2022 Audi A8 facelift revealed – refreshed limo to rival Merc S-class and incoming BMW 7-series
Audi’s last combustion A8, and the S8 derivative, will have a big job seeing off rivals from Mercedes and BMW
The Audi A8 has been given a light refresh in order to remain competitive to the new Mercedes S-class and incoming BMW 7-series. The A8 inhabits the fascinating F-segment – that’s the limo class to you and me. It’s a somewhat fickle part of the car market that represents the pinnacle automotive of technology and design, but to a shrinking group of customers that don’t appear to appreciate it all that much as very few A8s are privately purchased. Rather than chase high sales figures, these opulent saloons are seen as technological flagships – models that represent the brand as much as actually contribute to its bottom line.
The historically subtle A8 is one of the lingering luxury saloon contenders and Audi has kept things relatively understated for the 2022 update. There are few mechanical updates and instead a sharpened focus on technology and presentation. Highlights include software updates to the existing dual-touchscreen MMI interface introduced at the beginning of this generation, alongside the latest driver assistance and safety systems. The e-tron S’s Digital Light LED technology is also now available in the updated headlight clusters, which meld into an updated exterior design.
Both short- and long-wheelbase variants will be offered as before, but the Chinese market will also get a new Horch model, which combines an even longer wheelbase and bespoke styling elements in a similar fashion to Merc’s S-class Maybach derivatives.
Powertrains will include a selection of turbocharged V6 and V8 petrol motors aided with a mild-hybrid system. There’s a very conspicuous absence of diesel options with the update, though, all of which have been phased out to be replaced with plug-in hybrid variants. All A8s include Quattro all-wheel drive, and all feature an eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox.
Design changes inside the cabin are limited to new colour and trim options, but pay attention to specific elements within the A8’s deceptively simple cabin and you’ll note plenty of details that lift it over and above lesser Audi models that might otherwise look similar. These include elements like the solid metallic door handles, rotating air vents and extra plush materials used on the lower segments of the interior that otherwise go unnoticed.
This understated attention to detail is reflected in the chassis, with all A8s including rear-wheel steering and adaptive air-suspension, the latter working in conjunction with a predictive function that reads the road ahead and individually prepares each corner of the car according to what’s coming up. The air-springs are also reactive in emergency situations, with the ability to quickly pump up one side of the car to maximum height if it senses an impending side-on collision.
The 563bhp Audi S8 will pick up the same subtle changes, and otherwise continue as the model’s understated and surprisingly capable performance derivative. Power is derived from the same twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8 as in the previous generation A8, paired with a few exterior changes including a bespoke wheel design and quad exhaust finishers (fake or otherwise). It won’t be as boisterous as the incoming Mercedes-AMG S63, which is expected to far exceed the S8’s levels of performance with a newly-adopted hybrid rear axle with over 800bhp combined.
And it’s when compared to other F-segment saloons that the A8 feels most under threat. Key rivals from Mercedes and BMW inhabit the class with larger market shares helping to justify the expensive development of the imperious new S-class and BMW’s incoming 7-series. Less popular options like the Lexus LS and Jaguar XJ are either clinging on or have been put out of production all together.
Spending excessive amounts on developing a new petrol-powered A8 is something Audi knows is now a false economy. With future technical flagships now expected to come with electrified powertrains, this is the direction that Audi will adopt for the next-generation A8. We know the brand’s next flagship saloon will be built from Audi’s new PPE bespoke electric architecture, and it’ll be designed with inspiration taken from the Grand Sphere concept revealed earlier this year. Whether it’ll generate more sales than this A8 while also acting as a figure-head for the brand remains to be seen.