Majestically wafting its occupants along in exquisite comfort and style, Audi’s glitzy flagship A8 is a big, big car that is, some would say, misplaced in an age obsessed with downsizing and worries about the environment and excessive consumerism.
But I have to say that a week sat behind its big, leather-rimmed steering wheel was over-flowing with feel-good factor. Oh for a lottery win!
It weighs two tons but get the thing rolling and it certainly does not feel dauntingly big. Indeed, though the cabin is vast, getting in and out can be quite a struggle because, in the fevered quest for better aero dynamics, and therefore lower fuel consumption, the roofs of so many cars – the A8 included – seem to be getting lower and lower.
That low stance means poor headroom for rear seat passengers and the boot is on the small side for such a large vehicle but it’s all in the cause of spending less time at the fuel pumps.
The figures speak for themselves, the 4.2-litre V8 diesel I road tested returning 36 mpg if driven sensibly yet having the ability to sprint to 62 mph in five seconds, with just 13 seconds needed to reach 100 mph. There’s also a 3.0-litre diesel and equivalent sized petrol fuelled versions plus, if you have a super-size bank balance and no concerns for the ecology, a V12-cylinder behemoth that sets a benchmark for the top spec models of the Mercedes S-Class and BMW7 Series ranges.
All A8s come with Audi’s renowned Quattro four-wheel drive and offer a choice of long or short wheelbase and either SE or SE Executive trim levels.
It is 18 years since a glittering A8 badge first appeared on an Audi’s rump. Those early barges were rather bland and soulless but the current, third generation, car is a whole different story, with a level of style, quality, equipment and technological innovation that make it a serious contender for the coveted tag of Best Car in the World’.
It’s all built around a light but rigid and very strong aluminium space-frame that is a full 25per cent stronger than the previous model.
The multi-link suspension is air sprung and electronically dampened, endowing the car with impressive ride and handling qualities. Loaded with goodies, the A8 offers such items as solar panels set in the optional sunroof that continue to cool the car even when the engine is not running; a night vision camera; adaptive cruise control; space sensors and a collection of dials, knobs and switches that rival those of an aircraft.
The cheapest A8 can be driven out of the showroom for £55,700 but it is easy to load on another £25,000 or more of options. Nor will it be cheap to insure and run and depreciation levels will be eye-watering, as is the norm for cars of its ilk.
Yet, if it’s sophistication, luxury, whisper quiet motoring and sheer prestige that you crave then this Teutonic executive express is hard to resist.