The Audi A8 features impressive tech and a luxurious interior, but can’t match the Mercedes S-Class for comfort

The fourth-generation Audi A8 edges even closer to the segment-leading Mercedes S-Class, but still falls just short of its main rival, despite some impressive attributes. It’s beautifully made and sumptuously finished, but the S-Class is more comfortable, especially for rear seat passengers.

But this doesn’t detract from the fact that the A8 is a deeply impressive limo, as the big Audi comes with fuel-efficient engines, a superb minimalist interior design and more kit than ever on board. When Level 3 autonomous driving technology does finally become available, the A8 will be an even harder luxury car to resist.

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Audi A8 50 TDI

The Audi A8 and longer wheelbase A8 L showcase the company's latest technology. It's for sale in the luxury limousine sector, and with a starting price of around £71,000 (with the A8 L around £4,000 more than that), it's not a purchase for the faint hearted.

But what you get for the money is one of the most technologically advanced cars you can buy, as well as being one of the most comfortable. There's lots of interior space, while the gadgets on board are designed to make life as easy as possible, as well as boosting comfort. The A8 needs to be comfortable to challenge its rivals, which include the class-leading Mercedes S-Class, the technology-laden BMW 7 Series and Lexus LS, plus traditional models like the Jaguar XJ , Maserati Quattroporte and Bentley Flying Spur.

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Under the skin, the aluminium chassis tech is something that Audi pioneered with the first A8 of 1994, while power comes from large capacity TFSI petrol and TDI diesel engines. These engines use Audi's new numbering system, so there's a choice of 50 TDI and 55 TFSI units. However, the numbers don't relate to engine size, but instead are given according to the power that they make. In this instance, the engines are 3.0-litre V6 units with either 282bhp (the TDI diesel) or 335bhp (the TFSI petrol).

4.2
4.2/5
Ride quality niggles remain, but the A8 has been built with an autonomous future in mind
3.5
3.5/5
Mild hybrid system delivers respectable economy, but depreciation remains a big problem for the A8
4.5
4.5/5
Understated styling hides a first-rate, minimalist cabin, with a generous level of standard equipment
4
4/5
High levels of comfort and space, especially in the rear, but the S-Class still edges it for ultimate luxury
4.5
4.5/5
Autonomous systems will boost safety, but Audi’s dealers don’t enjoy the best reputation

All cars come with a Tiptronic automatic gearbox and quattro four-wheel drive, so there's solid grip in all weathers, and the A8 is a doddle to drive. One highlight of the A8 that still hasn't come on-stream is Level 3 driving autonomy. This software is included on the A8, but isn't active because the relevant local legislation isn't in place to allow the car to drive in autonomous mode at low speeds. Still, party tricks such as self-parking and adaptive cruise control should keep you amused in the meantime.

The rest of the standard kit list is equally impressive. There's LED lights front and rear, air-suspension for the most comfortable ride possible, high-definition touchscreen displays throughout the cabin and Internet connectivity. Go for the longer A8 L, and not only do you get more legroom, but the back seats get heating, separate climate controls and extra gadgets, including a removable tablet control system.

Last updated: 
20 May, 2019