'Taken on its own terms, the Audi has much to commend it'

Sean O'Grady gets to grips with the new A8's advanced aluminium frame, radar-assisted system cruise control – and massage function

It is not so terribly long ago that a heater was offered as an optional extra on many cars. Nowadays, on the all-new Audi A8, for example, you can see in the dark. Night vision is there. I really ought to have tried it out, but, to be frank, I didn't realise it was there, and I never once thought to myself, even on the darkest, murkiest of nights: "Gosh, wouldn't it be handy if I could have night vision on my sat-nav screen?" After all, if you're looking at the screen, you can't be looking at the road, surely? Without compromising myself unduly, I would have to conclude that such a leap forward in technology might primarily be of use to what we must now term Britain's "dogging community". For them, it may be worth every penny of the £2,000 that Audi asks for its "night vision assistant with pedestrian detection". For me, though, it was a case of what you don't have, you don't miss.

I have another confession to make. I preferred the old A8, less highly styled inside and out as it was. This one, even more than its predecessors, looks as though it is an exercise in out-S-Classing the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. It has extra curves, sculpting and swages, and looks, for better or for worse, like an A4, and not as stylish as a contemporary S-Class anyway. The old one was slab-sided and rather bluff, which suited it. Indoors, too, the old A8 was a very straight affair, boring even, but, again, it suited it. The new one is more swoopy and fussy. What has apparently really gone awry, though, is the build quality. This is the sort of thing motoring journalists always go on about but is usually just an excuse for some semi-racist digs at a Korean, Malaysian or Italian car, and a cue to go on about the granite "Teutonic" integrity of whatever German-branded product is sitting alongside (even though it might have been made in Spain or South Africa). In this case , I would like to query the "Teutonic" build quality of my test A8, which was made in Neckarsulm in Germany. First, the sat-nav/night vision screen refused to emerge fully from its dashboard cubbyhole. Only a little old-fashioned, but gentle, jiggling would coax it out. Second was the sound of a mosquito trapped in the door panel. Maybe Neckarsulm has pools of stagnant water harbouring parasites and dengue, but I rather think it was probably just wind noise from some slightly misaligned bit of the door assemblage. But it was annoying and obviously not what you would expect in a car costing £84,755 (as tested). The old one felt more solid.

Otherwise, and taken entirely on its own terms, the Audi has much to commend it. It does all the usual limo stuff with aplomb. Despite my reservations about the new styling, they've made the distinctive Audi grille more distinctive on this flagship car by adding horizontal chrome strips, which lift it tastefully. The advanced aluminium frame construction means low weight, superior performance and excellent economy (especially in the diesel models), and the air suspension worked well, though gigantic alloys didn't help the low-speed ride. I loved the radar-assisted system cruise control that will brake for you, too. My petrol V8 does 0 to 60mph in 5.7 seconds, which seemed and sounded perfectly fine to me. Listening to digital radio via the Bose sound system was an even greater aural treat, and I did use and enjoy the massage function in the seats. A useful optional extra, that.

So, whatever the ambitions of its maker, this Audi does not provide any knockout blows to its more established competitors from Mercedes-Benz or BMW. To beat those, you need to turn to Jaguar or Lexus (for different reasons). Personally I'd like to see Audi extend its range of breathtakingly fast estate cars by engineering an A8 Avant model with all the usual supercar-style performance enhancements you find on the A6 versions. Absent of that bit of fun, I'd opt for a lightly used Bentley Continental Flying Spur, the Audi's British sibling, with craftsmanship, pedigree and another four cylinders thrown in.

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Associate Recrutiment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

    Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

    £120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

    PMLD Teacher

    Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence