Audi A8: Birthday Celebrations

  • We spend long 30th Birthday weekend and 400 miles with editor’s Audi A8 4.2TDI
  • Engine’s refinement, power and even economy impress, along with car’s excellent cabin
  • Low speed transmission shunt and over-sensitive brake pedal take the shine off

Spending the weekend in a nice car isn’t a hardship, but three months after the editor’s Audi A8 long termer had arrived in the office I’d still not done more than move it round the car park. Arguably it’s one of the nicest on fleet – it’s certainly the grandest.

Given my fiance’s 30th birthday weekend was fast approaching, I decided that was the ideal opportunity to rectify the situation.

Which is how, on a Friday afternoon, I found myself stuffing bottles of Champagne (and a travel-jar of Chambord) into the fridge nestled between the rear seats. As the cooler door latched shut and I folded the armrest back – which incidentally hosts the controls for the rear air-conditioning and seat adjustment – I couldn’t help wonder if being up-front was the wrong place to sit?

Audi A8 fridge

But while plenty of these cars – Mercedes S-Class and Jaguar XJ included – will be driven by drivers rather than their owners, there are a handful that will be entirely self-piloted. At heart I’m a man of the people, so I put pretensions to one side, filled the boot (which is slightly skewed due to the fridge taking up some space) and slipped into the front instead.

Before we’d even left the drive for our weekend retreat to the excellent Salt House hotel in Ipswich, the A8 literally blew me away. I like my music, and I like it loud and clear, but I’m also Scottish and deep down hold a frugal - not tight - grip on my wallet. Even I’d be tempted by the £6,740 Bang & Olufsen system in Kieren’s A8 though.

Not that the hi-fidelity audio altered my fiance’s appreciation of my tune choice.

Audi A8 TV

At least when the traffic got tough and we slowed to a stop she could enjoy watching the Simpsons on Channel Four rather than cowering from my musical assault on her ears, the main sat-nav screen doubling up as a television. It certainly took the edge off our now delayed arrival at the hotel.

As did that monstrous 4.2-litre V8 diesel engine. Bestowed with 379bhp, and a frankly ridiculous 850Nm of torque it somehow launches this leviathan from 0-62mph in just 4.5 seconds. Put into perspective that’s as quick as a Porsche 911 Carrera.

Audi A8 4.2 TDI

Admittedly the 911 won’t manage 38mpg, but then neither will our A8. That said for the 400 or so miles I spent behind the wheel it did indicate a little over 30mpg as an average – and if you can afford an A8 (or Porsche for that matter) then those numbers matter not.

You’ll be able to park the Porker easier too, as while the A8 feels big on the inside, it is big on the outside. Inexplicably the hotel had a space problem also, with more rooms than car parking. What followed was a weekend of multiple hotel porters playing musical chairs with the A8’s driver’s seat as it was shuffled from paid parking space to free courtyard. Electric memory seats ensured getting back into my perfect position was only a button-press away.

Audi A8 parking attendant

Not one noticed the A8’s most major fault though, which is most apparent at low speed – especially when coming to a stop. The brakes are overly sharp, and such is the low-down torque of this engine that gliding to a smooth halt – by rolling the pressure gently off the brake pedal at the last second – simply sees the car continue surging forward. Keep it depressed, regardless of how feather-light your size eleven left is, and the A8 jolts to a stop at every red traffic light, congested roundabout or occupied pedestrian crossing.

Which is exactly when this car’s second flaw surfaces; the start stop system just isn’t as smooth as it should be on a car of this stature – or price – and the quick vibration as the engine re-starts grates. Added to that the occasional shunt from the transmission at lower speeds, and it’s clear inner-city working isn’t the A8’s forte.

Audi A8 at coast

On the open road towards Suffolk’s coastline though those problems quickly disappeared from my mind. This luxury limo’s civilised pace and excellent cabin comfort really does make the package rather peerless on our fleet. I just wish I’d discovered that a bit sooner.


Mileage: 3,784 miles  Economy: 30.3mpg