While the first A8 was a success, it still suffered from flaws that have damaged its career. In particular its line a little soft, recalling too much that of the smaller A4. From the first drafts of its replacement, in 1997, the Audi designers, under the direction of Dany Garand, clearly play the card of dynamism. In 1999, the proposal retained mainly contains the ideas of Miklós Kovács and Imre Hasanic, who achieve a car sharper than the first A8 without denying it. In 2001, this led to the Avantissimo concept presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
This large station wagon contains a lot of styling elements of the future A8, without announcing it openly. It was presented a few months later in the summer of 2002. Evolutionary, its very attractive line is also immediately identifiable compared to that of an A4 or an A6.
Like its predecessor, it hides a spaceframe, an assembly of welded aluminum profiles to which the car's shell is attached. By changing generation, this construction sees its torsional rigidity increase by 60% and its weight fall by 34 kg (215 kg in total). For the first time, the A8's suspension is adorned with pilot-operated air cushions, while the transmission is obligatorily integral (with Torsen central differential) and completed with a ZF six-speed automatic gearbox called Tiptronic. Despite this, the weight does not exceed 1770 kg in the basic version. That's not much for a 5.05 m long car! Inside, the A8 introduces several features at Audi, including the MMI multimedia interface, digital driver recognition and DVD GPS. But not everything will be in series … At launch, the great German only has V8 engines, a 3.7 l of 280 hp and a 4.2 l of 335 hp, derived from those of its predecessor. Prices are high, but competitive in the luxury segment: € 76,300 (€ 96,300 today) for the first and € 84,100 (€ 106,000 today) for the second. The equipment seems rich at first glance (leather, cruise control, parking radars, electric seats, dual-zone car air conditioning, CD radio, xenon projectors) but shortcomings remain: no rain and light sensors, nor GPS serial.
Soon, a 4.0L TDI with 275 hp joined the lineup, but oddly enough, the A8 did without the VW Phaeton's V10. From this, the Audi will still recover the fabulous 6.0 l W12 block as well as the 3.0 l TDI V6 of 233 hp at the end of 2003. Rigged with 12-cylinders, the large Ingolstadt is signaled by a specific grille, with an imposing block, called Single Frame. It is found on the A6 and A3 Sportback. At the same time, an Avus pack billed at nearly € 15,000 enriches the equipment (it adds GPS, double glazing, keyless start and electrically operable boot, among other sweets), which helps the A8 to take advantage of 'a very good start to your career. It was reinforced in 2005 by the appearance of the 3.2 l V6 versions of 260 hp, 4.2 l TDI of 326 hp (replaces the 4.0 l) and above all S8, the latter being equipped with a V10 5 , 2 l of 450 hp. In 2006, the 3.7 l disappeared, however, as the 4.2 l V8, switching to direct injection, now developed 350 hp. At the end of 2007, the range benefited from a slight restyling (mirrors, grille) bringing a 210 hp 2.8 l V6, combined with a simplified transmission: only the front wheels are driving. Problem: the gearbox is then the continuously variable Multitronic, unpleasant in active driving. The A8 / S8 D3 will hardly be modified until they are withdrawn from production in November 2009. Nearly 161,000 units left the Neckarsulm plant: an improvement of around 50% compared to the D2, even if we remain far from the figures of the Mercedes S-Class.
How much does it cost ?
This limousine made entirely of aluminum can be found from € 5,000 in good condition. At this price, we acquire an un-restyled V8 model with very high mileage (around 250 – 300,000 km), in gasoline or TDI. For an Avus pack, add a minimum of 500 €. A little more recent, the V6 TDI claims 500 € more, while the W12 is not less than 12,000 €, like the S8.
Obviously, these prices rise seriously for copies in perfect condition and low mileage, peaking at 27,000 € for an S8 or a W12 of less than 100,000 km.
Which version to choose?
There is no bad one, but to make the most of your Audi, you might as well opt for at least a V8 equipped with the Avus pack. A 4.0 l TDI is perfectly justified by its excellent performance / consumption ratio. If this last point is not crucial, a 4.2L gasoline seems to be suitable. The S8 and W12 are more expensive to maintain.
The S8 and especially the W12, the second being much rarer. They should display few kilometers, be in perfect condition and benefit from the maximum number of options found in the Audi Exclusive catalog.
What to watch out for?
Extremely well made, the A8 does not visually age if it has been well maintained. And mechanically? It is also robust, again if the maintenance has been done well: do not forget to drain the automatic transmission and the differentials! The Multitronic is less resistant than the ZF, and Audi no longer sells it.
The more cylinders there are, the more expensive it will be to replace spark plugs and coils, while pre-restyling V6 and V8 petrol have a timing belt that needs to be renewed periodically (5 years / 120,000 km).
The Audi, on the other hand, will be more capricious due to its air suspension, without this turning into a nightmare: the cushions sometimes last more than 200,000 km, but cost € 1,000 each. The control module, the compressor and the air lines must also be monitored. Finally, the electronics do not prevent bugs, affecting the MMi, the dials, the defrost: to be checked before purchase.
Faced with the flabby Mercedes S-Class W220 and the wacky BMW 7 Series E65, the Audi A8 D3 has aged very pleasantly. The same goes for the interior, very classic but unparalleled elegance and supreme quality of finish. Really amazing. Only the integration of the GPS screen detonates once deployed, but its protuberance will later become the norm … The ergonomics clearly surpass that of its competitors, especially the BMW!
At start-up, the 4.2 l TDI in our 2008 A8 probably shows its diesel nature a little too much, but as soon as you drive, only the music of the V8 remains. Except for its power resources, almost inexhaustible, even at more than 200 km / h (in Germany, of course). At this pace, the car remains remarkable for its silence, its handling, its comfort and even its braking.
On the road, the air suspension guarantees optimal filtration, while handling is more dynamic than that of an S-Class and, of course, a Phaeton. A Jaguar XJ can show him this, however, but the Audi remains very safe while managing to communicate a minimum with its driver, via the judiciously assisted steering wheel. The gearbox, which is very soft, can sometimes be a bit sluggish and does not downshift on its own when braking, but its approval is not open to criticism.
Overall, comfort is close to perfection, including in the rear, although roominess could be better given the A8's bulkiness. As for consumption, it can stay under 10 l / 100 km in peaceful driving.
The youngtimer alternative
Audi V8 (1988-1994)
Audi’s first foray into the BMW 7 Series and Mercedes S-Class segment, the V8, coded D1, is the direct descendant of the A8 (coded D2…). However, it derives from the 100 C3, from which it takes again, modifying the ends, the bodywork as well as the interior. Nevertheless, this one, trimmed in leather and wood, lacks more personality than luxury! Under the hood, in the front overhang, sits a V8, in fact the assembly of two blocks of Golf II GTI. Cubic 3.6 l, it develops 250 hp, a nice power in 1988 when the Audi is presented. However, the weight exceeds 1,700 kg, the Quattro all-wheel drive with two differential locks, and the ZF 4-speed automatic transmission imposing their due. So that the performances remain average considering the cavalry. But the handling and comfort are at the top! The least of things with a price of 429 650 F (105 000 € current). In 1989, a manual transmission was offered, making the Audi a little more responsive, and in 1992 the V8 upgraded to 4.2 l, reaching 280 hp. And for the occasion, the manual unit goes from 5 to 6 gears. In 1994, the V8 was replaced by the A8, after having produced around 21,000 units. A successful trial gallop. Very complex, the V8 is only reliable when properly maintained, which is very expensive. From € 6,000.
Audi A8 4.2 l TDI 2008, technical sheet
- Engine: 8-cylinder V, 4,134 cc, twin-turbo
- Power supply: common rail diesel injection
- Suspension: McPherson struts, double wishbone, pilot operated air springs, anti-roll bar (AV); multi-link, pilot operated air springs, anti-roll bar (AR)
- Transmission: 6 automatic, four-wheel drive
- Power: 326 hp at 3,750 rpm
- Torque: 650 Nm at 1,600 rpm
- Weight: 1,945 kg
- Maximum speed: 250 km / h (manufacturer data)
- 0 to 100 km / h: 5.9 s (manufacturer data)
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