Premium large car; Built in Germany
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door sedan
  • longitudinal front-engine/all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $28,900 – $81,900*


2011 Audi A8 Front


2011 Audi A8 Front-2


2011 Audi A8 Front-3


2011 Audi A8 Rear


2011 Audi A8 Interior


2011 Audi A8 Front-4

Pros:
  • Acceleration
  • Build quality
  • Passenger room
  • Refinement
  • Ride/handling
Cons:
  • Transmission selector
  • Price (new or used)
  • Rear visibility

Rival flagship sedans may still beat the A8 for brand cachet, residual-value strength and customer-satisfaction scores. Audi counters such deficits with standard all-wheel drive, unique styling, and (when new) lower base prices with comparable equipment. Audi’s subtle yet thorough 2011 makeover only added to the appeal of a terrific premium-large sedan that merits a close look and serious consideration.

Overview

Redesigned for 2011, Audi’s flagship full-size sedan gained freshened styling for its regular A8 and extended-wheelbase A8 L models. Dimensions increased modestly: length, width and height, along with weight. Volkswagen owned this Audi brand, and the two German companies had connections dating back many years. Both models featured Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive, along with a new 8-speed automatic transmission that used steering-wheel shift paddles. A newly revised 4.2-liter V8 engine added 12 horsepower, for a total of 372. All A8 models included an adaptive air-spring suspension. Also standard was a navigation/infotainment system with Audi’s MMI (Multi Media Interface) controller, which now added a console-mounted touchpad that could be used to input handwritten commands for certain functions.

Standard Audi Drive Select could alter steering and throttle responses, transmission shift points, and suspension firmness through Comfort, Dynamic and Automatic settings. Standard safety features included antilock braking, traction control, an antiskid system, curtain side airbags, front and rear side airbags, and front knee airbags. All models also included front- and rear-obstacle detection. Optional features for the Audi A8 included blind-spot alert, lane-departure warning, night vision, adaptive cruise control, full LED headlamps, and 20-inch wheels to replace the standard 19-inchers.

Audi’s Premium Package included heated/ventilated 22-way massaging and multicontour front seats. The Sport Package added a sport adaptive air suspension, sport steering, and 20-inch alloy wheels. A costly Executive Seating Package included heated/ventilated rear seats with lumbar adjustment, right-side power legrest, rear footrests, and a refrigerator. In addition to a 5-inch longer wheelbase, the A8 L sedan had a rearview camera, keyless access/starting, power door-close assist, power side sunshades and a power trunklid. With its A8, Audi competed against such premium-large sedans as the new Hyundai Equus, as well as the familiar BMW 7-Series, Jaguar XJ Series, Lexus LS, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The latter rival now came with a diesel-engine option.

The S8 high-performance version of Audi’s A8 sedan returned to the U.S. after a two-year furlough in 2013. The S8 is based on the A8, but aims more at driving enthusiasts than luxury lovers. Because of its specialized nature, the S8 is the second costliest model in the A8 family.

S8 competed in the small but hotly contested sports-luxury subset of the premium-large-car class. Its only rivals were the Alpina B7 variant of the BMW 7-Series; the Jaguar XJ Supersports; and the Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, based on that brand’s big S-Class sedan.

Those cars formed a very exclusive group, with each model’s yearly U.S. sales typically numbering in the hundreds, not thousands. The S8 has usually finished last in the race, much as the A8 line as whole is still outsold by its British and other German rivals.

Yearly Updates

2012 A8
The 2012 Audi A8 lineup expanded to include a new ultra-lofty trim level with a 12-cylinder engine. In the new A8 L W12, a 6.3-liter V12 engine developed 500 horsepower. Front- and rear-obstacle detection was standard on the A8 L and A8 L W12, and optional on the Base model. Heated and ventilated front seats with a massage feature were standard on the W12 and optional on Base and L sedans. Heated/ventilated rear seats with massage and dual-screen DVD entertainment were standard on the W12 and optional for the L. A refrigerator between the rear seats was optional in the L and W12. The Audi Design Select Package included unique exterior and interior trim. Blind-spot alert, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control were optional on all models.
2013 A8
Though redesigned for 2011, the A8 saw a number of changes for 2013. Heading the list were a first-ever V6 model (at least for U.S. consumption), a new V8 engine and, after a year’s absence, the return of the high-performance S8. Also new was a “top-view” camera system to aid maneuvering in close quarters.
2014 A8
A diesel joined the A8’s powertrain lineup for 2014.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/all-wheel drive

Basic A8 sedans held a 4.2-liter V8 engine that produced 372 horsepower. A 6.3-liter W12 engine went into the 12-cylinder model, developing 500 horsepower. For 2013, a 333-horsepower supercharged V6 was added, along with a 520-horsepower turbocharged V8 for S8 models. The normally aspirated V8 in A8s was replaced by a 420-horsepower turbocharged V8. A 240-horsepower turbodiesel joined the lineup in 2014. All used an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive was standard.

Turbodiesel dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/181
Engine HP 240
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 406
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic

24/36

Supercharged dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/183
Engine HP 333
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 325
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic

18/28

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.2/255
Engine HP 372
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 328
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic

17/27

21.3

Turbocharged dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/244
Engine HP 420
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 444
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic

17/28

dohc V12
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 6.3/384
Engine HP 500
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 403
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic

14/21

NA

Turbocharged dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/244
Engine HP 520
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 481
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
8-speed automatic

15/26

Road Test

Audi claimed the standard-length A8 accelerated 0-60 mph in a class-competitive 5.7 seconds. Our test car felt that quick–abetted by AWD traction–and had strong mid-range passing power. The eight-speed automatic transmission is velvety smooth and responsive. Hesitation to downshift for passing may occur, but the steering-wheel paddles can be used to compensate in Drive as well as in manual-shift Sport mode. No Audi S8 models were made available for Consumer Guide evaluation.

In Consumer Guide testing, we averaged 21.3 mpg in a roughly 50/50 city/freeway driving mix. That aligned well with the EPA’s 17/27/21-mpg city/highway/combined estimates. For 2012, the estimate rose to 18/28 mpg (city/highway). Audi recommends premium-grade gas for best performance, but regular can be used as well (except with the W12 engine).

Ride quality is comfortably controlled and absorbent on most surfaces, regardless of the Drive Select mode and despite optional 20-inch wheels. The Dynamic setting gives a noticeably firmer feel and lets sharp bumps register more clearly, though without jolting. Comfort mode furnishes a plusher ride, but accompanied by a hint of floatiness over large humps and dips. Automatic mode splits these differences. The A8 continues to feature weight-saving aluminum space-frame construction, which is designed to benefit performance, fuel economy and handling without compromising rigidity. Our test car seemed very solid overall.

Audi’s A8 remains surprisingly agile for such a large, heavy sedan, offering firm and accurate steering, modest cornering lean, and secure AWD grip. This sedan feels most athletic in Drive Select’s Dynamic mode, but at the expense of noticeably higher steering effort, which might not please some drivers. Strong brakes deliver smooth, quick, level stops from any speed, but our test car suffered from numb, slightly ragged pedal action.

Like prior models, the latest A8 is whisper-quiet except at full throttle, when the V8 rises only to a muted, rich-sounding growl. The available 20-inch high-performance tires drone on coarse pavement, but are far from loud. Wind noise is virtually absent even during rapid highway cruising.

Although the A8’s numerous controls are as daunting as those of any feature-laden luxury car, they prove logical and convenient after a little study. Conventional switches handle basic audio and all climate functions. Other adjustments require using Audi’s MMI system, which includes a main control knob, flanking buttons, and retractable dashboard screen. The new-style shift lever–shaped like a yacht’s hand-throttle, Audi advises–had a stiff action that often resulted in overshooting the desired position. As expected of Audis, the A8 impresses for its top-notch fit/finish, interior materials, and detail workmanship–just as it should at this price level. Discreet ambient light strips along the interior roof rails and around the front roof console are a classy nighttime touch. Our test car’s vehicle-information display disappeared from the gauge cluster one afternoon, but it returned the next morning and gave no further trouble. Such glitches are hardly unknown in electronically complex premium cars, but we were still dismayed by that occurrence.

Redesigning of the A8 yielded a slightly larger cabin with something close to stretch-out space in front, complemented by good headroom despite the standard tilt/slide sunroof. The driving position is easily tailored to suit via a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel and ample seat-adjustment ranges. The seats themselves are well-shaped and supportive. Side bolsters power in and out on both the cushion and backrest. Available 22-way multi-contour seats include five different massage functions that seem effective; but if you find an A8 that’s so-equipped, try before you buy. Settings are adjusted via the dashboard screen and rotary knobs on the outboard seat bases. The latter setup is tricky to operate by feel, even with practice. Visibility ranks as just OK to the right-rear and dead-astern, so maneuvering this large car in tight spots demands caution. Unfortunately, that obstacle detection and a rearview camera have been available only in the $2,350 Convenience Package. Both really should have been standard at this price level.

Backseat space isn’t limousine vast, but even larger adults won’t lack for space in any direction. Though comfortable, the rear bench seat is shaped only for two, leaving a hard, cramped middle spot that’s best left for short-hop emergencies. Entry/exit is easy, though the floor passages are fairly narrow for a car this large.

Even though the trunk has a usefully cubic shape, cargo volume is unexceptional. In addition, the aperture is too small for bulky boxes. Old-fashioned sickle-shaped trunk-lid hinges seem cheap for a car in this price class, but they’re covered and don’t intrude much. Typical of the class, the rear seats don’t fold down, and a trunk pass-through/ski sack has been an extra-cost option. Above-par interior storage includes large bins and small covered cubbies in the doors, as well as a deep center-console box beneath twin height-adjustable armrests. Media plug-in ports are concealed by a small dashboard flap above the center console, but there’s no nearby storage for a phone or music player.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2011 Audi A8 w/20-inch wheels

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 - 8
80%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 8
80%
Steering/Handling - 8
80%
Quietness - 9
90%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Front - 10
100%
Room/Comfort Rear - 8
80%
Cargo Room - 4
40%

Other

Value - 7
70%

Total: 74

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
117.8 202.2 76.7 57.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.2 23.8 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.2 38.1 41.4 38.7
4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
122.9 207.4 76.7 57.9
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.2 23.8 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.2 39.1 41.4 42.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A Not tested 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

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

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

Automatic transmission
Description: Some transmissions may shift harshly or hesitate, requiring reprogramming of the transmission control module. (2012)
Automatic transmission
Description: The gearbox warning light may come on even though the transmission works fine, requiring reprogramming the shifter control module. (2011-12)
Cruise control
Description: Snow dirt on sensor might deactivate adaptive cruise control. (2011-14)
Engine misfire
Description: The engine may not start or may start and run rough after a hot soak due to one or more faulty injectors which leak when the engine is off. (2010-11)
Engine misfire
Description: Metallic particles in fuel pump may cause rough running or failure to start. (2013-14)
Engine misfire
Description: A loose camshaft-adjustment-valve filter may cause rough running. (2011-14)
Keyless entry
Description: The remote keyless entry (RKE) may work sporadically or quit due to loss of synchronization which may happen when other electronic devices (remotes, baby monitors, etc.) operate on the same frequency, requiring the RKE to be resynchronized to the vehicle. (2011-12)
Mirrors
Description: Blind-spot alert may be sporadic because soft software problem. (2011-13)
Steering problems
Description: The Dynamic Steering warning light may illuminate on the instrument panel requiring replacement of lock magnet in the steering column and reprogramming of the system. (2011)
Windows
Description: The front window(s) may reverse direction when closing due to a bad motor. An improved motor was released to fix the problem. (2011)
Electrical problem
Description: Rearview camera may work intermittently because of faulty wiring. (2013-14)

Recall History

2013-14 A8 S8
Description: Glass sunroof panel may shatter.

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.