Premium large car; Built in Germany
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,600 – $80,000*


2000 Audi A8 L


1999 Audi A8 4.2


1999 Audi A8 4.2 interior


1998 Audi A8 4.2


1997 Audi A8 3.7

Pros:
  • Acceleration
  • AWD
  • Side airbags
  • Build quality
  • Exterior finish
  • Interior materials
  • Quietness
  • Ride
Cons:
  • Control layout
  • Fuel economy
  • Price

We like the A8, but cannot quite recommend it. Why? Simply because it’s been overpriced for what you get, and secondhand prices continue on the high side. Audi’s Quattro is the only all-wheel-drive system in this car’s class, but most people don’t really need it. Other brands give better value, even if they’re less high-tech than an Audi.

Overview

Audi’s luxury flagship slides into the dimensional gap between a BMW 7-Series and the smaller Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Use of aluminum for most frame and body panels, however, means the A8 weighs 300 to 500 pounds less than comparable luxury sedans. As its numerical designation suggests, a 3.7-liter aluminum V8 engine powered the A8 3.7 sedan, which came with front-wheel drive and standard traction control. A 300-horsepower, 4.2-liter V8 went into the A8 4.2, along with Audi’s permanently engaged Quattro all-wheel-drive system. Quattro automatically sends power to the wheels with the most traction in slippery conditions. Both models were equipped with six airbags: dual cushions in front, plus smaller airbags in each of the four doors. Rear side airbags were claimed to be an industry “first.” Standard equipment also included antilock braking, an antitheft system, and 5-speed automatic transmission. Each A8 sedan also got a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, power sunroof, cruise control, keyless entry, leather upholstery, and wood interior trim.Three option packages were available. The Cold Weather group featured heated steering wheel and front/rear seats, plus a ski sack. The Warm Weather option included insulated glass and sunshades for the back window and rear side windows. A solar sunroof in that group included interior fans that engaged when the car was parked in the sun. Rivals included the BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS 400, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

Yearly Updates

1998 A8
A glass moonroof replaced the previous aluminum sunroof for 1998. The mandatory 5-speed automatic transmission was now a Porsche designed Tiptronic unit, with manual-shifting feature. Dual-pane “acoustic” glass was newly standard. A new option package included high-intensity xenon headlamps.
1999 A8
Nothing of consequence was new for 1999 in Audi’s premium sedan, again offered in A8 3.7 form with front-drive, or as the A8 4.2 with Quattro all-wheel drive.
2000 A8
In addition to a mild restyling for 2000, Audi’s flagship lost its lower-priced, front-drive A8 3.7 model, and the A8 4.2 earned a $3000 base price cut. New “curtain” side airbags were installed, and the 4.2-liter V8 engine gained 10 horsepower (now rated at 310). The Sideguard airbags were designed to drop down from above the doors in a side-impact collision. Also added: a 3-point rear center seatbelt, steering-wheel audio controls, and automatic-dimming mirrors. Three new options joined the list: a satellite-linked navigation system, an “Acoustic” parking system that warned of obstacles when backing up, and an antiskid Electronic Stability Program. A longer-wheelbase sedan was scheduled for debut during 2000, promising three extra inches of rear legroom.
2001 A8
A 360-horsepower S8 and a longer-body A8L joined the line-up in 2001. New standard features for the A8 and L included an antiskid system, an oil-level sensor, front passenger-seat memory, and a new steering wheel with controls for manual shifting, audio, and available cell phone. Audi extended its warranty from 3 years/50,000 miles to 4/50,000.
2002 A8
A new radio with in-dash 6-disc changer, a “Sport” setting for the transmission, and new wheels marked 2002 versions of Audi’s flagship line. New safety features for ’02 included an in-trunk emergency release and an optional tire-pressure-monitoring system. OnStar assistance became available midyear, and could be enhanced with extra-cost in-car e-mail service.
2003 A8
Audi’s flagship sedan sees little change in preparation for a model-year 2004 redesign.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

Two engines have been used in the A8. Both are dual overhead-cam V8s. The 3.7-liter V8 was installed in the A8 3.7, developing 230 horsepower. That model came only with front-wheel drive and traction control. A 300-horsepower, 4.2-liter V8 went into the A8 4.2, which came with Quattro all-wheel drive. A 5-speed automatic transmission was standard in 1997. A year later, a Porsche-designed Tiptronic unit, capable of manual gear selection, ousted the conventional automatic. The 3.7-liter engine disappeared after 1999, and the 4.2-liter V8 gained 10 horsepower in 2000. In 2001, the 3.7-liter V8 was replaced by a 4.2-liter with 360 horsepower.

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.7/226
Engine HP 230
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 235
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

17/26

17.0

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.2/255
Engine HP 300-310
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 295-302
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

17/26

19.1

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.2/255
Engine HP 360
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 317
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

15/21

15.1

Road Test

Despite its aluminum structure, the A8 is no lightweight. Even so, it performs with vigor. An early A8 3.7 accelerated to 60 mph in just under 8 seconds, in our testing. That’s quick, yet somewhat slower than the class norm. Audi initially claimed 6.9 seconds for the A8 4.2, which seems a tad optimistic considering the added weight of the all-wheel-drive components. But the later A8L clocked 7.1 sec 0-60 mph, while the high-performance S8 needed just 6.4 sec. Gas mileage isn’t great, but could be worse. An A8 3.7 managed 18 mpg in hard city and freeway driving, while an A8 4.2 yielded just over 18 in more gentle running.

Both models offer polished road behavior. Though adroit, handling falls just short of the BMW-sporty realm. It’s sporty, true, but cornering is grippy and predictable–roughly like that of the largest Mercedes. The A8 feels far better planted at high speeds than a Lexus LS 400. All-wheel drive in the A8 4.2 is terrific, and an exclusive among the model’s direct competitors. Wind and engine noise are Lexus-low, but mild tire drone occurs over coarse pavement. Ride quality is excellent: supple, composed, and well-controlled. The A8 irons out rough spots as well as its German rivals, and with better body control than a Lexus. “Panic” braking is short and undramatic, though pedal action is somewhat doughy–not quite as firm as we’d like.

As expected in view of the price, an A8 packs all the amenities that would be expected in a top-drawer automobile. If it happens to have Cold Weather, Warm Weather, and Convenience Packages, it ranks virtually as a limousine. The A8 does not quite match the biggest Mercedes-Benz and BMW models for rear passenger room, but head clearance is adequate for 6-footers. Leg room borders on generous, and there’s enough width for three medium-size adults out back. All seats are firm and supportive, but front buckets let occupants slide around somewhat during hard turns. Audi’s dashboard has more buttons and switches than most luxury cars. Low-set climate controls are especially tricky to operate while driving. Visibility is constrained over-the-shoulder because of the roof styling, but good otherwise. Cargo space is ample, with a low liftover for easy loading. Due to bulky side panels, however, the trunk is rather narrow. Fortunately, the interior provides plenty of small-item stowage, though the dashboard glovebox is not as big as it appears at a glance.

Part of the extra new-vehicle cost comes from the fact that aluminum demands more hand labor than steel. Audi claims that aluminum adds strength while saving weight. Perhaps bearing out that assertion, the A8 does feel rock-solid on most any surface. Paint, interior materials, and detail fit/finish have been great on test cars we’ve tried. That should be a given, considering the car’s price–whether new or used.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2001 Audi A8 base

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 7
70%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 8
80%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 8
80%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Front - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Rear - 8
80%
Cargo Room - 6
60%

Other

Value - 3
30%

Total: 64

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
113 198.2 74 56.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
17.6 23.7 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.9 38.2 41.3 38.4
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
118.5 203.3 79.0 56.6
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
17.6 23.8 5.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.9 38.4 41.3 41.4
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2000 A8 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Brake noise
Description: Disc brakes make squealing noise. (1998)
Brakes
Description: The ABS (anti-lock brakes) may activate unnecessarily under normal to light application due to cracks in tone wheels. (1996-05)
Climate control
Description: The heated steering wheel may not heat up or may not stay warm. (1997-99)
Engine misfire
Description: After sitting overnight, the 2.0L or 3.2L engine may run rough, misfire and trigger the check engine light because the hydraulic valve lash adjusters drain down and all must be replaced. (2005-06)
Rear axle noise
Description: Whine from the rear after more than 20,000 miles due to differential bearing wear. (2004-07)
None
Description: Whine from the rear after more than 20,000 miles due to differential bearing wear. (2004-07)
Check-engine light
Description: The check engine light may illuminate due to a defective oxygen sensor and/or the wiring connector for the sensor requiring replacement then soldering the wires to bypass the connector. (2003-07)
Check-engine light
Description: After sitting overnight, the 2.0L or 3.2L engine may run rough, misfire and trigger the check engine light because the hydraulic valve lash adjusters drain down and all must be replaced. (2005-06)
Check-engine light
Description: The check engine light may illuminate due to a defective oxygen sensor and/or the wiring connector for the sensor requiring replacement then soldering the wires to bypass the connector. (2003-07)

Recall History

1996-03 A8 with a 5-speed automatic transmission
Description: A locking cable may move out of position over time. With the locking cable out of position, the shifter can be moved out of the “PARK” position even if the ignition key is not in the ignition lock. This could allow the vehicle to roll, causing a crash without warning. Dealers will modify the automatic transmission locking cable by installing an adjusting piece that will secure the locking cable in place.
1997
Description: Discharge of static electricity in low-humidity conditions can activate driver’s airbag when driver enters or exits car.
1998-99
Description: Some tie-rod seals may not seal properly; if moisture and/or dust particles enter the swivel-bearing mechanism, the bearing could wear over time, diminishing steering control
2000-01
Description: A “blind cover” at the filler neck of the fuel tank may not seal properly, allowing fuel vapor to escape. In the presence of an ignition source, could result in a fire.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.