Performance from both V6 versions are what you would describe as 'more than adequate'. But with 286hp to haul this large saloon (in TDI form), it will still accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds, and on to a maximum speed of 155mph. The 340hp petrol version reduces the acceleration run too 5.6 seconds - limited top speed remains unchanged.
Before we go into detail about how each version drives, it's worth explaining Audi's new badging system, which makes its debut on the Audi A8. It's a two-digit set-up, that is based on power – the larger the number the more power you get. For the A8, the line-up will look like this:
- Audi A8 3.0 TDI is now called Audi A8 50 TDI
- Audi A8 4.0 TDI is now called Audi A8 60 TDI
- Audi A8 3.0 TFSI is now called Audi A8 55 TFSI
- Audi A8 4.0 TFSI is now called Audi A8 60 TFSI
- Audi A8 W12 remains the same
- Audi A8 plug-in hybrid with 3.0 TFSI is now called the Audi A8 60 e-tron
Confused? You should be. But you probably won't be in years to come.
Never mind that, what's the diesel A8 like to drive?
We'll start with the V6 TDI version, which in the short term will be the biggest-selling model in the UK. The best way of describing it is as an effortless performer. Acceleration is rapid, but in Comfort mode, it never really feels it thanks to a slightly lazy throttle.
But put it in Dynamic and the TDI wakes up, with instant response, and plenty of get-up and go to match that sub-six-second 0-62mph time. It definitely feels happiest at high speeds, where the 70mph motorway slot trickles along at little more than 1,500rpm, but with plenty in reserve.
The diesel engine is quite gruff, but it's so well insulated that you'll seldom hear it, especially if you're running it with the impressive B&O stereo system on anything other than minimum volume.
And the petrol Audi A8?
This is the preferable drive from anything other than a strictly financial stand point. With 340hp on tap, it delivers quite a punch. But it does so in a refined and eager way, revving cleanly to 7,000rpm should you be in a sporting mood.
If you're happy to forget the person in the back seat, you'll nearly always prefer driving the A8 in Sport mode, so you can enjoy fast gearchanges, a more responsive throttle, and more mid-range punch as a consequence. It has paddle shifters for the automatic transmission, but in reality, only Lewis Hamilton types are going to get any real advantage from them.
In Efficiency mode, the A8 will coast when off the throttle, but only between 35 and 100mph, exaggerating the slightly lazy feel of it. In conclusion, it performs admirably and efficiently in either diesel or petrol form – your choice merely comes down to how generous your fuel budget is.
The Audi A8 might be designed to offer the maximum comfort for rear-seat passengers, but it also capable of putting in a sporting performance should you be in the mood for fun.
There are three drive modes, Comfort, Balance and Dynamic, and even in the passenger-biased Comfort mode, you'll be surprised at just how agile it is in bends.
We spent the most time in UK models with standard sir suspension, so will comment mostly on this. But riding on a variety of wheel sizes between 19- and 21-inches, the A8's handling remains calm and unflustered – and it's capable of cornering quickly and without drama in this most.
Does all this tech mean it's fun?
It can be, but being such a large car demands space and concentration. There is some body roll in Comfort mode, though, but not enough to cause concern, and all in all, it's a remarkable performance for a car of this size.
Most importantly, it's a big improvement on this score over its predecessor. Dynamic tends to sharpen the steering, but not to the point of making it feel like a smaller car – as the best systems can. But it's precise, accurate, and easy to place.
High-speed handling is helped also by the car's Quattro all-wheel drive set-up and its rear-wheel steering, which over 37mph sees the rear wheels turn slightly in the same direction as the fronts. It works, too – lane changes are effortless and planted, while A-road sweepers are shrugged off with ease.
An assured performance, then, whatever the drive mode.