This is likely the end of an era for Audi’s largest, most technology-stuffed sedan. For 2022, the German company has given its luxe A8 a minor overhaul that’ll see it through the last few years of its expected life. After that, well, that’s where it gets interesting.
The days of purely gas-burning luxury barges with monster motors are clearly numbered. Every luxury car maker worthy of the label is working on some sort of fully electric land yacht. Deep-pocketed drivers have also become increasingly willing to buy an EV too, as Bentley found out in a recent survey of its customers.
Clearly, none of the big luxury-car brands is ready to cede the small but prestigious (and profitable) full-size sedan market to electric upstarts like Tesla and Lucid Motors.
And so, as supremely competent as the 2022 Audi A8 is, the $99,000 vehicle feels like a stopgap until the company launches an all-electric or electrified next-generation model.
Curiously, in Canada, Audi is taking a half step backward on electrification in the short term. Here, the A8 plug-in hybrid (known as “TFSI e” in Audi-speak) is being discontinued for 2022. Reading between the lines of company statements, it appears it didn’t sell well enough. Full-size sedans are a small market, and plug-ins are even more so. It’s a shame, especially because the refreshed model, which will be sold in other markets including Europe, has more electric driving range: up to 59 kilometres.
The A8 lineup has been cut down to just two models for 2022: the A8 and the stretched S8 L.
The former has downsized from a V8 engine to a three-litre turbocharged V6, while the performance-minded S8 keeps its four-litre twin-turbo V8 engine with 563 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque.
The full-fat S8 was the only model available during our test drive. It certainly feels like a guilty pleasure these days, but a pleasure it most certainly is.
Entering a section of the Autobahn where your good judgment is the only speed limit, the S8 accelerates from 120 kilometres an hour like it’s being carried forth on an endless wave. The deep rumble from the engine sounds subterranean. The car feels unshakable as it hits 240 kilometres an hour. (You can almost see the fuel gauge dropping at that speed, which is one of many good reasons to keep speed limits on Canada’s highways.)
More impressive than the S8′s outright power is how it behaves away from the Autobahn. There’ so much clever engineering in the S8 that, on tight country roads, it drives like a smaller, lighter car. In fast corners, when you expect it to list toward the outside of a turn, the S8 does the opposite; its active air suspension tilts the car toward the inside, so it never feels as if you’re going as fast as you really are. The car also scans the road and adjusts the suspension for oncoming potholes, which gives the car a spooky ability to smooth out bad streets. Despite the cushy ride, the steering is nicely accurate. If you want a sedan to cart you and your three golf buddies around, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Then again, the same could be said of last year’s S8. The updates to the revised model are minor: a redesigned grille, new lights, and a fresh selection of paint colours and wheels.
The infotainment system feels old, though. When it was introduced in 2017, the A8′s crisp dual-touchscreen system with haptic feedback made everything else seem antiquated. Five years later, Audi’s system has been surpassed – at least in terms of design, if not outright utility – by the tech inside newer flagships like the Mercedes S-Class.
Back in 2017, the A8 didn’t have to fend off many electric rivals either. But today – if you don’t need space for your three golf buddies – Audi’s own e-Tron GT or the similar Porsche Taycan are both much more exciting to drive. There’s also Tesla’s refreshed Model S and the new Lucid Air.
Working in the A8′s favour is that it’s less expensive than electric rivals, and roughly $20,000 cheaper than the S-Class and BMW 7 Series. It may not have the flashiest technology any more, but it offers good value – if any $100,000 car can – and a great balance between crisp handling and comfort.
Enjoy it while you can. Last year, Audi unveiled the Grand Sphere electric sedan concept. It’s more than five metres long with a loungelike interior and an estimated driving range of more than 750 kilometres. The Grand Sphere, or something like it, will be on sale by the middle of the decade, an Audi executive said at the concept’s unveiling. The middle of the decade is also roughly when the fourth-generation A8 you see here is due for retirement. A coincidence? I suspect not. It seems likely this is your last chance to get a big Audi without an electrical socket.
2022 Audi A8
- Base price/as tested: $99,900 (A8), $144,200 (S8 L)
- Engine: Three-litre turbo V6 (A8), four-litre turbo V8 (S8 L)
- Transmission/drive: Eight-speed automatic
- Fuel economy (litres/100 kilometres): 16.9 city, 10.2 highway (S8 L)
- Alternatives: Tesla Model S, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, Audi e-Tron GT, Lucid Air, Genesis G90, Lexus LS
The huge-grille trend is in full swing.
It’s as quiet as a library, even at highway speeds. Rear seat passengers can enjoy an optional, heated foot-massage feature.
A 48-volt mild hybrid system reduces fuel consumption on both the A8 and S8, although neither is exactly frugal. Rear-wheel steering means the full-size S8 deftly handles a tight parking lot like a smaller machine. It’ll do zero-to-100 kilometres an hour in 3.9 seconds.
Audi abandoned plans to offer a lidar-based partly automated driving system (Level 3) in the A8, which was the car’s headline feature back in 2017. But, the usual (Level 2) driver assistance features are present.
No official trunk capacity was provided. An 82-litre fuel tank means the S8 could go roughly 800 kilometres before refuelling.
Not the flashiest flagship, but a great balance between crisp handling and comfort. It’s a shame there’s no plug-in version any more, but you can wait for the all-electric model coming in a few years.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.