Friday, March 18, 2011

Car review: Audi A8 3.0 TDI

Model (Code / Model Year): Audi A8 3.0 TDI Facelift (4E/ 2009)
Engine: 3 liter V6-cylinder diesel engine
Transmission: 6 speed automatic transmission (Tiptronic)
Paintwork & Interior + interior trim + wheels: Phantomblack Metallic, Dark Walnut Trim Brown (5MG),
Optional Equipment: Xenon plus, Auto dimming rear view mirror, Sportseats with memory, Lumbar support, Seat heating, four-zone automatic climate control, Sunblinds rear side windows (manual) & rear (automatic), multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth, Bose Surround Sound, CD-Changer, Speech control, MMI, Navigation, Adaptive Air Suspension, Audi parking system plus, Electric moonroof, Adaptive Cruise Control;
Performance: 233hp / 450nm
0 to 100km/h: 7,8sec
Top speed: 243km/h (152mp/h)
Weight: 1830kg
Fuel tank (US gallons): 90 liter (23.77 US gallons)
Fuel consumption in liter / 100km (U.S. miles per gallon): 11,9 liter / 100 kilometer (20,1mpg / US) / 60% Highway, 35% Local Roads, 5% City
Range: 1600 kilometer (1000 miles)
Price (Germany): €100.000
4E engines driven: 3.0 TDI

Audi is the youngest member of the German premiumsegment, in which Mercedes Benz and BMW have been competing for decades. Since 10 years Audi has become a serious competitor in this segment, with the introduction of the Audi A8 8E in 2001. An effective marketing effort has been the swith of the German goverment from Mercedes Benz S-class to the Audi A8, making the statement that Audi “has arrived”. For almost 10 years the A8 has been Audi's icon in the luxury market, since it has been replaced by a new A8 (the 4H) in early 2010.

But let's turn our attention to the 4E, which had received a Facelift back in 2008, and how well did it fare against the S-class and BMW 7-series?

1. Exterior

In 2007 Audi introduced the A5, together with a new design philosophy that is more aggressive. Unfortunately Audi has since lost its humble yet elegant appearance, but the A8 4E has been the pioneer of the "old philosophy" and therefore is a perfect match for the driver that appreciates luxury, but does not want to have the attention that comes with the newer A8. The 4E has undergone two facelifts (2005, single frame grill, 2008, LED-package) since its introduction in 2001, and the facelifted A8 still manages to look modern in the streets that are crammed with new car designs every day.

2. Engine, Transmission & handling

Normally the sound from the Audi diesel engines is more audible and more raw then comparable BMW oder Mercedes Benz engines. However, the A8 successfully filters most of the noise and reduces the noise level to acceptable standards. Not only the engine noise is filtered, when the doors are closed an oasis of tranquility is created, giving the driver the feeling that he / she is detached from the outside world.

The 3.0 TDI engine itself is a descent engine, combined with the Quattro four-wheel-drive system there always is enough performance available. In contrast to the A6 3.0 TDI, the A8 3.0 TDI feels more powerful when accelerating. Fuel consumption is a downside, the Quattro-system and the engine design itself increase the consumption about 1 to 1,5 liters above the competition (most notable the BMW 730d).

Adaptive Air Suspension is also available on the A8, and enables the setting of the suspension in different modes (“lift”, “comfort”, “automatic”, “dynamic”) in order to adapt to the road surface. When driving at speeds above 120km/h the suspension automatically lowers itself and in comfort mode is smoothens the ride. The ride itself is sporty enough to allow the driver to have some fun, while it is comfortable enough to drive long distances without getting tired. As opposed to the A6, Audi has managed to combine the best of both worlds (sport vs. comfort) in this car.

3. Interior

A car in the luxury segment should also convey a luxury feeling to the driver. In the cockpit of the A8 the driver is endulged into a serene atmosphere in which classic materials like wood are combined with a modern touch of aluminium. However, small details like buttons that are painted silver and the plastic overhead unit for the moonroof operation are not in line of what can be expected from a car in the luxury segment.

Other small details, mainly in the tech department, do show that the A8 4E is not that fresh anymore. The pixels of the automatic airconditioning in the center console or the small screen and relatively low resolution of the navigation are surpassed by new systems these days. What I particularly like about the Audi navigation systems is the fact that when calculating a route, several possibilities are offered up front to the driver.

Another point of bother is the amount of buttons of the MMI system. BMW did exactly the opposite and the lack of buttons was making the system hard to navigate, Audi is on the other end and the amount of buttons is confusing to use, forcing the driver to look away from the traffic downwards to the center console. A significant amount of comfort in a luxury car is derived from the seats. This A8 was fitted with the (optional) sports seats which are excellent in any way. They feel very soft to sit in, but also have enough support to let the driver sit in a certain position for extended periods of time with no problems or points of tension in the back. I'd even prefer them over BMWs comfort seats, as the sports seats offer less positions and thus a comfortable seating is found faster.

4.Optional Equipment

This section discusses (part of) the optional equipment available on the F01. Ranking from 1 (definitely a yes), 2 (nice to have, but not a minimum requirement) to 3 (not worth the money).

Sportseats with memory (ranking 1) = excellent seats enable the driver to make long trips without any problems
Four-zone automatic climate control (ranking 2) = only useful if people travel in the back seat on a regular basis
Sunblinds rear side windows & rear (ranking 1) = increases the privacy on the back seat, not only for passengers, but also for any items that might attract the attention of undesirable elements
Bose Surround Sound (ranking 1) = excellent sound system for a relatively small amount of money
CD-Changer (ranking 3) = when a media interface is available to listen music directly from an iPod or USB-unit, completely useless
Adaptive Air Suspension (ranking 1) =  allows the car to adapt to the driving conditions, therefore a large increase in comfort
Audi parking system plus (ranking 1) = the A8 is a big car and hard to navigate without the park sensors
Adaptive Cruise Control (ranking 1) = comfortable driving without having to brake an accelerate all the time

Final thoughts:

Although some points reveal the age of the A8 4E, different other characteristics still make it a very good car. The design, the build quality, the suspension, engine and transmission are all still up to premium standards. Only the technical goodies are dated, for example the low resolution and small navigation screen.

However, if an A8 can be purchased second hand for a reasonable price, it is still a very good buy and will offer the driver a large amount of comfort and driving pleasure.

More pictures of the Audi A8 can be found in the gallery, click to enter:

For video´s on the performance (acceleration and flat out) of the Audi A8 3.0 TDI, please watch the two video´s below:

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