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2014 Audi A8 and S8 road test review - performance and posh

The new Audi S8.
The new Audi S8. Contributed

SITTING in the prestigious Wolgan Valley, it was the perfect habitat for Audi's plush new limousine.

Here is where the rich and famous bask in remote beauty of the Blue Mountains resort and enjoy the trappings of success for about $2000 a night.

It's a similar scene inside the Audi A8 and S8, but for the lucky owners they get to embrace pure luxury on a daily basis rather than just a weekend getaway.

The large saloon starts from just below $200k, with the top-shelf S8 nudging $280,000.

There are three engine choices, two burly diesels and a blood pumping twin-turbo V8.

This updated range tickles the exterior design and improves engine dynamics, while there are now more features than you can poke a velvet-lined stick at.

Audi claims to have added about $30,000 worth of kit to the base model for a relatively meagre base price rise of seven grand.

Comfort

Refinement resonates in a spacious cabin.

Soft touch materials are the weapon of choice, with even suede finishes on the doors around the handles. There's no way manicured hands can be scuffed.

The S8 has some very cool carbon inlays over the console, doors and front seat backs.

It's a busy looking console with the air con and central computer system controls all positioned in front of the stubby T-shaped shifter.

Operationally it's typically Audi, easy to navigate with lovely crisp dials and gauges.

On the road

Stretching out to just over five metres (the long wheelbase adds 130mm), this is a saloon fit for the long-legged. Yet it's surprisingly lithe courtesy of a light all-aluminium frame. That helps deliver some outstanding economy and ultra-responsive acceleration times.

Sampling the range, it's difficult to find a chink in the A8 armour.

The 3.0-litre diesel is a lovely and smooth powerplant which responds to your demands with linear power.

Yet for those who long for more punch, there is the 4.2-litre V8 oil burner - which now holds the title of Australia's most powerful diesel. It will launch from standstill to 100km in less than five seconds.

But the big daddy twin turbo V8 shaves even more time off the sprint, able to rip to 100 in 4.1 seconds.

Yet punt into a corner with too much speed and you soon feel its bulk, although all-wheel drive does an impressive job of keeping it to task. Despite the size they remain easy to drive and are a pleasure on long journeys courtesy of air suspension, with the only complaint some tyre noise on coarse chip surfaces.

What do you get?

On the standard issue list are 19-inch alloys, LED highlights, radar cruise control, Bose sound system with digital radio, electric boot opening and closing, heated and ventilated front seats, as well as a sophisticated central computer system which enables you to set up a WiFi hot spot within the car using your smartphone.

The 4.2TDI picks up larger alloys, new Matrix beam headlights, the digital head-up display which projects speed and sat nav directions just below your eyeline, digital TV reception, a massage function for the front seats and a Quattro sport differential.

With the S8 you add even bigger 21-inch alloys, sports front seats, electric sunblinds for the rear windows and special carbon finishes in the cabin.

Those new Matrix headlights feature some ultra-cool technology, featuring 25 individual diodes which can be dimmed individually. They automatically shade oncoming traffic and vehicles in front to maintain perfect peripheral vision.

Practicality

There is a pair of cup holders front and back, and each door has a spot that can handle small bottles. Both front doors have a useful little storage area built into the arm rest.

Yet there are limited places for phones and other items, you have to make use of the console with dual opening lids.

Despite its sizeable architecture, the A8 is not quite of limousine standards. Reasonable head, leg and knee room is available in the back, but those seeking room to stretch out or be chauffeured would be better served by the long wheelbase edition.

The fold-down arm rest in the rear houses individual controllers for the four-zone air con.

Running costs

Fuel economy has been improved across the range, the biggest improver is the S8 which sips on average less than 10 litres for every 100km.

Given its dimensions, the base model diesel is astonishingly frugal with an official average of about six litres for every 100km.

Servicing costs probably aren't high on the concerns list for these buyers, but there are packages available which caps the price of maintenance.

Funky factor

Wearing a single frame grille, flatter headlights and more pronounced contours on the front bumper, it's no dramatic departure from the previous model, remaining elegant and sophisticated. Buyers can choose from 12 exterior colours.

What matters most

What we liked: Awesome kit, punchy engine range, refined cabin finishes.

What we'd like to see: Less road noise on coarse bitumen, extra console storage spots.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty, servicing is annual or every 15,000km.

VITAL STATISTICS

Model: Audi A8.

Details: Luxury four-door all-wheel drive sports saloon in standard and long wheelbase.

Engines: 3.0-litre turbo diesel generating maximum power of 190kW @ 4000-4250rpm and peak torque of 580Nm @ 1750-2500rpm; 4.2-litre V8 turbo diesel 283kW @ 3750rpm and 850Nm @ 2000-2750.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.

Consumption: 5.9 litres/100km (combined average); 6.0 litres/100km (long wheelbase); 7.4 litres/100km.

CO2: 155g/km; 158g/km; 194g/km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.9 seconds; 6.1 seconds; 4.7 seconds.

Bottom line plus on-roads: 3.0TDI $195,000; 3.0TDI LWB $206,900; 4.2TDI $249,900.

Model: Audi S8.

Details: Luxury four-door all-wheel drive sports saloon.

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 generating maximum power of 382kW @5800rpm and peak torque of 650Nm @ 1700-5500rpm.

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic.

Consumption: 9.6 litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 225g/km.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 4.1 seconds; top speed governed 250kmh.

Bottom line plus on-roads: $279,900.

Topics:  motoring road test