Tech reviews

The Audi A8 has style and tech but lacks some excitement

My back garden is bigger than the one in front. Not the way you might expect a car review to open, but there’s a reason, and it’s a simple one. The driveway, naturally, is at the front of the house, and that poses a problem when I get a car as long as the Audi A8.

At 5.19metres, the nose almost kisses the brickwork, and the rear end still is perilously close to obstructing the footpath. If they’d given me the long-wheelbase version, at 5.32 metres, well, at least part of it would have been in another Eircode.

Either way, what this amounts to is a lot of legroom for rear-seat passengers, underlining the A8’s suitability as an executive limousine, and what a comfortable one it is too. The upholstery in my test car came in beige leather. The detailing on the fascia is grey leather, with lots of piano black reflective surface, and silver inlay. This is picked up on the back of the driver and front passenger seats, with all areas also having soothing ambient lighting for night driving. Every occupant has access to a USB-C charge point, while there’s also an inductive wire-free charger hidden away in the storage box between driver and passenger, with a nice springloaded rest to keep the phone in position.

The exterior colour was a practical Daytona Grey, which didn’t do a lot for me; I’d much prefer that rich Audi Firmament Blue, or even the oddly militaristic District Green, which would look very much at home in a convoy to the Curragh Camp. Clearly, though, Audi knows its market, because of the 11 finishes available, four are grey Daytona, Terra, Manhattan and Vesuvius, the latter presumably named for volcanic ash. Wise move, that one, because when it comes to power, the A8 actually makes you feel like you’re being expelled from an erupting volcano.

This plug-in hybrid version sports a 3.0-litre V6 engine and a 105kW electric motor that together generate a whopping 462hp, propelling you from 0-100kph in 4.7 seconds. For a car of this size and weight, that’s impressive. The only problem is the electric-only range. It’s billed as 67km in the WLTP cycle but, at full charge, it was telling me I would get just 51km.

After three return trips to the local shop, a total of 12.6km, predicted range had dropped to just 21kph. I would understand that if I was booting it on the motorway, but I live in a 50kph area of country roads, so it’s a pretty dramatic fall-off.

Will that matter to anyone interested in buying one? Probably not. If you’re shelling out €111K, and another €9,171 on optional extras, I’m going to guess that the hybrid capability is not exactly your top priority. It’s a car I’d only ever charge on my own wallbox, because my nearest motorway fast chargers would deliver only about enough charge to get me home, and expensively at that.

On Ionity, for instance, you’d pay €13 to charge the battery from zero to 100%, and seeing that consumed in the range-chewing detail I’ve noted above would make no sense at all.

No, the real benefit of the plug-in is when the petrol engine and electric motor are working together to produce the grunt, which is terrific. This car was made to soar on the open road, where it performs beautifully. Negotiating city streets is more of a challenge, and you’d find it hanging out over the dimensions of the average on-street parking space. It doesn’t help that the parking sensors are a bit jittery, and panic long before you’re as close to an obstacle as they seem to think.

So what we have is a game of two halves, really. This is a stylish and genuinely luxurious car to sit into, with nice infotainment and instrument displays, and a third screen for the likes of aircon adjustment. The exterior styling feels a little flat though, and the Daytona grey does little to soften the monolith it is, especially with that chunky grille.

Audi A8
The Audi A8 is marginally dearer than the fully electric e-tron GT (pictured)

The A8 sits at top of the Audi hierarchy. It bristles with good technology, and it’s extremely safe for driver and passengers. There’s one thing it lacks, though, and that excitement. It’s marginally dearer than the fully electric e-tron GT, and it has none of that car’s panache. If I was going to spend over a hundred grand on an Audi (and chance would be a fine thing in any economic climate, never mind the one we’re living in), I’d happily lay down the €108,050 for that beauty instead.

Audi A8. TOTAL PRICE: (With options) €120,481 MODEL DRIVEN: (A8 TFSI e PHEV quattro, luxury trim): €111,310 ENGINE 3.0-litre V6 petrol 2995cc ELECTRIC MOTOR 105kW Power 462hp BATTERY 17.9kWh TRANSMISSION Eight-speed Tiptronic automatic TOP SPEED 250kph WLTP FUEL CONSUMPTION (l/100km): 1.8 (combined) C02 40g/km €140 tax DIMENSIONS 5190MM (L); 1945MM (W); “3MM (H) BOOT: 390 litres


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