Audi A8

Audi has undertaken the biggest number of product improvements (PI) with the fourth-generation A8, and the result is a supreme machine.

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The A8 story began back in 1988 with the 'V8'. Six years later, Audi's flagship saloon took a big leap forward in both its use of technology and construction, including the famous aluminium space frame and countless other innovations.

For the first time in an Audi, A8 gets new 'Matrix' beam LED headlights that offer outstanding illumination and produce virtual daylight - I kid you not! A camera housed in the rearview mirror monitors the road ahead and only lights up at what needs to be lit. This means you can have the main beams on all the time and not dazzle oncoming cars, as the beam will shape itself around vehicles. Each light has 25 individual beams and, get this, the car will even use GPS to light intersections and bends coming up ahead.

Key exterior styling changes include a couple of new styling lines in the bonnet. Side-on there is a more rounded rear three-quarters, where it was once angular. At the rear you'll notice the standard fit and very stylish rectangular exhaust tailpipes that were once only available on the top spec car. New taillights also show off a more elegant rear-end.

Inside, of course, the cabin is a masterclass in elegance. But I think the coolest talking point is the availability of a new colour leather that is dyed not with some toxic chemicals, but strawberries - how posh is that?!

Buyers who may have found the A8's boot 10 litres too small will be pleased, as it now holds 520 litres. Head Up Display (HUD) is available for the first time in A8. A8 also features the latest night vision assistant, which uses a camera that can detect humans and animals up to 300 metres ahead and even flash the lights (at humans only) as an alert!

A8 is now lighter (its space frame weighs just 213kg) and emissions are also down. Small touches, like the change to electro-mechanical power steering from hydraulic, save on power consumption and CO2. All engines in the range are now EU6 compliant, well ahead of incoming legislation. The revised and more eco-friendly, yet powerful engine range (260hp-520hp) will help it sell well in its main target markets of America and China.

Audi Ireland says the reason why new buyers come to A8 is for its reassuring Quattro (all-wheel drive) drive train. Power is distributed 60% to the rear wheels and 40% to the front. The level of grip this offers compared to the majority of rear-wheel drive rivals is truly impressive and a unique selling point for Audi. BMW will be pushing the availability of its X-Drive (all-wheel drive) versions hard in the coming years. In time, the lower volume-selling rivals will also have to have alternatives to Quattro or they'll lose out, especially if we experience harsh weather again.

2013 was a record year for Audi, and it's no surprise that in the last 10 years the firm has doubled its sales globally. In Ireland, Audi remains number one in the premium car sector, a position it has held for the last five years. The availability of competitive finance and new PCP products has helped deliver Audi's impressive growth. A8 prices start at €94,080 (OTR).

The revised Audi A8 delivers understated luxury motoring.

Michael Sheridan


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