Since the world premiere of the 2018 Audi A8, we’ve been impatiently waiting to hear what it’s like to drive. We know all of its specs, seen tons of pictures and watched technical videos, showing off the sort of impressive technology the A8 is packed with. We’ve even seen and heard what it’s like to be a passenger in, while it drives itself. However, we haven’t actually heard about what it’s like when you actually do some driving of your own. Fortunately, some European journalists were recently invited to drive the Audi A8 and now we know.
Carwow was one of the publications that was invited to drive the new A8 and we have to say, we’re very jealous. Though, in this video, Carwow’s Mat Watson gives a very comprehensive review of the A8, one that really sheds a lot of light on what it’s like to drive, own and use the new Audi A8.
First, he talks about its looks. Admittedly, this is the one area where the A8 might disappoint. While it isn’t bad looking, it’s not very exciting. Sure, it’s smart looking and sophisticated but it’s just a bit dull. However, the Audi A8 isn’t designed to be enjoyed from the outside. It’s designed to be enjoyed from the inside. And enjoyment it does bring.
The cabin is gorgeously appointed, with rich materials and clever tech everywhere you look and touch. In pictures, the A8’s interior looks good and impressive but in this video, where we can actually see the materials quite close up, it looks superb. The leather is top-notch, the seats seem incredibly comfy and the tech is wildly impressive. It’s the sort of cabin that raises the luxury-limo bar even higher than it was. While the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is pretty on the inside, it seems downright old-fashioned compared to the A8.
It’s the tech that does it. Audi has eschewed its traditional rotary control dial for its MMI system for a dual-touchscreen layout. While we mostly agree with Watson that touchscreens simply aren’t as intuitive to use while driving as a physical control dial, the way this new MMI system works is quite smart. The touchscreens offer both audible and haptic feedback, so you have to actually push a bit harder on the digital buttons (much like an iPhone’s main button), making it a bit easier to use than a normal touchscreen. It’s still too glossy and will be a fingerprint magnet but it seems to work better and the graphics look fantastic.
In terms of self-driving tech, the Audi A8 has tons of it. By now, you probably already know that the A8 is capable of Level 3 Autonomy, which allows it to completely drive itself on highways at up to 60 km/h (37 mph). However, that feature isn’t available until government regulations allow it. What is available right now is its ability to park itself. So for parallel parking, you can simply cruise past a row of empty parking spaces, while the A8 looks for one that can fit the car. Once it’s found a spot and locked on, you let go of the steering wheel, take your feet off the pedals and press and hold the “Audi AI” button on the center console. The Audi A8 will then completely do the rest. It seems to work better than any other parallel parking system we’ve ever seen.
There’s also its ability to remote park itself, via smartphone app. While the BMW 7 Series was the first car to ever offer this feature, Audi takes it to a new level. With the BMW, you have to line the car up straight ahead with the spot first, get out and use the touchscreen keyfob to remotely park the car into the space ahead. With the A8, you don’t have to be perfect with the lineup, as it can make large steering corrections and navigate obstacles, and then you get out and use your smartphone to control the car.
But what’s the Audi A8 actually like to drive? Well, quite interesting actually. Along with all of the clever autonomous driving stuff, there’s also some Audi AI tech that improves the driving dynamics of the car. So the new Audi A8 features a new sort of suspension that uses electric actuators to control the ride height of the car, instantaneously. It then uses cameras and sensors to detect bumps in the road ahead and automatically adjust the suspension accordingly, beforehand. Watching it in action is remakable in this video, as you can actually see the body raise up to brace for impact of the bump and it apparently smooths out bumps extremely well.
When it comes to actually driving, though, the Audi A8 seems to impress. While no one will mistake it for a sports car, especially since it weighs two tons, it handles surprisingly well for such a big car. That same Audi AI suspension that smooths bumps out can also load up one side of the suspension through corners so it doesn’t roll. It can also can be optioned with a dynamic steering option that actually disconnects the front wheels from the steering wheel, giving it drive-by-wire steering, and rear-wheel steering. The former allows the wheels to articulate more left and right, giving it sharper and faster turning, while the latter effectively shortens the wheelbase. So despite being a very long and very big car, it can handle with surprising agility.
Overall, it seems that the new Audi A8 is a very impressive car. Mat Watson claims that it can certainly rival the best cars from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. He even says it could be the new benchmark in the segment.