Ameya Dandekar on the country’s fastest diesel saloon — Audi A8 4.2 TDI

If you are in the market for a fast car, but don’t want to compromise on the luxury this car might be the one for you.

The Audi A8 4.2 TDI is the fastest diesel we have ever tested. In fact, it’s faster than most petrol cars we’ve tested as well — 100kph comes up in 5.1sec and you have to keep the throttle pinned for just 16sec more to cross 200kph. The reason for these incredible figures is the 90deg V8 diesel that sits under the wide-as-a-football-field bonnet. Displacing 4134cc, it makes 350bhp and peak torque stands at a thumping 81.6kgm all the way from 1750rpm to 3000rpm. And the Quattro masters at Audi have figured a way to usefully squeeze all that torque through an eight-speed torque-converter automatic to all four wheels. It’s this incredible traction that allows this A8 to get these timings. Nail the throttle and there’s a brief, anxious wait from the drivetrain before all hell breaks loose. Where the 3.0 V6 TDI gently pushes you back, the 4.2 kicks you and the thrust doesn’t let up until you’re well past 220kph!

But these strong figures don’t mean that it can only be enjoyed on a track; the A8 is equally comfortable in the city. All it takes is a simple dab of the throttle to send the speedo needle arcing back towards the crazy half of the dial. The engine’s got a wide powerband and it pulls hard and strong almost all the way to its redline. Gearshifts are smooth and the gearbox is pretty accommodating in the way it downshifts when you ask it to.

It’s also the refinement of the V8 engine that’s really impressive. This motor is smooth and quiet when you are not being silly with the throttle. Once it’s spinning fast, you can only hear a muted growl from somewhere ahead of you, and there’s absolutely no vibration. With its silky power delivery and effortless performance, the engine is the jewel in this car.

All this performance is also manageable because the air suspension goes a long way to keep that power in check. Stick it in Dynamic mode and you’ll be surprised to find that the Audi A8 4.2 TDI can go around corners rather well, provided the road is wide enough, and it’s fun to hustle this car. Yes, the steering isn’t the best, but the Quattro system and the fine grip give it a certain ability to shrink around you. What we would have liked, though, is a better ride. When driving with the suspension in Comfort, it feels a bit too soft and it’s best to leave it in Dynamic or Auto. This makes the ride much flatter and more comfortable.

At 2120kg, the A8 is rather light for its class, and that’s thanks to its all-aluminium monocoque construction. While this has huge benefits in terms of fuel economy and performance, it doesn’t have a tank-like build. Also, if it wasn’t for the 4.2 TDI badging on the tail-gate, you wouldn’t be able to tell it apart from its smaller-hearted sibling. Not even the wheels are different. Still, fit and finish is excellent, the interiors are of a high standard, the seats are comfortable and it’s a car that has the potential to make you absolutely lazy. Everything in here is powered, down to the sun blinds on the side windows.

There’s lots of equipment too — a massive sunroof, four-zone climate control, MMI, DVD player, paddle-shifters, leather seats, a refrigerator, a hard drive for your music, and optional reclining and massaging rear seats. You’ll also like it for the technological tour-de-force it is — Quattro, aluminium spaceframe construction, all-LED headlamps — there’s plenty to brag about.

So you ask how much all of this will cost? The A8 4.2 TDI costs Rs 1.01 crore, which is approximately Rs 13 lakh more than a similarly equipped 3.0 TDI. Though the 3.0 TDI will give you everything you want from a fast diesel saloon, but the 4.2 TDI will give you that much more in terms of performance and there is no price on the pride of owning the fastest diesel saloon in the country.