Quattro four-wheel drive is standard, as is an eight-speed torque-converter transmission. There’s also a new 48V electrical system – first seen in the SQ7 – that bestows ‘mild hybrid’ status on the A8 and allows for engine-off coasting and extended stop-start capabilities.
Fine-tuning the luxury Audi A8
Audi claims the A8 ushers in a new era of design for the entire brand, although you could quite easily contest that. The neat aesthetic follows on from the latest A4 and A5 models, with an understated silhouette that uses sharp creases and innovative lighting (the A8 gets optional laser headlights and OLED rear lights that offer remarkable fluidity) to inject some vitality.
However, it is not a particularly arresting machine and suffers the indignity of Ingolstadt’s current fascination with fake exhaust tips. The body, meanwhile, is 37mm longer and 13mm taller but around half a centimetre narrower than before. It’s allowed Audi to enlarge the door openings and stretch rear leg room a touch.
Step inside and your first impression is of a car built to outlast civilisation itself. What the new A8’s interior lacks in the charismatic elegance – some might call it chintz – of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, it makes up for in the quality of its materials and assembly.
There is no play in the switchgear, no delay in the response of the two superbly crisp central touchscreens and, once you’ve spotted the billet aluminium armrest hinges, no question that it’s all been over-engineered.
The many backlit buttons and dials of the third-generation A8 have almost entirely disappeared, making way for glass-fronted replacements whose haptic and acoustic feedback has been judged surprisingly well, and the wraparound dash really does lend the cabin the lounge ambience Audi’s designers speak of. It’s an environment that leaves you strangely cool - but that’s as it should be, isn’t it?
As for standard equipment, the short wheelbase A8s get 18in alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension, LED head and rear lights, high beam assist, a powered bootlid, heat-insulating side and rear windows, and a wealth of driver assistance aids including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, an advanced self-parking system, Audi’s autonomous braking systems, fitted as standard.
Inside there is a Valcona leather upholstery, wood and aluminium dash inlays, ambient LED lighting, dual-zone climate control, electrically adjustable and heated front seats and Audi’s MMI infotainment system complete with a 10.1in top display, a 8.6in lower display, Audi’s 12.3in Virtual Cockpit, wireless charging, a DVD player, sat nav, DAB radio, and USB and Bluetooth connectivity.
Long wheelbase models adds a touch more luxury for the rear passengers including, rear heated seats, four-zone climate control, electric sunblinds and a 5.7in tablet to control the infotainment system and the A8’s convenience features.
Propelling the A8 into the wilderness
On our initial acquaintance in Valencia, it’s the A8 55 we spend most time in - Audi’s familiar 3.0-litre V6 TDI for the most part making short work of the city’s streets and surrounding glass-smooth motorways, as you’d expect.
Unlike the petrol V6 (whose silky character negates the need), it uses active engine mounts that counteract the diesel thrum. It’s not a coarse engine, just a little too present compared with the petrol, which spins effortlessly and also lends the gargantuan A8 pleasingly brisk, rather than merely adequate, pace.