The mid-life update to Audi A8 has served to enhance an already luxurious and premium car, writes Sandeep Srikanth
Audi has emerged as one of the more successful luxury carmakers in India over the recent years. Its Q SUVs are the most spotted luxury SUVs on our streets and even saloons like the A4 and A6 have been registering decent numbers. However, the carmaker is now focusing on its luxury limousine segment — the A8. The manufacturer has refreshed the A8 limousine with tweaks to the powertrains, exterior design and all-new cutting edge headlamp technology.
Given how much familial resemblance there is across Audi’s saloon line-up, this mid-life facelift is more evolution than revolution and that is especially true when it comes to the exterior styling. The strong ‘Audi’ grille now sports seven, rather than eight, horizontal slats, the front bumper is a little chunkier and the creases on the bonnet are a touch more pronounced. In profile, the A8 looks identical to the outgoing car save for added chrome surrounds for the glass areas and on the door handles and new alloy wheels. The rear gets a subtly tweaked bumper and new twin exhausts to add a bit of sportiness. The most visible changes are in the head- and tail-lamps that now get new LED turn indicators that light-up sequentially in the direction of the turn, acting as a useful visual indicator for oncoming traffic.
Step in and the first thing that strikes you is the rich, almost lavish, ambience. Audi says the A8’s cabin (always of a high standard) is now virtually hand-crafted and the attention to detail and excellent quality is accentuated by the new range of veneer trims and special vegetable-extract-tanned soft-touch leathers. The basic layout of the controls remains unchanged.
As with its predecessor, the A8 comes with the range of different petrol and diesel engines including the popular 3.0-litre V6 diesel, a 4.2-litre V8 diesel (the only engine of its kind in this class) and a 493bhp 6.0-litre W12. Above this is the new S8, which continues to run a 520bhp version of Audi’s twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8. All the power units have been fettled to deliver more power and improve efficiency.
We drove the 3.0-litre V6 diesel that is likely to be the most popular engine choice in the Indian market. This engine gains 8bhp and 3kgm over the older motor, pushing its max outputs up to 254bhp and 59.14kgm. Drive is channeled via an eight-speed automatic gearbox and Audi’s Quattro torque-sensing four-wheel-drive system. Along with the mechanical changes, moves to improve engine isolation (Audi has added new sound deadening materials) has clearly paid dividends. This has endowed the strongest-selling A8 with even more impressive mechanical refinement, which is now at or near the levels of the luxury car competition.
The V6 diesel car we drove was the regular wheelbase A8 (only the W12 was available in the long wheelbase that will come to India). The ride quality is quiet, refined and settled and the improved damping ensures much less pitching than before (the front end rises less under hard acceleration and dives less under braking). The A8 also rolled less when pushed hard on the narrow country roads of our test route. What was a bit disappointing though was the steering feel.
Despite the A8’s sporty positioning (within its segment), the electro-mechanical steering feels remote and disconnected when positioned near the centre line. It is quite direct and gets more responsive off-centre but doesn’t really offer true feedback or genuine weight.
The new A8 goes on sale in Europe in November 2013 and is expected to come to India in the first half of 2014. All the changes in the mid-life update have only served to enhance an already luxurious and premium car and if you are looking for a true luxury car with some of the highest quality levels around, the A8 could well be what you need.
Price from Rs 1.7 crore (estimated, ex-showroom, Delhi)
Engine V6, 2967cc, turbo-diesel
Installation Front, longitudinal
Power 254.8bhp at 4000-4250rpm
Torque 59.14kgm at 1750-2500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Fuel tank 82 litres
Boot 490 litres