Audi’s A8 has always been something of an outlier in the full-size luxury sedan space. In the U.S. at least, executive types (and those who want to appear as such) tend to lean toward the Mercedes-Benz S-class or BMW 7 Series, which are better-known rolling status symbols. But the A8’s under-the-radar approach has given it an image as sort of a “thinking man’s” luxury car—you don’t buy an A8 to integrate with the 1-percenter herd.
For the 2019 model year, Audi completely rethought the A8 with a sleek but simple exterior design and a touchscreen-heavy interior that has forgone as many buttons and switches as it reasonably can—Audi claims there are some 35 fewer hard controls than in the outgoing car. But is the new-generation A8 as well-developed a flagship luxury sedan as its highly regarded competitors? Our editors were split in that decision.
“Nicely direct and accurate steering, supple ride quality—it’s a great full-size luxury sedan and might have leapfrogged the S-class as my choice of cross-country express,” senior online editor Erik Johnson said. After his drive, pro racer Andy Pilgrim declared the A8 to be “still one of the very best driving offices.”
Most judges found Audi’s 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 (paired to an eight-speed automatic and supported by Audi’s 48-volt mild hybrid system) under the hood of the base A8 willing and able, the chassis response light and nimble (belying the car’s 4,751-pound curb weight). Its interior is simultaneously spacious, gorgeous, and recording-booth quiet—quieter than the Lexus LS‘s, even. Still, there was quite a bit of consternation over whether the A8’s future-is-now touchscreen interface is actually easier to use than more traditional approaches.
“I absolutely love Audi’s new interface; bring on the future!” editor-in-chief and noted tech nerd Mike Floyd said. Meanwhile, contributor Marc Noordeloos groaned, “Tons and tons of technology, but a bit overwhelming. Far too much touchscreen. It took me ages to figure out how to dim the interior lighting. That shouldn’t be the case. It needs a hard button/knob for that adjustment—and more.”
Although nearly all of the judges appreciated the A8 as a sophisticated, elegant executive shuttle, something was missing from the overall equation. “The A8 is wonderful in a vacuum—technologically outstanding, comfortable, and effortlessly contemporary,” said contributor Basem Wasef. “But when pondered against its formidable foes, the most potent of which is the S-class, the A8’s personality seems too mild to compete against such an über-sedan juggernaut. In that context, the A8 is still great but simply not great enough.”
2019 Audi A8 L Specifications
|PRICE||$84,795/$101,095 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6; 335 hp @ 5,000–6,400 rpm, 369 lb-ft @ 1,370–4,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||19/27 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||208.7 x 76.6 x 58.5 in|
|0–60 MPH||5.6 sec|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|