Review: Audi A8 (2017)


Lots of innovative tech. Effortless to drive. Excellent ride quality. Luxurious interior. 3.0-litre TFSI petrol is fast yet refined.

Expensive. Anonymous looks. Petrol is thirsty.

Audi A8 (2017): At A Glance

The 4th generation Audi A8 of 2017 is a luxurious saloon, sophisticated and packed with tech, that wouldn't look out of place in a James Bond movie while its autonomous driving capability and remote parking features provide a fascinating insight into what Audi has planned for its next-generation of everyday cars.  

Like the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Audi A8 is designed to waft VIPs, celebrities and well-heeled passengers from A to B in lavish style and comfort. The interior is beautifully finished, with high quality wood trims, smooth touchscreen controls and handstitched leather trims. 

The A8 is enjoyed best as a passenger, with the large rear seats providing a near-silent sanctuary from the outside world. The leather materials wouldn't be amiss from an upmarket hotel lounge, while the wide and soft cushioning provides opulent comfort over long distance travel, especially when fitted with the massaging and heating functions. 

As well as more comfort, more interior space and a more rounded ride quality than before, the A8 also has some computerised party pieces up its sleeves. Audi AI traffic jam pilot, for example, allows the car to automatically control throttle and brakes responses, while also steering the car in nose-to-tail traffic up to speeds of 37mph.

Autonomous driving isn’t the only fancy bit of next-gen tech. Active suspension independently raises and lowers individual wheels to give an impeccable ride quality over rough road surfaces and potholes, while all-wheel drive provides smooth and responsive handling.

Indeed, despite measuring over five metres in length, the Audi A8 is a very good car to drive and its refined throttle and steering responses make it easy to get the most of its sophisticated running gear. Initially there were two engines – a 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel and a 3.0 V6 TFSI petrol. Both use a 48-volt mild hybrid system to improve economy and provide a smooth, near-silent set away. A more-powerful V8 diesel and plug-in hybrid join in 2018.

The exterior might not be as eye-catching as its rivals, but the understated design and plush interior give the Audi A8 an upmarket feel that nudges it ever closer to the leader of the limo-pack, the S-Class. The autonomous capability also gives an exciting preview of what Audi has in store for the next-generation A3 and A4, with the technology certain to filter down into the carmaker's everyday vehicles over the next few years.  

Audi A8 2018 road test

What does a Audi A8 (2017) cost?

List Price from £72,120
Buy new from £51,289
Contract hire from £617.15 per month

Audi A8 (2017): What's It Like Inside?

Length 5172–5302 mm
Width 2130 mm
Height 1473–1488 mm
Wheelbase 2998–3128 mm

Full specifications

As a passenger experience, the Audi A8 comes extremely close to matching the comfort and refinement of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The ride is slightly firmer than its German rival, but the A8 provides exemplary body control. Indeed, despite weighing in at more than two tonnes, the A8 wafts over rough roads without disturbing those sitting in the rear. 

The smart and minimalist dashboard is dominated by a two-tier touchscreen that measures close to 20-inches. This crisp and clear display provides easy access to all of the navigation, media, ventilation and in-car operations.

Even the air vent controls are operated via smart touch controls. Audi's Virtual Cockpit instrument binnacle is also fitted as standard, which means the driver can customise the display so it overlays maps and directions on the display. 

The first class theme is continued in the back, where an optional rear screen - standard on long-wheelbase models - operates sunblinds, seat adjustments, massage functions and mood lighting. The controller - situated in the centre arm rest - can be removed and operated like a tablet, but will run out of charge if left out of its holder for too long. 

The A8 will carry three adults in the back, but it works best as a two seater due to the slight elevation of the middle seat. The door pockets are deep and wide, which means passengers can store drinks, a laptop or the phone in the door. Head and legroom is also plentiful, while the long-wheelbase version provides the sort of interior space you'd expect from the first class seat of a transatlantic aircraft.

An optional two-piece panoramic glass sunroof brings more light into the interior, while optional tablet screens can be added to the headrests to allow passengers to watch digital TV or simply follow the vehicle’s route via the navigation. All versions get a 505-litre boot, which will easily carry three or four large suitcases.

Specification (from December 2017):

All Audi A8 models feature adaptive air-suspension, Audi virtual cockpit fully digital instrument cluster, LED headlights with High-beam assist and LED rear lights, eight-speed tiptronic transmission with hill hold assist, 18-inch S-V-spoke design alloy wheels (on 3.0-litre engines) and 235/55R18 tyres, electrically adjustable wing mirrors (heated, folding, auto-dimming and LED indicators), acoustic windscreen, side and rear windows with heated-insulated glass, climate control seats in Valcona leather with 4-way electric lumbar support and memory, heated front seats (heated front and rear on LWB models), twin spoke leather multi-function steering wheel with shift paddles, 2-zone automatic air conditioning (4-zone on LWB models), metallic paint, a power-operated tailgate, advanced key entry, 10.1-inch touch display, secondary 8.6-inch display, camera-based traffic sign recognition, full-colour head-up display, MMI Navigation plus MMI touch, Audi connect, Audi Sound system with DAB radio and Audi Music Interface, Audi Phonebox wireless charging and smartphone interface, Parking System Plus with front and rear sensors, rearview parking camera, adaptive cruise control with Stop and Go, LED lighting pack, Audi Pre-sense Basic, Audi Pre-sense Front, Lane departure warning including emergency assist and a tyre-pressure warning light.

Long wheelbase versions add heated rear seats, four-zone climate control, rear music interface, electric sunblinds, comfort rear headrests, 230V socket in rear and rear seat remote control with a 5.7-inch OLED tablet.

Child seats that fit a Audi A8 (2017)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Audi A8 (2017) like to drive?

It might be designed for passengers. And be the size of a small city centre apartment. But the Audi A8 is a surprisingly capable and stress-free car to drive. The steering and pedals, for example, transmit very little vibration to the driver, while the handling is nimble and accurate. Indeed, just a deft touch is required to make slight adjustments to speed or road position. 

At 5172mm long and 1945mm wide, the Audi A8 is a big car. Things grow to van-like proportions when you opt for the long-wheelbase version, with the A8 L stretching out to 5330mm.

As a result, we’d recommend fitting the optional four-wheel drive package, which give the A8 a much lighter feel on the road - it also reduces the turning circle by more than a metre, which makes the A8 a lot easier to park and turn when space is tight.

All of the engines get 'mild hybrid' tech, which comprises of small lithium-ion battery to allow the car to coast along without using the engine. Given its considerable size and weight, the A8 is reasonably efficient by Audi's official figures, with the entry-level 286PS 3.0 V6 TDI (badged as 50 TDI under Audi's revised naming structure) returning an advertised 50.4mpg.

The 340PS 3.0 V6 TFSI petrol (55 TFSI) is the least efficient, returning 37.7mpg under the combined NEDC test. Both versions use an eight-speed automatic gearbox and there are no plans to add a manual. 

There's a V8 diesel and a full plug-in hybrid (from late 2018) with the latter covering up to 31 miles on electric power alone. 

The 50 TDI is the most-rounded engine in the range, with 600Nm of torque providing mountains of low-gear torque. This means the A8 will complete the 0-62mph dash in less than six seconds, which makes overtaking seldom an issue. However, despite the executive punch, the engine is smooth and refined, only emitting a low-pitched rumble when pressed hard. 

You'd have to feel strongly against diesel to opt for the TFSI engine. It's not that it's bad - far from it, it's refined and offers good performance when you're heavy with the throttle. But, if you are, the running costs are crippling. In day-to-day use, we averaged mid-20s MPG according to the trip computer. With a bit of hypermiling we were able to reach the NEDC figure but, if you're economy-minded, why not choose the diesel or - if you're worried about diesel penalties being introduced - wait for the plug-in hybrid?

While the technology fitted to the A8 generally makes life easier, it can be a hindrance at times. For example, we found the lane departure warning with emergency assist a little too keen to interfere. At one point, overtaking a cyclist, the car detected the driver crossing the centre of the road and nudged the steering back towards the cyclist.

The ride quality is much better than the old A8, with the adaptive air suspension – fitted as standard – smoothing out bumps in the road. Corners can be taken with pace, without troubling passengers while the body is only liable to pitching uncomfortably when you brake or accelerate hard. From mid-2018, an active suspension system is available, allowing the car to automatically adjust damping and ride height to improve ride quality over rough roads. 

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
50 TDI 46–50 mpg 5.9 s 145–160 g/km
55 TFSI 34–38 mpg 5.6 s 171–182 g/km
L 55 TFSI 34–35 mpg 5.7 s 175–182 g/km
L50 TDI 47–50 mpg 5.9 s 146–159 g/km
L55 TFSI 34–38 mpg 5.7 s 171–181 g/km