Road Test 2019 Audi A8L 50 TDI (286 PS 3.0 V6 TDI ) quattro 8-speed tiptronic With its sharper styling, more power and better fuel efficiency, the new A8L 3.0 V6 TDI provides a high level of equipment and comfort along with excellent performance, handling and good fuel economy…
Road test A8L 3.0 V6 TDI (286 PS) quattro tiptronic
GEARBOX 8-SPEED-TIPTRONIC (ZF8HP)
TORQUE 442.5lb.ft 600Nm
It was well over two decades ago, in 1994, that the groundbreaking Audi A8 D2 / 4D was first introduced as a successor to the Audi V8 Typ 4C, with its predominantly aluminium-spaceframe (ASF) bodyshell offering a unique combination of strength and light weight for such a large limousine. With the third generation A8 having been updated several times since it was introduced in 2009, most recently facelifted in 2016, the A8 was clearly overdue for a major overhaul…
That came with the introduction of the fourth generation (D5), which made its debut at the Audi Summit in Barcelona in July 2017, as featured in our August 2017 issue. It was substantially revised, but not too overtly, with its sharper styling clearly reflecting many of the design elements that had been seen in the Prologue concept first shown at Los Angeles in 2014 and then at the Geneva Show in 2015.
‘OUR TEST CAR HAD NUMEROUS OPTIONS, BUMPING THE PRICE UP TO OVER £108,000!’
Designed under the direction of Marc Lichte, the new A8 instantly impresses onlookers with its imposing frontal styling, combining the big strong Audi Single-frame grille with many-more angular elements. With a lower waist line to reduce the visual centre of gravity, muscular shoulders over the wheelarches and longitudinal swage lines along the upper flanks, it is still clearly and readily identifiable as an A8 but now much sharper and better defined, more modern but without becoming too futuristic.
While maintaining the basic ASF construction, the bodyshell of the new A8 now incorporates a much more varied composition of materials, with aluminium, steel and carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) all being utilised in different areas. The result is that the new model is only 51 kg heavier than before, despite its slightly increased size and high level of extra equipment.
More importantly, the torsional rigidity has been increased by a substantial 24 per cent, no mean feat considering the high integrity of its predecessor. Not just a numerical advantage, that high level of build quality translates into significant improvements in acoustic comfort and handling precision, not to mention safety and security.
‘LATEST A8 IS A PHENOMENALLY IMPRESSIVE ALL-ROUNDER – A LUXURY LIMOUSINE IN EVERY RESPECT…’
Offered in standard or long-wheelbase formats, the latest A8 range initially features a rationalised choice of engines, with the options of a 286 PS 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel or a 340 PS 3.0-litre V6 TFSI petrol engine, both employed in conjunction with 8-speed tiptronic automatic transmission and quattro four-wheel drive.
A higher-powered (435 PS) 4.0- litre V8 TDI will follow later, as well as a 550 PS 4.0 V8 TFSI for an S8 version, along with a 585 PS 6.0-litre W12, and an e-tron with powerful plug-in hybrid drivetrain combining a 3.0 V6 TFSI with an electric-motor to produce 449 PS / 700 Nm.
An important point to note is that all the conventional engines used in the new 2019 A8 come with MHEV mild hybrid technology, using a 48-volt electrical system in conjunctioin with a belt alternator starter (BAS).
This allows the car to coast with the engine switched off when the driver takes their foot off the accelerator in the range between 35 and 100 mph and then to restart automatically and imperceptibly when the driver accelerates again. It also has an extended stop/start function and an energy recovery output of up to 12 kW and 60Nm, all the interests of improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions.
Our test car was the long-wheel-base A8L, with the 286 PS 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine, that is now designated ‘50 TDI’ as part of Audi’s new model nomenclature. With the exception of the RS and R8 models, the actual engine size no longer appears in the external badging of any of the current Audi model range, and even the new badging is an optional delete feature.
‘DRIVE SELECT PRODUCES CHOICE OF DYNAMIC OR COMFORT SETTINGS FOR ADAPTIVE SUSPENSION…’
As explained in the March issue of Audi Driver these figures relate to a broad range of power outputs rather than individual specifics and will inevitably take us some while to get used to. The A8 with the 340 PS 3.0 V6 TFSI ranks in the next power band and is badged ‘55 TFSI’.
In the UK, the latest A8 comes with just two specification levels – the ‘standard’ A8 (it can hardly be called basic) and the S line – both of which boast a very high level of equipment consistent with the status of this flagship model, and even the standard A8 positively bristles with high-level equipment.
Currently priced from £69,415 for the A8 50 TDI and £71,030 for the A8 55 TFSI, Audi describes it as a ‘premium specification’ that includes features like 8.0J x 18-inch alloys, adaptive air suspension, LED front and rear lights, Audi Drive Select, 22-way adjustable electric seats, multifunction steering wheel, 2Zone climate control, MMI Navigation Plus, Audi Virtual Cockopit (digital dashboard) and Audi Sound System, to name but a few of the special features. The extensive brochure will tell you all that you need to know.
It also comes with a whole range of Driver Assistance system including adaptive cruise control, head-up display, Lane departure warning, rear view camera, Parking System Plus, Advanced Key, Audi Pre sense and a camera-based traffic sign recognition system. In fact, the latest A8 is not far off being considered capable of autonomous driving, currently achieving level 2 and with the ablility for level 3 independence when local legislation allows.
At a premium of nearly £4,500, the S line specification only adds to all this, with 9.0J x 19-inch alloys, Matrix LED headlights, dynamic rear lights, front sports seats in quilted Valcona leather and a sport exterior body styling kit, as well as double glazing, privacy glass and black cloth headlining.
In both cases, the long-wheel-base A8L models improve even further with heated rear seats, 4-Zone climate control, Audi Music Interface in the rear, electric sunblinds for the rear windows, a 230-volt socket in the rear and a removable multifunction control unit called Rear Seat Remote. All that in addition to the considerable extra legroom that comes with the 130mm(just over 5 inches) longer wheelbase.
Surprisingly, given all that high level of standard equipment, there is still enormous scope for additional options. Our A8L 50 TDI test car, finished in modest Terra grey-metallic with Sard brown Valcona leather interior and list priced at £73,410, was bumped up considerably by a whole host of optional extras, to a total as tested of over £108,000!
Most noticeable externally, priced at a hefty £3,850, was the optional set of 9.0J x 20-inch alloys in 5-armTurbine design, described as magnesium look with gloss turned finish. They were fitted with 265/40 R20 tyres, with the excellent Goodyear F1 Eagles used on the test car. The standard rims for the A8L are 8.0 x 18-inch with 235/55 R18 tyres, and there is an alloy spacesaver spare wheel and tyre stowed under the expansive boot floor, speed limited to 50 mph. But before delving too deeply into the specifications, let’s consider the dynamics of this technological marvel, because no matter how well equipped it is there are times when you’ll have to leave the comfort of the executive car park and actually venture out onto public roads, whether as the driver or the passenger being driven.
Inevitably, the extra length of the long-wheelbase bodyshell and all that considerable equipment will take some toll in terms of outright performance, but you’ll hardly notice it in terms of real-world driving dynamics, and it certainly didn’t seem to make a significant dent in the performance test figures.
This 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel engine produces its healthy-maximum power output of 286 PS at a fairly modest 3750 to 4000 rpm, but more importantly is that its torque figure of 600Nm is developed over a broad range from 1250 to 3250 rpm. Torque, the twisting force, is more readily understood as the ‘pulling power’ that does the real work of driving the car along. Just to put it into perspective, that 600 Nm torque figure is on a par with the pulling power of the twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 engine in the new RS4 and RS5! So, it’s no great surprise that the A8L not only drives smoothly and powerfully with the greatest of ease at low speeds, simply oozing along in heavy traffic, but is also capable of producing quite prodigious performace when fully exploited.
Audi quotes a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 5.9 seconds and a top speed (electronically limited) of 155 mph.
As usual, we’ll take that rather academic V-max at face value, but even with the encumbrance of all its extra equipment we were still able to verify the rate of acceleration of this highly-specified example by independently recording a 0-60 mph time of 5.83 seconds, with 70 and 80 mph reached in 7.63 and 9.73 respectively.
With the permanent quattro four-wheel drive system offering a basic torque distribution of 40 per cent front and 60 per cent rear there’s no problem with traction on full-bore standing starts, even in slippery conditions, and the system can transfer up to 85 per cent of power to the rear axle in normal circumstances and up to 100 per cent if the ESC intervenes.
The all-wheel drive will be equally advantageous in wet and slippery winter conditions, but we’ll have to admit that when our first booking for this road test car coincided with the forecast of particuarly wintry conditions in late February we quickly called up the Audi Press Fleet manager to defer it until much later in the year.
We’re very glad we did, as the thought of driving £108,000-worth of A8L through heavy snow and ice, not to mention repeatedly cleaning all that extensive pristine bodywork, would quite literally have taken the sparkle off the driving experience, no matter how capable it might actually have been in terms of its own driving ability.
Arguably, making full use of its hydraulic torque converter automatic transmission with its DSP and sport program, along with the superior traction of the four-wheel drive system, in full-bore ‘drag strip’ launch control mode, is probably not the way most chauffeur-driven A8Ls will pull away at the traffic lights, but it does show just what this luxurious limousine is capable of.
That muscular performance is also fully reflected in the kickdown mode when accelerating in the mid-range, when the A8 pulls strongly and effortlessly whenever needed, to surge past slower moving traffic, taking full advantage of any reasonable overtaking opportunity, or to waft its way up steep motorway inclines with its high cruising speed almost unabated. Incidentally, this may be a diesel engine but its smoothness and refinement are impressive; the only time you’ll get even a hint of gravelly voice is from immediately outside the car when it starts from cold.
The rest of the time it is just a distant murmur, although undoubtedly this is aided by the A8’s high level of acoustic integrity, with copious soundproofing and high quality panel construction, as well as the inherently superior aerodynamics of the latest bodyshell.
Equally important as its outright performance, if not more so for anyone using the A8 for the long distances for which it is so very suitable, is the overall fuel economy. Especially with a vehicle of this sort of size and performance we can never expect to achieve anywhere near the official test cycle figures, but our overall average was nearly 42 mpg and a concerted effort on a steady motorway journey achieved just over 52 mpg. Those are actually quite impressive figures for such a large vehicle, with its luxurious equipment levels, but which still has the potential to out-run quite a few so-called performance cars.
The fact that our actual 41.8 mpg average is identical to that we achieved with the lower-powered predecessor is but a pure confidence, but it does reinforce the improved efficiency of this latest model, achieving the same the fuel economy while carrying more weight and providing superior performance.
The 72-litre volume of the standard fuel tank should be good for a range of well over 600miles, but even with the comfort levels of the A8we’d still recommend the occasional stretch of the legs and a breath of fresh air on any long journey. There is an option to increase the capacity of the fuel tank to 82 litres if you’re likely to make longer journeys, or fully exploit the performance.
Note that this latest version of the 3.0 V6 TDI is not only equipped with a diesel particulate filter (DPF) but also uses the SCR catalytic converter for emissions control to EU 6 standard. You’ll find the blue capped filler for the AdBlue additive alongside the diesel filler cap.
As well as being sophisticated, well equipped and luxurious, the A8L is also quite a dynamic machine for a vehicle of its size, with five-link suspension at both front and rear, and adaptive air suspension as standard, providing a choice between Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual settings that can be selected from the Drive Select system through the touchscreen menu.
Being adaptive, it constantly reacts to the prevalent driving style, so the Automatic setting will cope with most driving situations, although the firmer Dynamic is undoubtedly best for enthusiastic solo driving. The Comfort setting should be reserved for steady motorway driving or low-speed cruising when you have passengers on board, as the softer damping can make it just a little too floaty on undulating and winding roads. The Individual menu can be useful if, for instance, you want Comfort setting for the suspension while still retaining a more dynamic weight to the steering.
Although the air suspension maintains the ride height at all corners to keep it fairly level when cornering, and it comes with hefty tubular anti-roll bars at both front and rear, you do have to keep in mind that this still a very large vehicle. It can’t be expected to be as agile as a sports saloon, even though its outright performance isn’t far behind.
Our test car, though, had the considerable advantage of Dynamic all-wheel steering, a £1950 option that provides active steering intervention on the front and rear axles to improve the driving dynamics. At low speeds, the rear wheel steer slightly in the opposite direction to the fronts, reducing steering effort and diminishing the turning circle by 1.1metres, to 11.8 metres in the case of the A8L. At higher speeds, the steering angles on the front and rear axles compliment each other to improve response and stability in high-speed manoeuvres, and so perhaps even more desirable on the long-wheel-base-model.
The high-performance braking system is not only very strong and powerful but also very progressive and easy to modulate, characteristics that are especially important for a prestige car when carrying passengers in comfort. The electronic handbrake switch is sited on the centre console, immediately behind the gear-shifter.
Just ahead of it is the starter button, as the A8 comes with the Advance Key keyless entry – so long as you have the key on you the car unlocks as you approach it and then all you have to do is put your foot on the brake and press the button to start it. Make sure you switch the engine off before you leave the car, though; it is so quiet that you can easily walk away and leave it running.
A major innovation of the newA8 is that it comes not only with fully digital dashboard instrumentation, the 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit, but also features a combination of touchscreen displays instead of the traditional rotary MMI control knob. Blending almost invisibly into the dashboard when not in use, the main 10.1-inch touchscreen display is used for the wide range of infotainment functions, while below it – at the head of the centre console – is a smaller 8.6-inch touchscreen display that controls the air-conditioning and comfort functions. Both will need a whole book, rather than a road test feature in a magazine, to cover all their functions, but most significant is that they both feature the haptic effect whereby touching the screen produces a discernibly tangible ‘clicking’ effect.
The jury is still out, in some cases, with regards to the overall logistics of using complicated touchscreens rather than conventional switches and knobs for the control functions, but they are undoubtedly here to stay and we’ll just have to get used to them, and the smudgy finger marks that inevitably result from all that ‘touchy-feely’ stuff.
Everything about the interior of the A8 just oozes quality and sophistication, with craftsmanship and technology abundant in equal measure, leaving just about every driver and passenger in almost intimidating awe of its ambience as well as cosseted in comfort. In the A8L, especially, it’s almost more natural for passengers to head straight for the rear seats, and stretch out to luxuriate in all that legroom, with seats that are large and comfortable and with plenty of storage space in and around the cabin. There’s ample boot space too, with a capacity of over 500 litres, although there’s no through-load facility and the rear seats don’t fold down to provide the usual increase in load volume.
Back to those options, and our test car also had the Matrix LED headlamp upgrade, along with dynamic indicators, costing a hefty £1,900 but well worth the extra investment if you travel a lot at night on unlit roads. With the individual elements controlled separately to react to oncoming vehicles, it gives near daylight illumination without the risk of blinding oncoming traffic. It also includes static turning light, dynamic cornering light, junction light and travel mode into the package, as well as dynamic indicators. If travelling abroad often, the system also uses GPS data to automatically switch between right- and left-hand drive modes.
Our test car also had numerous other options including DAB radio and TV, Panoramic glass sunroof, heated steering wheel, seat ventilation and massage function, Comfort and Sound package including upgrade of the Bang & Olufsen 3D Advanced sound System, the Rear Comfort pack that provides electrically adjustable outer seats and power door closure, and the Rear Seat Entertainment pack with two Audi tablet screens.
Altogether, whether enjoying this technological tour de force dynamically as a driver or relaxing in its considerable comfort as a passenger, the latest A8 is a phenomenally impressive all-rounder – a luxury limousine in every respect, quiet and sophisticated with excellent comfort and good ride and handling. Especially with the 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine it can also provide a level of fuel economy that is quite outstanding considering its ample performance. A very expensive mode of transport certainly, especially with all the optional extras endowed upon this example, it will be the privilege of the few and the aspiration of many.
A8 50 TDI quattro (286 PS 3.0 V6 TDI ) 8-spd tiptronic £69,415
A8 55 TFSI quattro (340 PS 3.0 V6 TFSI ) 8-spd tiptronic £71,030
A8 S line 50 TDI quattro (286 PS 3.0 V6 TDI ) 8-spd tiptronic £73,910
A8L 50 TDI quattro (286 PS 3.0 V6 TDI ) 8-spd tiptronic £73,410
A8L 55 TFSI quattro (340 PS 3.0 V6 TFSI ) 8-spd tiptronic £75,025
A8L S line 50 TDI quattro (286 PS 3.0 V6 TDI ) 8-spd tiptronic £77,905
‘THE A8L NOT ONLY DRIVES WITH THE GREATEST OF EASE AT LOW SPEEDS BUT IS ALSO CAPABLE OF QUITE PRODIGIOUS PERFORMANCE…’
‘286 PS 3.0 V6 TDI PRODUCES SAME PULLING POWER AS THE RS4, WHILE ALSO CAPABLE OF WELL OVER 40 MPG…’
‘COMPLETE REDESIGN FOR FOURTH GENERATION HAS PRODUCED MUCH SHARPER STYLING FROM ALL ANGLES…’
Above: Drive Select. Below: AdBlue filler for SCR system. Right: Twin-level screens for Infotainment and comfort controls. Above: Full-bore standing start acceleration test produced 0-60 in 5.83 secs! Above: 3.0 V6 TDI good for 286 PS and 600 Nm. Above: Keyless start.
Maximum speed 155 mph
|0–50 mph 4.4 sec
|0–60 mph 5.8 sec
|0–70 mph 7.6 sec
|0–80 mph 9.7 sec
|30–50 mph (3rd gear) 2.3 sec
|30–50 mph (4th gear) –
|50–70 mph (3rd gear) 3.3 sec
|50–70 mph (4th gear) –
|50–70 mph (5th gear) –
|50–70 mph (6th gear) –
|50–70 mph (7th gear) –
Acceleration figures recorded using VI Monitor. For more information visit the Drive-My
A8 L 50 TDI 3.0 TDI quattro
A8 SE 3.0 TDI quattro
A8 SE 3.0 TDI quattro
A8 3.0 TDI quattro
Q7 3.0 TDI quattro
|Power output, PS/kW
|Maximum torque, lb.ft./Nm
|Maximum speed, mph/kph
|0–50 mph, sec
|0–60 mph, sec
|0–70 mph, sec
|0–80 mph, sec
|30–50 mph (third gear), sec
|30–50 mph (fou th gear), sec
|50–70 mph (third gear), sec
|50-70 mph (fou th gear) sec
|50–70 mph (ﬁfth gear), sec
|50–70 mph (sixth gear), sec
|Overall consumption, mpg / l/100km
|Unladen weight, lb/kg
|Power/weight PS/ton, PS/tonne
|Test publication date
Length/Width/Height (inches) 208.9/ 83.9*/58.5
Length/Width/Height (mm) 5302/2130*/1485
Wheelbase 123.2 in, 3128mm
Track, front/rear 64.8/64.3 in, 1644/1633mm
Turning circle 42.3 ft, 12.9m
Unladen weight 4409 lb, 2000kg
Total permitted weight 5952 lb, 2700kg
Permitted trailer load; with/without brakes 5070/1653lb, 2300/750kg
Luggage capacity seats up 505 litres
Wheels and tyres 9.0J x20 alloys** 265/40 R20
* Including mirrors
** optional standard size is 8.0 x 18 with 235/55 R18 tyres.
|Bore and stroke
|83.0 x 91.4 mm
|286 PS (210kW) @ 3750-4000 rpm
|442.5 Ib.ft (600 Nm) @ 1250-3250 rpm
|Valves per cylinder
|2 inlet, 2 exhaust
|Overall test value
|41.8 mpg, 6.7 l/100km
|52.1 mpg, 5.4 l/100km
|44.1 mpg, 6.4 l/100km
|Extra urban cycle
|51.4 mpg, 5.5 l/100km
|48.7 mpg, 5.8 l/100km
|Fuel tank capacity
|15.8 gallons, 72 litres* (*optional 82/18 gallon / litres)