As automotive battles go, none are bigger than between the German big three - Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz - battling for supremacy in every sector, including the large luxury segment. The second generation Audi A8 arrived in 2002 and represented the pinnacle of the maker’s knowledge, technology and craftsmanship, but remained something of an underdog in the sales charts. Its four-wheel drive chassis meant it actually offered something of a USP and deserved to sell better than it did before being replaced with the current car in 2009.
As a luxury saloon it’s no surprise the A8 was only available as a four-door model - though the firm did test the water with the five-door Avantissimo estate-style concept car in 2001. You can choose between two lengths though, the long wheelbase model adding a further 120mm in rear legroom and 11mm in overall height to the regular car.
There was much more choice when it came to engines, ranging from the 3.0-litre V6 petrol to the 4.2-litre V8 models, as well as the 3.0-litre V6, 4.0-litre and 4.2-litre V8 diesels. The latter make the most sense thanks to their blend of running costs and performance
But if the latter is what you are really after then the flagship S8, fitted with a Lamborghini derived 5.2-litre V10 engine is what you should be on a look out for. Combined with the quattro four-wheel drive chassis fitted across the range, it makes for a quick and reassuringly safe road car no matter the road conditions.
Apart from the range-topping S8 there were two other trim levels to choose from - the standard SE badged models and the S Line cars, the latter offering larger alloy wheels and subtly beefed up looks - a halfway house between the SE and S8 if you will. All models come with an excellent six-speed automatic gearbox.
The larger engines are nice, but in reality the 3.0-litre V6 diesel offers enough performance for most. And with combined consumption of 8.4 litres/100km it makes the most sense financially as well. We’d also seek out an SE model, as though the S Line cars look great, the sports suspension makes them rather firm - which is exactly the opposite of what a luxury car’s ride should be.
Engines: 2,967cc V6
Maximum speed: 243km/h
0-100km/h: 7.8 seconds
Fuel economy: 8.4 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: N/A
• Understated looks
• Build quality
• Understated looks
• Firm ride
• Hard to find
Your choice between the Mercedes S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Audi A8 is a tough one; they’re all loaded with kit, spacious, good to drive and suitably exclusive enough for anyone with the required money. The A8 does come with four-wheel drive though, as well as some of the most modern design detailing inside and out.