Audi's largest sedan and its technological flagship, the A8 gets completely redesigned for 2019. The new model is 1.3 inches longer and nearly an inch taller. As before the A8 makes extensive use of aluminum and other light-weight, high-strength metals in its frame and body panels in an effort to save weight. Significant changes include the addition of a V6 engine, executive rear-seat package, updated MMI infotainment system and additional safety and technology packages. Competitors include the BMW 7-Series, Genesis G90, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Porsche Panamera.
As part of the redesign, the new base engine is now a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine that makes 335 horsepower. Returning is a turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that produces 453 horsepower. Both engines mate to an 8-speed automatic and come with Audi's all-wheel-drive system, dubbed quattro. The engines are also paired with Audi's 48-volt mild-hybrid system that is designed to provide improvements to fuel economy as well as the start-stop system.
Standard equipment includes 4-zone climate control, leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof and power rear sunshades. The executive package ads multicontour front seats, heated steering wheel, head-up display. New for 2020 is an Executive Rear Seat Comfort package that adds upgraded leather seating surfaces, folding tables, rear-passenger footrest and a detachable tablet control module.
The A8 starts at $85,200 and climbs to well more than $100,000 in top trim. For enthusiasts, Audi offers the S8. In addition to sport suspension and brake turning, the S8 gets a more powerful version of the turbocharged V8 that makes 563 horsepower.
Audi was wise to add a more fuel-efficient base engine to the A8 lineup to better match competitive offerings. The new V6 provides more than enough thrust to motivate the 4,700-pound A8. Stomp the gas and this Teutonic luxury ride will accelerate from 0 to 60 MPH in about 5.5 seconds. In most cases that would be considered exceptional, but in this class, that's just average. Buyers looking for more power can opt for the smooth and silky turbocharged V8, which provides considerably more punch.
The 8-speed automatic shifts smoothly and reacts quickly to manual input. Audi's all-wheel drive system is one of the best in the business, quickly sending power to the wheels with the most grip on slippery surfaces. The new mild-hybrid system is completely seamless in operation, providing some additional boost during low-speed acceleration, smoothing shifts and quickly restarting the engine when moving away from a stop.
The new V6 is EPA rated at 19 MPG city and 27 MPG highway. Those numbers match V6-powered offerings in competitors. In reality, the A8 is impressively efficient, easily achieving 25 MPG in overall suburban driving. Driving range also impresses with more than 500 miles per tank. As is the case with most cars in this class, all models require premium-grade gasoline.
The A8 strikes a near perfect balance in the ride-and-handling equation. The supple suspension provides a smooth and controlled ride yet firms up quickly when the road gets twisty. There's a sophistication to the suspension that's only found on top-end premium luxury sedans that can't be match by lower-priced competitors or event the best luxury crossovers. The steering and brakes are tuned perfectly for typical driving.
Compared to offerings from BMW and Mercedes, the A8 tends to feel a bit more American behind the wheel. There's an extra level of comfort in the bump absorption and a bit more compliance when traversing highway expansion joints. That's not to say the A8 floats or bounces. In fact, it's quite the opposite as the suspension seems to get more buttoned down as speed picks up.
With spot-on steering and a vault-quiet interior, the A8 is a great highway cruiser that eats up the miles at extra-legal speeds. The V6 engine snarls a bit in hard acceleration but cruises with serenity. Available on the A8 is a 4-wheel-steering system that both shrinks low-speed turning radius and tightens high-speed agility. Another unique feature is a side-impact crash-sensing function that instantly raises the car to better absorb a side impact.
Inside the new A8 is a model of Germanic style. Materials are impeccable and the design puts function ahead of form. When equipped with the Executive Rear Seat package, the interior gets a serious materials and feature upgrade that puts the A8 into a class by itself in terms of overall luxury.
Front seats are heavily padded and coddle with ample lumbar and thigh support. Though extremely comfortable, they somehow manage to provide exceptional support when the road gets twisty -- a combination you don't often find. Rear seats are first class all the way with thoughtful padding and ample comfort. Opt for the executive package and you lose the middle seat to a center control console, but gain perhaps the best rear seats in the class -- providing heating, cooling, massage and multiple adjustments. Head and leg room are exceptional front and rear and entry exit is a snap thanks to large door openings.
Audi's enhanced the MMI infotainment system and doubled down on display screens, adding a second to the center console and making another available to rear-seat passengers. Unlike displays on other cars, these are OLED, meaning they are the same quality that you'd find in top-end cell phones or computers and have haptic feedback that emulates the touch of a button. Unlike some other cars in the class, the interior is not awash in buttons and knobs. In fact, there. Just one knob for volume control. Otherwise everything is controlled by touch screens -- even the controls for the headlights. This takes some getting used to, no doubt. But once familiar the controls become quite intuitive and empowering. Overall the Audi MMI system isn't as easy to use as uConnect or MyLink in FCA and GM products, but it is so much more powerful from a control standpoint (almost intoxicating).
At 18 cubic feet the trunk can easily swallow a week's worth of groceries or goodies. The rear seats don't fold but there is a passthrough on non-executive models, so that's a downside. Interior storage is fair with several open and covered bins, a large glove box and capricious map pockets.
Bottom Line - The A8 is the most "American" of the German flagship sedans. It excels with supreme ride quality, locomotive-like acceleration and posh interior accommodations. The 2019 is perhaps the best iteration ever, and that's saying a lot, since the A8 has been considered by many to be the world's best overall luxury sedan.