1 May 1995
IF the D1 V8 was a half-hearted joke of a luxury sedan, its aluminium successor was simply breathtaking.
Audi pioneered aluminium space-frame technology with the D2 A8, bringing weight and structural strength benefits well beyond what its Mercedes S-class and BMW 7 Series rivals could offer.
And it didn’t stop there. This car marked the arrival of exquisite design, proportion and quality at Audi that has since seen it (eventually) catapult into the big league.
The A8’s 200kg-plus lightness advantage over other similarly sized cars meant that the base front-wheel drive 128kW/250Nm 2.8 V6 coped well, even if it only used a four-speed automatic.
But real progress came with two V8s – the flagship 220kW/400Nm 4.2 Quattro all-wheel drive which brimmed with luxury and technology and was widely regarded as the world’s best sedan until the late ‘90s, as well as front-drive 169kW/315Nm 3.7 version that replaced the 2.8 V6 from 1996. This also brought a five-speed Tiptronic automatic to the series.
This transmission made it into the face lifted A8 L (for long wheelbase body) of 2000, which also boasted 8kW and 10Nm extra output from its 4.2 V8 Quattro drive train.
Yet it was 1998’s 250kW/410Nm 4.2-litre S8 sports sedan that created one of the world’s great grand tourers, which topped out into the 265Nm/420Nm S8 Series II from late ’99.
Of course the D2 A8 never really threatened the sales of its compatriot competition in this country, but it created a halo effect that the landmark 1995 A4, 1997 A6 and 1999 TT basked within.
Happily its D3 A8 replacement from 2003 finally found some of the buyer recognition the series so wholeheartedly deserves.