Car reviews - Audi - A8 - 55 TFSI
Dripping with new-age technology, next-generation cabin design, unrivalled advanced driver-assist systems, surprising V6 performance
Room for improvement
Love-or-hate dynamic all-wheel steering, ride could feel more luxurious, glass touchscreens attract fingerprints, anonymous styling
Audi shoots for the stars with ultra-luxurious, tech-laden A8 55 TFSI limousine
12 Oct 2018
THEY say a year is a long time in technology. It’s no surprise, then, that the automotive industry is moving faster than ever. Life cycles are becoming shorter and new technologies are being rolled out to price-leading models before their flagship counterparts.
The A8 limousine has long been Audi’s range-topper, but it has recently lagged behind its ‘lesser’ siblings. Not anymore. The fourth-generation model has landed, and it is not holding back. With the brand’s all-new cabin design as its main feature, does it impress?
Price and equipment
Priced from $195,000 before on-road costs, the A8 55 TFSI represents good value in its segment. Standard equipment includes dusk-sensing HD Matrix LED headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail-lights, dynamic indicators, soft-close doors with power-actuated door handles, a power-operated bootlid, power-folding side mirrors with heating and auto-dimming functionality, a power-operated panoramic glass sunroof, a space-saver spare wheel and a self-locking centre differential.
Inside, Audi’s MMI infotainment system, 10.1- and 8.6-inch touchscreens with haptic and acoustic feedback, voice control, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a 730W 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, four USB ports, three 12V power outlets, one SDXC memory card rear, a DVD player, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a windshield-projected head-up display, a 5.7-inch OLED rear-seat remote control, four-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, Matrix LED reading lights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable heated front seats with lumbar support and memory functionality, and wireless smartphone charging feature.
Our test car is finished with Moonlight Blue metallic paintwork and Saiga Beige Valcona leather upholstery with Alcantara inserts and Eucalyptus wood inlays. Its extra-cost options extend to dynamic all-wheel steering ($4500) and a Premium Plus package ($11,000) that adds 10-spoke, 20-inch alloy wheels; adaptive windshield wipers, chrome exterior trim, interior ambient lighting, black glass-look control buttons, digital TV reception, Wi-Fi hotspot, rear privacy glass, power-operated sunblinds and comfort head restraints; extended black Nappa leather upholstery, air ionisation, and ventilated front seats with massaging functionality. As such, the price as tested is $210,500.
This is the future of Audi: the first impression most people will have when they slip into the A8’s new-age interior. The German brand has quite the reputation for making the best interiors in class, and this effort is no different. Gone are the days of floating touchscreens and numerous buttons, this is a different beast. A beautiful one, in fact.
Key to the new A8 experience is the dual touchscreen set-up. A 10.1-inch unit projects most of the MMI infotainment system, while an 8.6-inch unit handles the climate and seat controls, plus a few other functions. Physical buttons are few and far between, with hardware dedicated to the start-stop ignition and electric park brake with auto-hold functionality.
While it might sound like there’s a lot going on here, it is a well-executed set-up. MMI has naturally been upgraded to accommodate the dual touchscreens, meaning it works even better than before. It now features haptic and acoustic feedback that lets users know when inputs have been recognised. It’s a bit unusual at first, but those with the latest iPhones should have no problem adjusting.
Back-seat drivers can take matters into their own hands with the 5.7-inch tablet hidden in the second row. It annoyingly provides them access to media controls. Our only other grievance is that the touchscreens are made of glass, meaning fingerprints are prevalent. To make matters worse, most of their surrounding trim is high-gloss black – another fingerprint magnet. Cleaning is a task.
If you thought the technology show was over, we haven’t even got to the best part yet: the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, or Active Info Display in Audi speak. While this system is not new to the brand, it is still awesome. Specifically, it allows the driver to adjust the size of the speedometer and rev-counter while also giving access to maps, media, phone and the trip computer – you get to pick.
Look up towards the road ahead and the windshield-projected head-up displays steps in, providing a digital speedo, turn-by-turn directions and driver-assist functions. Make no mistake, this is a truly comprehensive package. Technology lovers will fall for the A8’s charm in no time. It has all bases covered!
It may seem that the A8 has focused so heavily on the technology side of things that it might have forgotten to be a limousine, but it hasn’t. Luxury is the name of the game here, and disappointment is not on the menu. As mentioned, our test car is option with the Premium Plus package, which ensures that most surfaces are covered in either leather, Alcantara or wood. It exudes class with its simple design that naturally offers generous amounts of head-, leg- and toe-room in the second row.
Perhaps the A8’s best non-technology feature is its front seats. These pews are brilliant, offering lots of support and comfort, which is impressive as the two often do not go together. With heating and ventilation functionality a tap away, the driver and front passenger are in for a really good time. In fact, we would go as far to say that their massage programs are the best we’ve sampled to date.
Measuring in at 5172mm long, 1945mm wide and 1473mm tall with a 2998mm wheelbase, the 55 TFSI provides 505L of cargo capacity. While it provides internal access to its boot via the second row’s ski port, the A8 does not feature split-fold rear seats. It does, however, have plenty of in-cabin storage, including well-hidden small bins in the door armrests.
Engine and transmission
The 55 TFSI is motivated by a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine that produces 250kW of power from 5000 to 6000rpm and 500Nm of torque from 1370 to 4500rpm. With an eight-speed torque-convertor automatic transmission sending drive to all four wheels via Audi’s quattro system, the 1995kg (unladen) 55 TFSI can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds while on the way to its electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. Limousine drivers, rejoice!
As its outputs suggest, the 55 TFSI is a keen performer, with plenty of shove down low to keep things moving along at a pace that even sportscar enthusiasts can get behind. Throttle response is sharp, too, with the 55 TFSI ready to tackle the road ahead at a moment’s notice. It’s also happy to approach its redline when called upon, with maximum power developed just 500rpm earlier.
Naturally, the automatic transmission plays a key role in delivering this performance, with quick, smooth upshifts encouraging spirited driving. Conversely, downshifts can sometimes feel a little jerky, no matter what the speed or brake pressure. Switching between the 55 TFSI’s four driving modes – Auto, Comfort Dynamic and Individual – does not help matters here, either.
All A8 variants feature mild-hybrid technology that offers a coasting function which turns the engine off between 55km/h and 160km/h for up to 40 seconds when the accelerator is not engaged, while the idle-stop set-up automatically activates when speeds of 22km/h or lower are reached. The system consists of a 48V electric system, a 12kW/60Nm belt alternator starter and a 10Ah lithium-ion battery under the boot floor.
As a result, Audi claims the 55 TFSI consumes 8.2 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle test. The biggest compliment we can pay the mild-hybrid set-up is that if you didn’t tell us it was there, we would’ve never known it existed. During our week, we have averaged 9.4L/100km over 580km of mixed driving. Carbon dioxide emissions are claimed to be 186 grams per kilometre.
Ride and handling
The 55 TFSI rides on a suspension set-up that consists of five-link front and rear axles with air springs and electronically controlled adaptive dampers. As such, four ride heights can be selected by the driver, or in conjunction with the aforementioned driving modes. While you’d assume all this would mean dreamy comfort is on offer, that’s not entirely the case.
While the 55 TFSI certainly feels comfortable, it just doesn’t feel luxurious. Road imperfections are often felt by occupants and can upset the A8’s otherwise pleasing ambience. Speed bumps aren’t an issue, but sharp potholes are. Smooth stretches of tarmac show what the 55 TFSI is capable of, but it needs to do more of it to justify its limousine positioning. It’s all a bit hit and miss, really.
The A8 also features electric power steering that is speed-sensitive and has a variable ratio when paired with our test car’s optional dynamic all-wheel system, which Audi says reduces the 55 TFSI’s turning circle by 1.1 metre, to 11.4m. For the uninitiated, it’s quite staggering at first, as a vehicle the size of the A8 should not feel that small at low speed. Three-point turns are a breeze.
In general, though, the A8 is an enjoyable steer. Feedback is really, really good, so much so that some sportscars should be jealous. Conversely, its weight is on the lighter side of things, even when the Dynamic driving mode is engaged. This is meant to be an easy drive, so we’ll let that one slide. However, even after a week, we’re still not so sure about the rear-axle set-up: it’s a bit weird.
Nonetheless, the 55 TFSI is a more than capable handler at low speeds. Given most examples will be sentenced to the urban commute, they will perform admirably. However, take it on high-speed country roads and the A8 gives away too much body roll to be considered sporty. The quattro all-wheel-drive system does offer plenty of grip, but this will never be a vehicle for enthusiasts.
Safety and servicing
Neither the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) nor its European counterpart have crash tested the new-generation A8. As such, the model is currently unrated.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the 55 TFSI are extensive, with it featuring forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane-keep and -centring assist, active blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, a manual speed limiter, occupant exit warning, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive high-beam assist, driver attention alert, hill-start assist and tyre pressure monitoring.
It also has Audi’s collision-avoidance, turn, intersection, efficiency, emergency assist aids, while other safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain, plus a front-centre), anti-skid brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems. The A8’s Level 3 Traffic Jam Assist and Level 4 Parking Pilot autonomous technologies are currently being held back from sale due to legislation.
As with all Audi models, the A8 comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and three years of roadside assistance. Service intervals for the 55 TFSI are every 12 months of 15,000km, whichever comes first. Capped-price servicing is available, with the plan covering three years or 45,000km and costing $1900.
So, does the A8 55 TFSI impress? Absolutely. With it, Audi offers a true masterclass on how to do infotainment, instrument clusters, advanced driver-assist systems and all-round luxury. It is just one of those vehicles that is sure to surprise and delight every new occupant.
While the 55 TFSI’s strong V6 performance will tempt enthusiasts, they will be let down by its lack of dynamism. However, the level of ride comfort on offer could be a turn off for limousine buyers. It’s good, but it’s just not good enough. The jury’s still out on the all-wheel steering, too.
Look past its anonymous styling and the A8 reveals itself to be one of the most impressive releases this year. However, it succeeds more as a device than a vehicle. It will win plenty of admirers on the showroom floor, but it falls just short on the road.
BMW 740i (from $198,900 before on-road costs)
With a better between ride and handling than the A8, the 740i excels as the dynamic leader in this segment, but its take on lane-keep assist is unrefined and rear bench is cramped with three abreast.
Porsche Panamera (from $214,400 before on-road costs)
A mechanical cousin to the A8, the Panamera is pleases with its exciting technology and strong V6 performance, but the gear selector can be fiddly to use and toe room in the second row is lacking.
Maserati Quattroporte (from $214,990 before on-road costs)
Outmuscling the A8 in a straight line due to its twin-turbocharged engine, the Quattroporte makes its presence felt, but some of its cabin controls are cheap and the ride is jittery on country roads.
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