Audi A8

The rise of the high-performance diesel continues

Evo rating
Price
from £58,605
  • So fast, so effortlessly
  • Telling friends it's a diesel

It's hard to know what to expect of Audi's new 4.2-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel-engined A8. Because although it has 322bhp and an extraordinary 479lb ft of torque - easily eclipsing the outputs of the previous 4-litre unit in the A8, along with all its rivals - it is, after all, a diesel.

But then, on the launch near Munich, we were gifted a clear stretch of autobahn and the picture became much clearer. The A8 4.2 TDI doesn't so much accelerate as relentlessly and effortlessly accumulate velocity. Because you're so well cocooned by sound and vibration insulation, the speedo is the clearest indicator of just how rapidly you're picking up pace; the rush of the outside world seems a little at odds with the calm inside the cabin. Gearchanges glide through the six-speed Tiptronic automatic with a barely perceptible change in engine note, and without any interruption to the remorseless surge of thrust. And suddenly you've wafted into the 155mph speed limiter...

The drama-free fashion in which this common-rail direct injection turbodiesel V8 gets there is clear evidence of the monster strength of this engine. What's more, it's whisper quiet and the only time it hints that it uses compression ignition is when it starts up from cold. But for the fact that it's not keen to rev much beyond 4200rpm, you'd assume it was just your regular modern petrol V8.

One of the reasons for having a diesel engine, of course, is for its fuel economy, and should you have the discipline to drive the A8 in a modest fashion, then it will give 30mpg on the Combined cycle - on the other hand, it will also do 0-62mph in 5.9sec, so chances are you won't ever manage a fuel consumption figure that looks quite so healthy, though it would still seem parsimonious compared with a V8 petrol-engined A8.

A couple of other things worth noting about the V8 turbodiesel motor are that it's a light and compact piece of kit, and that its exhaust system features the latest-generation particulate filters to cut down on the smoke screen that some oil burners still leave in their wake during hard acceleration.

At the same launch as the 4.2 TDI, Audi also revealed a new petrol direct injection - or FSI in Audi-VW-speak - 3.2-litre V6 with 256bhp at 6500rpm and 243lb ft of torque at 3250rpm; this engine will be soon be dropped into sportier Audis. Its claimed 7.7sec 0-62mph sprint figure suggests that it's quick, but traffic jams around Munich meant that all we can tell you with certainty is that it's a pleasantly quiet engine and a bit of an anti-climax after surging around in the turbodiesel.

While the petrol V6 will undoubtedly serve many A8 owners well (and save them money with its £47,930 starting price), the 4.2 TDI is by far the more intriguing package and considerably quicker. Whereas in the past diesels, even gutsy ones, have felt like the compromised choice, the A8's V8 complements the essential character of the car, doling out bulging parcels of energy that you can employ either to waft along autobahns, or to provide a high speed link between corners; it's a mighty effective engine, but like the A8 as a whole, it's more discreet than flamboyant.

Like the rest of the A8 range, the 4.2 TDI features the wide-mouthed grille that debuted on the W12, and it's available in regular and long wheelbases, with the quattro drivetrain as standard; the 3.2-litre FSI V6 is front-wheel drive.

Several of us in the evo office have reservations about diesel engines as appropriate propulsion for proper sports cars, but this Audi oil-burner - and doubtless the V8 turbodiesels from Mercedes and BMW - demonstrates that a punchy and well-mannered turbodiesel has a place in high- performance luxury saloons. And that is a very peculiar thing to be writing.

Specifications

EngineV8, 4134cc, twin-turbo diesel
Max power322bhp @ 3750rpm
Max torque479lb ft @ 1600-3500rpm
0-605.9sec (claimed)
Top speed155mph (limited)
On saleAugust 2005

Most Popular

Triumph Lynx – Dead on arrival
Triumph Lynx
Features

Triumph Lynx – Dead on arrival

With a 3.5-litre Rover V8 under the bonnet and TR7 fastback styling, the Lynx could have been British Leyland’s answer to the Ford Capri
18 Jun 2021
New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring revealed – now available in manual and PDK
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring – rear profile
Porsche 911 GT3

New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring revealed – now available in manual and PDK

The Touring pack has returned, combining the 992 GT3’s set-up with more understated looks
15 Jun 2021
Used car deals of the week
Used car deals
used cars

Used car deals of the week

Here's what caught evo’s fancy this week on the second hand car market
17 Jun 2021
The reluctant LaFerrari driver – evo archive
evo archive – LaFerrari truck extraction – stop!
Ferrari

The reluctant LaFerrari driver – evo archive

How do you get a £1million hypercar out of the back of a delivery truck? Very, very, slowly…
15 Jun 2021
Next generation BMW 7-series spied – flagship saloon to once again set the tone for future models
Next generation BMW 7-series spied – front quarter
BMW 7 Series

Next generation BMW 7-series spied – flagship saloon to once again set the tone for future models

All-new saloon to feature IC and EV powertrains, but once again it’ll also lead the way aesthetically
16 Jun 2021
MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn
MAT Stratos – front tracking
Lancia

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn

It’s been a long time coming, but this Ferrari F430-based reimagining of the Lancia Stratos is finally here
11 Jun 2021
BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance
BMW M5 CS – front cornering
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance

Nonsensical on paper, but sublime in practice. Never has a modern supersaloon been more tactile or more engaging
14 Jun 2021
Hyundai i20 N revealed – Ford Fiesta ST rival priced from £24,995
Hyundai i20 N car pictures
Hyundai i20 hatchback

Hyundai i20 N revealed – Ford Fiesta ST rival priced from £24,995

N division's second model set to shake up the junior hot hatch establishment
17 Jun 2021
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act
Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition – slide
Ford Mustang

Ford Mustang Steve McQueen Bullitt Edition 2021 review – a 720bhp tribute act

Immense performance from about the coolest modern muscle car out there. It’s expensive, but there’s nothing else quite like it
12 Jun 2021
Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement to be revealed June 24
Ferrari F171 spy 2021 – header
Ferrari

Ferrari F8 Tributo replacement to be revealed June 24

Ferrari’s going hybrid and V6 for its next mid-engined supercar
16 Jun 2021
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?
Audi RS3 manufacturer spy 1
Audi RS3

2021 Audi RS3 Sportback and saloon previewed – will it finally match Mercedes-AMG A45 S?

Audi Sport is putting the final touches on its new RS3 hot hatch and saloon
10 Jun 2021
2022 Polestar 3 teased – all-new Audi e-tron rival a stepchange model
Polestar 3
Polestar

2022 Polestar 3 teased – all-new Audi e-tron rival a stepchange model

Yes, it’s another electric SUV, but this one will be the first ‘true’ Polestar
17 Jun 2021
GTO Engineering Squalo interior sketches revealed – new-build Ferrari 250 GTO hommage draws closer
GTO Engineering interior
Ferrari

GTO Engineering Squalo interior sketches revealed – new-build Ferrari 250 GTO hommage draws closer

New details, including the interior, have been revealed about the GTO Engineering Squalo
15 Jun 2021