lead

First, it’s a relative bargain.

$75,100 to start – and that’s with Quattro all-wheel-drive. To put that in some perspective, Mercedes wants $92,900 for the least expensive Mercedes S-Class . . . without AWD.

Now, the Benz does come standard with a V-8 while the Audi comes standard with a supercharged V-6.

But nonetheless.

Audi also offers a turbo-diesel V-6 – unavailable in the Benz S-Class as well as other high-end luxury liners such as the Jaguar XJ and Lexus LS. BMW will be offering a diesel in the 7-Series . . . but not until next year.

The Audi has another thing going for it, too. Or not, depending on what you want:

It’s relatively demure.'14 A8 backseats 1

Though it can hit $140k fully optioned out in “L” long wheelbase form, with the 12 cylinder “W” engine under its hood – it hasn’t got the Flash Factor you get with an S-Class or XJ.

Much less a Porsche Panamera.

It’s as low profile a six-figure car as you can find – and that’s worth a lot to people who value no-holds-barred opulence but – like Elvis – prefer not to be reko-nized.


The A8 is Audi’s ultra-premium sedan.

It comes infull-size – and fuller-sized “L” (extended wheelbase) – versions, the latter giving backseat occupants limousine legroom.

You can go gas V-6 or V-8, supercharged or turbocharged.

Or diesel.

Or W12.'14 A8 L badge

Base price is $75,100 for the regular wheelbase A8 3.0T with supercharged gas V-6 and Quattro all-wheel-drive. A long-wheelbase L model with turbo-diesel V-6 lists for $82,500. Turbo V-8 equipped models start at $83,900 ($87,600 in long wheelbase form). At the pinnacle is the 6.3 liter W12-equipped, long-wheelbase model, which carries a sticker price of $135,900 – not including Grey Poupon.

Cross-shops included the Benz S-Class and BMW 7, the Jaguar XJ and the Lexus LS.


The A8 is now available with a high-efficiency – and high-performance – turbo-diesel V-6 that’s capable of getting the car to 60 in just over six seconds and also achieving 36 MPG on the highway.

For the moment, none of the big Audi roller’s competitors offer diesel power – though several do offer hybrid powertrains. However, these cost so much more (the base price of the Lexus LS hybrid is $120,970) as to make any direct comparison grossly unfair. . . to them.

WHAT’S GOOD'14 A8 quarter side

Opulent – but not ostentatious.

Diesel engine doesn’t just save you money – it saves you time. Unlike most of the cars in this segment, you won’t need to stop for fuel once every 200 miles or so.

Teched – but not over-teched.

Huge inside – doesn’t look it on the outside.

Or drive like it.

Massaging seats. Five different kinds of massages. Oh yeah.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD'14 A8 trunk 1

Superlative diesel engine is not available in regular wheelbase A8s.

Exterior styling might be too demure for status-conscious buyers.

Current A8’s trunk is on the small side (just 13.2 cubic feet) for such a large car.


Several of the cars in the A8’s class come with one kind of engine only (e.g., a V-8, as in the Lexus LS) or only offer a choice of this or that engine.

Gas V-6 or gas V-8. '14 A8 3.0 TFSI pic

That’s it.

The A8 is the only car in this class that offers buyers their choice of four very different engines.

The first – standard equipment – is a supercharged 3 liter (gas) V-6. It produces 333 hp, sufficient to get the regular wheelbase A8 to 60 MPH in about 5.3 seconds – which by the way is almost 1 second quicker to 60 than the V-8 powered Lexus LS460 (6.2 seconds) and also significantly quicker than the six-cylinder-powered BMW 740i (5.8 seconds).

The engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.'14 A8 TDI

Next up is a turbo-diesel 3 liter V-6, also paired with the eight-speed automatic. This engine produces immense torque (406 ft.-lbs. – more than many V-8s) as well as 240 hp. So equipped, the A8 is capable of getting to 60 in about 6.3 seconds – virtual dead heat with the Lexus LS460 V-8. But unlike the V-8 Lexus, the diesel Audi won’t have you stopping for fuel every 15 minutes. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration – but the Audi TDI’s EPA rated 24 city is almost 10 MPG better than the V-8 Lexus’s absolutely dismal 16 city rating. And on the highway, the Audi is capable of 36 MPG vs. 24 MPG for the V-8 Lexus – a 12 MPG difference.

The A8’s diesel is truly luxurious in that gives you the range almost all the cars in this class – excepting the uber-dollar hybrids –  lack. That it’s also as quick – or nearly so – as some of the ever-hungry V-8s in competitor models only adds insult to injury.

The one fly in the soup is that Audi only installs the diesel in the long wheelbase “L” version of the A8.'14 A8 4.0 V-8 (More on this below.)

Next up is a 4 liter V-8. A turbocharged V-8 – optional in both regular wheelbase and L versions.

Again, something different.

It makes 420 hp – and 444 ft.-lbs. of torque – oats enough to get the 0-60 time down to just 4.2 seconds, among the quickest times in this class. In fact, the A8 V-8 is only slightly less quick than the ultra-performance version of the Jaguar XJ – the XJR – which features a much larger (and much thirstier) 5 liter V-8 that does the 0-60 deed in 4.1 seconds. A hardly noticeable difference. Unlike the Jag R’ s base price of $116,895 – vs. $83,900 for the V-8 A8.

Which also comes standard with Quattro all-wheel-drive. '14 A8 W12

As do all versions of the A8 – irrespective of engine choice. All of the A8’s competitors start out in rear-drive form – with AWD an extra cost option.

But wait, there’s more.

If a V-8 (supercharged or otherwise) doesn’t quite hit the spot, Audi has one more offering left on the table:

A W12.

Twelve cylinders, arranged in a staggered “w” configuration (four rows of three cylinders arranged in two banks, sharing a common crankshaft) displacing 6.3 liters and rated for 500 hp and 463 ft.-lbs. of torque.

This engine is unique – no one else offers anything like it – which definitely adds to the exclusivity factor. The W8 engine is also smoother than a George Clooney seduction. However, the W-equipped A8 is actually less quick than the supercharged V-8 A8, requiring 4.3 seconds to reach 60. How come? Because it’s a really heavy engine – adding about 200 pounds to the car’s curb weight.'14 A8 console

It’s also a conspicuous consumer of the Earth’s precious bodily fluids. Its EPA rated 13 city is bad enough to give Al Gore a stroke – but that may just be reason enough to choose this engine. Perhaps that’s why the Big Kahuna is only available in the “stretch” L version of the A8, at a starting MSRP almost twice that of the base (regular wheelbase) supercharged V-6 A8.

All the A8’s engines come with Auto Stop/Start – a feature that automatically shuts down the engine when the car is stationary and the driver’s foot is on the brake, then automatically restarts it. This can be left on – or off – at your discretion. And – kudos to Audi – the default setting is off.

In current BMWs, it is on.Which means that every time you go for a drive, you have to manually turn the system off – if you prefer not to have the engine turn itself off at every red light.

ON THE ROAD'14 A8 road 1

I spent a week in the A8 TDI L – the stretch job, with the new (to the A8) 3 liter diesel V-6. You can expect to see more such engines, even in high-end cars like this (BMW will introduce a diesel-powered version of the 7 Series for 2015) in part for fuel economy reasons – though not so much at the behest of buyers. After all, people who can buy a $75,000 and up car are probably not too concerned about fuel economy. Bur rather, because of government fuel economy mandates that are really putting the screws to any car (and car company) that doesn’t average 30-something MPG).

But, the diesels are also becoming more commonplace – even in higher-end cars – because modern turbo-diesels are simply desirable engines in their own right.

The A8 L gets to 60 in just over six seconds, which ought to be speedy enough for all but the most extreme-o-philes. It’s also capable of nearly 40 on the highway if you don’t hammer it too hard. And even if you do hammer it, it’s almost impossible to get less than 25 or so out of it – which is easily 10 MPG better than what you’d have to deal with in competitor’s V-8 powered models  . . . and maybe even a few of their six-cylinder-powered models, too.'14 A8 road 2

This is a luxury.

Not having to deal with pit stops once every two hours on the highway – and twice a week (or more) just knocking around town.

My daily drive consists of a 60-plus mile round-trip into town and back – so in the neighborhood of 450 miles a week. As I type these words, after seven days with the A8 – the car still has a quarter tank left. I’d get maybe three days before the tank ran dry in any of the A8’s V-8 gas-burning competition. In a car like the Jag XJR you can literally watch the needle drop as you drive.

Another virtue of the diesel is its drama-free thrust – another luxurious attribute. With 400-plus ft.-bs. of torque available at almost any engine RPM (and road speed) the lightest pressure on the accelerator results in immediate forward pull – without having to spin the engine to 4,000-plus RPM and higher (as you would with most non-turbo/supercharged gas engines). The car also holds very high speeds (90-plus) at not much more than a fast idle (around 2,100 RPM) courtesy of the ultra-deep .667 overdrive ratio in 8th combined with a long-legged 2.62 final drive ratio.'14 A8 dash 1

German cars, don’t forget, are built for Germany – where one can drive for hours at triple digit speeds . . . legally.

The transmission – and other driveline parameters such as throttle response – can be adjusted via the MMI rotary input for a plusher (or sharper) driving experience. With the diesel, though, changing gears is more about having fun than having to. Because there’s so much torque on hand everywhere – anytime.

This is a big car – even the regular wheelbase version is almost 17 feet long (202.2 inches) which for some sense of scale is about a foot longer than most current mid-sized cars.'14 A8 sideview

Now add another five or so inches for the L version – riding on a 122.9 inch wheelbase.

But it does not feel big – much less ponderous – from behind the wheel. Despite its limo-like proportions, it’s very manageable – even in close quarters such as backing out of a parking spot in a busy shopping center. And once moving, it is not editorial excess to describe it as agile. In Dynamic mode, with the auto-adjusting suspension cinched down, the A8 takes to the curves in a most un-Town Car stretch way. And the ride is exactly what it should be in a car like this.

As unperturbed as a state room in the QE II.

AT THE CURB'14 A8 curb 1

There is so much room in the L’s back seats that a tall guy literally can’t touch the back of the driver’s seat without leaning forward and stretching his arms all the way out. There’s 42.9 inches of legroom back there, too – more than most luxury cars provide front seat occupants.

That goes for the A8, too.

The A8’s front seaters enjoy a comparatively skimpy 41.4 inches of legroom. But they do get 5-way massaging seats – Pulse, Wave, Stretch . . . oh, behave! It’s going to be very hard to say goodbye to the A8 when they come to pick it up.

I mentioned the demure exterior styling – relative to some of the others in this class. It looks money. Just not NBA/rap star money. You can glide by without everyone turning to look to see whether Pit Bull (or one of the Kardashians) just drove by. '14 A8 shifter 2

This, too, is luxurious.

And so is the inside. Not only because it is as opulent as a custom-ordered G4. But also because it’s not an intimidating – or exasperating – car to drive.

I liked, for instance, that the A8 has a conventional-in-theme gear selector. Instead of a Game Boy-esque toggle that provides no mechanical feedback, your hand falls to a T-shaped handle on the console. Depress the release to the left with your thumb, then pull back for Drive (or Sport). Reverse is forward – Park one more up. Yes, it’s drive-by-wire, just like all the others. But there’s a definite , physical sensation of engaging the individual ranges that none of the other cars in this class offer.

The rest of the A8’s controls are similarly intuitive, tactile – and not fussy.'14 A8 comfort seat

Which is relaxing . . . which is (wait for it) luxurious.

Every trim comes standard with “soft-touch” doors that shut themselves tight, an electric eye foot-swipe opener for the trunk and Wi-Fi access via Audi Connect. Notable options include power actuated side privacy screens (a rear privacy screen is standard) a solar sunroof, night vision camera and – in L models – an Executive Rear Seat Comfort Package that reconfigures the backseats to one “relaxation” back seat that folds out like a Barcalounger, with a powered footrest.

Home, Jeeves!


The ’14 A8 has one significant flaw – and one minor one. '14 A8 trunk 2

For a large car, it has a very small trunk. Just 13.2 cubic feet. That’s about the same size as a Toyota Corolla’s trunk (13 cubes). On the other hand, several of the other big cars in this class also have pretty tiny trunks. Or at least, some of the other German-brand big cars have tiny trunks. Just 14 cubes in the BMW 7; a rather downsized 16.3 in the Benz S. The latter two are better (well, bigger) but for cars this size, they’re still on the small size, trunk-wise.

The Lexus LS has an appropriately big car trunk – 18 cubes.

But none of these modern rollers have trunks like they used to make ’em. Goodfellas-style, like you’d find in a ’70 Buick Electra 225 or Cadillac Sedan deVille. But then, they didn’t have massaging seats, either.'70 Cadillac trunk pic

Final note: Buyers who like the current A8 but who could use more trunk might want to wait a few months for the introduction of the 2015 model, which will get a larger trunk  -as well as 15 more hp for the 4 liter V-8.

Oh. And the minor grip? That the diesel engine is a long-wheelbase-only deal. Why? The performance – and mileage – would be even better in the slightly smaller, lighter regular wheelbase A8. Ir certainly ought to be on the options list.

After all, not everyone needs stretch-limo accommodations for the backseat occupants. But 36 MPG – and just over six seconds to 60? '14 A8 tail view

Who wouldn’t want that?


Evaluating a car involves subjectives as well as objectives. For me, the A8 is closest to the ideal of what a luxury car ought to be. It is graceful, elegant, super comfortable – and most of all, tasteful.

Objectively, it’s also a fantastic deal – and the unusually wide array of drivetrain choices, most notably the new TDI diesel, make it the go-to car in the segment as far as I am concerned.

Even if it does have a teensy trunk.

Throw it in the Woods?

Eric Peters is a veteran car/bike journalist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs. Twitter handle: LibertarianCarG (they would not let me have LibertarianCarGuy).

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  1. Even the smaller modern diesels are very very good. Go test-drive a Mercedes GLK-250. It has a 2.1 liter four cylinder diesel with twin sequential turbochargers. There is very little lag from the 369 ft-lbs of torque that come on at about 1600 rpm.

    A small SUV that gets 33mpg highway? That’s not too far away from what a Civic gets.

  2. No Eric, I admit I haven’t driven a diesel in about 10 years. I’m sure sure, big torque can be fun, especially if the turbo lag is minimized.

    But I question the validity of comparing the speed of “modern” diesels against much older gas V-8s. A more valid comparison would be against 2014 V-8 Mustangs and Camaros. Of course, that would be “no comparison” at all. 😉

    • I hope you get a chance – it’s a revelation!

      In re the muscle car comparison:

      The huge torque is very reminiscent of big-inch V-8 pull, especially at launch.

      Try one and see!

  3. Why not an automotive kick in the teeth while you’re down? Mexico has surpassed Japan in the number of autos imported to the US. Soon they’ll overtake Canada and be number one.

    Mexico Trumps Japan As Number 2 USA Car Imporer

    US is #4 Auto Manufacturer in the world

    USA share is 4/63 million cars or 6% of world production.

    America’s Disappearing Restaurant Chains

    A thought experiment: what if we broke the internet?

    • GM, Ford, et al, have major operations south of the border. For the obvious reason. It is much cheaper to manufacture a vehicle in Mexico than it is to manufacture it here. $10/hour for Mexican labor vs. prolly $40 an hour for an American line worker.

      Now, I’m no huge fan of the unions.

      But I’m also not a fan of international labor arbitrage, either.

      Cui bono?

      Yes, the Mexican line workers get “jobs.” But they are ill-paid, ill-treated. Do American car buyers get lower-priced cars? No, of course not.

      The labor/manufacturing “savings” are simply pocketed by the corporations.

      It’s not fair – or healthy.

      • When they call something a free trade agreement, we can be sure it is something else entirely.

        It seems you can drive to Mexico, sell your vehicle at a premium and then come back to the US with a nice profit

        Used cars don’t seem to lose value in Mexico like they do in the United States or Canada. Some people have reported that a five year old Yucatecan car can cost nearly as much as a new one,

        Mexican Auto Dealers Decry Cross Border Black Market

        How to import your car into Mexico and get Mexican plates

        US Auto Industry and Mexico-US Free Trade Agmt

      • Here, here. The only beef I have with unions is that they reflexively support the Democrat party over even strong pro-union candidates that took their supposed side on NAFTA, GATT and buying American made products. Unions are just as much part of the marketplace is corporations and regulated monopolies. I am for free trade as long as it’s fair. You can’t have free trade with countries whose citizens live in deplorable third world conditions. You can argue that China has a middle class the size of ours, but it also has 1.0 billion citizens that are toiling in factories 60 hours a week for $0.13 an hour. That, my friends, is the price of “competitiveness.” What we have isn’t free trade, for you can’t have free trade with unfree countries. 23 million manufacturing jobs lost since 1973, 25% real wage declines since 1970 and $700 billion back to back trade deficits in goods should tell us something. Throw it in the woods.

        • “We hear calls for fair trade. Who is to decide what is fair trade? Congress. Ah, yes: Congress. The source of fairness if ever there was one. No special interests there, putting their PAC-filled fingers on the balance scale of justice. […]

          Do you care what percentage of goods people in your state sell to people in some other state, vs. how much they buy from people in your state? Of course not. Then why should you care about China? What difference does an invisible judicial line make regarding the profitability of your trade with someone else? Why do you care whether the other guy is named Wong or Brown? UPS will still deliver. So will FedEx.

          [People such as swamprat might say:] Until our politicians start insisting on a level playing field, all of this is going to continue.

          Yes, I see! We need more regulations! We need more people with guns and badges making things fair for us. Slavery is freedom. […]

          The problem is not China. It is not India. It is not imports. The problem is the endless call from each special-interest group for the government to Do Something to Save America. The problem is that the government has done way to much for too long, all in the name of Doing Something to Save America.”


          “People are remarkably schizophrenic in their attitudes toward competition.” …


          “Free trade simply means that every citizen of every country is free to trade with any citizen of any country. The alternative to free trade is protectionism, whether in the form of tariffs or import quotas.” …


          “Original mercantilism was a widely believed and invariably incorrect theory of trade that insisted that a nation grows rich by exporting more than it imports. David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, refuted this logic over 250 years ago. His fellow Scot, Adam Smith, refuted it in detail in 1776.

          A nation gets rich only if its residents get rich. Residents get rich by increasing their productivity. They stay rich by being allowed by the government to do whatever they want with their wealth, whether counted in gold, bank accounts, or goods. Liberty is the #1 basis of increasing people’s ability to become more efficient and therefore more productive. That was Smith’s argument in 1776. This is denied by Keynesianism.” …


          “The rapid loss of manufacturing jobs has many causes (its not free trade), but we must also remember that most Americans no longer aspire to get a manufacturing job. Furthermore, these jobs will continue to lose out to automation and foreign competition.” …


          “The labor unions and environmentalists don’t want the WTO abolished; they want to use it to advance their own anti-capitalist agenda. […]
          Frederic Bastiat had it right: when goods do not cross borders, the way is prepared for troops.” …


          “buy something made in Asia. Support the revolution.”


          • Many nations are sufficiently civilized now. What about opening the borders of just Russia and Canada, and see how it works out.

            If its good, open the world except areas plagued with excessive violence or other problems, which will continue to be bordered off.

            You’d need to strengthen the borders around the internal military bases. Maybe create a buffer zone of base-adjacent militarized territory. Distribute the weaponry among a much more dispersed and populous militarized residential area. (like Spartans?)

            The borders that remain, would be kind of like a firewall. Keep the civilized productive world away from: Warring states. Jihadi states. High violence states.

            Nations With Most Murders

            Country murders per 100K: total murders
            Honduras 91.6: 7,104
            El Salvador 69.2 : 4,308
            Ivory Coast 56.9 : 10,801
            Venezuela 45.1 1: 3,080
            Belize 41.4 : 129
            Jamaica 40.9: 1,125
            Guatemala 38.5: 5,681
            Zambia 38.0: 4,710
            Bahamas 36.6: 127

  4. You call the A8’s styling “demure.” I’d call it “long in the tooth.”

    You seem to suggest that diesel engines in this price range are “upmarket.” I’d say they are certainly “practical.” But that is not the same thing. In this class, 0-60 in 6 seconds is pretty unimpressive. It’s certainly awesome if you consider mpg and range between fuel stops. That however, is something that is more of a priority for Volvo buyers.

    If we’re indulging the hypothesis that we are players at this price point….make mine a Turbo Panamera!

    • Hi Mike,

      Audi’s entire passenger car line is – my opinion – understated, stylistically. Which I personally like. It’s an alternative to the (again, my opinion) lurid, garish “bling bling” aesthetic embodied by current high-end Benzes.

      Now, who drives these cars? High-end luxury sedans, that is?

      Are they – typically – people who drag race from stoplight to stoplight? I don’t think they are. What they do want – what they expect and demand – is effortless-seeming, authoritative acceleration . . . especially part throttle acceleration. Without having to “floor it.”

      And a 400-plus ft.-lb. diesel absolutely delivers this.

      The mileage is a plus – in the form of less frequent put stops and much greater driving range.

      I have driven pretty much every car in this class – and while something like an S550 is a potent performer, if you use that potent performance, you’d be amazed – shocked – how soon you’ll be needing to fill it up again. Some of them, driven lustily, will drain an entire tank in less than 200 miles.

      That gets old, fast.

      • “Now, who drives these cars? High-end luxury sedans, that is?

        Are they – typically – people who drag race from stoplight to stoplight? I don’t think they are. What they do want – what they expect and demand – is effortless-seeming, authoritative acceleration . . . especially part throttle acceleration. Without having to “floor it.”

        And a 400-plus ft.-lb. diesel absolutely delivers this.”

        OK Eric, in your scenario above, I have to agree that an oil burner could be construed to be “upmarket.” But your enthusiasm for these engines seems to exceed the limits of logic.

        If you ever get the chance to test and review a new Porsche 911, I’m pretty sure you’ll be very upset if a nice diesel engine is not an available option. 😉

            • I am partial to modern diesels – because they perform exceptionally well while also making economic sense. It’s pretty cool, isn’t it, to know there are BMWs and Audis that are quicker (and faster) than most V-8 muscle cars were… that also can tickle 40 MPG on the highway?

              Out of curiosity, have you driven one?

    • Hmm.. I could only beg he does something with an Audi A10 Chiph.. But I think the Transporter series requires Statham to have more class and drive something stately.

    • Hi Chip,

      As much fun as the S8 is (and it’s a lot of fun), give me an A8L with the diesel. Seriously. The car is a joy to drive. If I were stuck dealing with any kind of regular traffic imbroglios, the A8 would be my refuge. z2TZ9z4_JP6jj1JhCaVOneG36S4

      If, of course, I could afford one!


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