Audi A8 Generations: The evolution of the luxury sedan with Quattro

The Audi A8 is synonymous with luxury, and has been over the last 26 years. We take a look back at how it has evolved over the years.
The Fourth Generation Audi A8 arrived in India earlier this year
The Fourth Generation Audi A8 arrived in India earlier this yearAudi A8 third generation

The Audi A8 is simply luxury on four-wheels. It is the flagship Audi which offers all the tech and opulence you would need, along with a powerful engine and the legendary Quattro all-wheel drive system. Even though the German car maker made cars like Audi 100 and Audi 200 which were all about luxury, they wanted to up their game and be the best possible version that they can.

So in 1988, Audi launched the V8 which was bigger, more powerful and more luxurious than anything they’d ever made. A full size four door saloon powered by a 250bhp V8 engine paired to an automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive system. And the successor to the V8, was the A8 in 1994. The objective with the A8 was to keep it light. The Audi A8 debuted the Audi Space Frame (ASF). The chassis as well as the body was all-aluminium, a technological masterpiece at the time. Since the launch of the A8 in 1994, it has gone through three generational upgrades. Let’s walk you through them all!

First Generation: 1994 to 2002 (D2, Typ 4D)

The First Generation Audi A8 had an all-aluminium, monocoque  chassis
The First Generation Audi A8 had an all-aluminium, monocoque chassisAudi A8 First Generation

The first generation of the Audi A8 was built on the then-new Volkswagen Group D2 platform. This all-aluminium, monocoque chassis was significantly lighter and more rigid compared to the V8’s steel chassis. It was offered in two body styles, the A8 (standard wheelbase), and the A8 L extended or long-wheelbase (LWB) version. The A8 was available with either front-wheel drive which was powered by a 2.8-litre V6 engine, producing 193bhp and a 3.7-litre V8 engine producing 227bhp and the Quattro permanent all-wheel drive which received a 4.2-litre V8 producing 296bhp.

Audi A8 made sure that they aren’t short on the features front as well. It came with all the possible tech you could have back in the day, and was worthy competition to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW 7 Series. The Audi A8, in addition to being the world's first car to be built on an all-aluminium platform, it was also the first car to come equipped with six airbags.

Second generation: 2002 to 2009 (D3, Typ 4E)

The second generation Audi A8 was a great technological breakthrough for Audi
The second generation Audi A8 was a great technological breakthrough for AudiAudi A8 second generation

The second generation went on sale early in 2003 and was built on the Volkswagen Group D3 platform. The D3 platform enabled the car to be longer than before. The all-new exterior and interior design was worked on extensively and it shows. The controls were now nearer to the driver for a more driver focused approach while creating a more airy and spacious feel in the cabin. This was attained by Audi’s now famous MMI in-car user interface. The car also featured many firsts for Audi like the self-levelling adaptive air suspension, electric park brake, bi-xenon headlights with Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) cornering headlights, driver identification systems with fingerprint scanner and so on.

The second generation A8 came with plenty of engine options along with the V6 and V8 powertrain. It also featured a 6-litre W12 engine, that made 450bhp and 580Nm. There was also a performance version of the A8 – the S8, that was powered by a 5.2-litre V10 from the Lamborghini Gallardo replacing the older 4.2-litre unit. It produced 444bhp and 540Nm. There was also an option of a 4.2-litre diesel V8 engine generating 322bhp, making it the most powerful diesel engine Audi ever offered in a passenger car. The engine uses two turbochargers and two intercoolers with each turbocharger functioning exclusively for each cylinder bank.

Even though the second generation of the A8 was a huge technological breakthrough for Audi, I think it’s impossible to leave out the mention of the car’s presence in the Transporter movie featuring Jason Statham. The movie had some incredible driving scenes and Audi sure won a lot of hearts there!

Third Generation – 2011 to 2017(D4, TYP 4H)

The Third Generation Audi A8 came equipped with a clever Cylinder Deactivation Technology
The Third Generation Audi A8 came equipped with a clever Cylinder Deactivation Technology Audi A8 third generation

The third-generation Audi A8 was first unveiled in 2009 and was based on the Volkswagen Group MLB platform, but it retained the Audi Space Frame aluminium construction of the previous A8. This made it the lightest all-wheel drive car in the segment. The ASF body also makes it possible to reduce weight in many other areas, from the brakes to the fuel tank. This MLB platform also underpins the latest generation Audi cars alongside the Lamborghini Urus, Volkswagen Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne.

As was the norm, the A8 came with plenty of new features like the Matrix LED technology, Audi active lane assist, night vision assistant and so on. These radar based driver assistance systems meant that the A8 was one of the safest cars on road. The Audi S8 now came with a 4-litre twin turbo V8 which made 520bhp. The S8 now had an innovative cylinder deactivation technology where it could run as a V4 to improve fuel economy. The top of the line A8 L W12 Quattro was equipped with a 6.3-liter engine producing 500bhp. The sprint from 0 to 100kmph took just 4.7 seconds and was also equipped with the clever cylinder deactivation technology which temporarily deactivated the six of the twelve cylinders when not needed.

The third generation A8 L was the first A8 to be launched in India. It arrived in 2011 was powered by a 4.2-litre V8 and a 3-litre TDI initially. At a later date, Audi finally launched the A8 L W12 Quattro in India as well.

Fourth Generation – 2018 onwards (D4, TYP 4N)

The Fourth Generation Audi A8 in India, comes with a 3-litre V6 engine
The Fourth Generation Audi A8 in India, comes with a 3-litre V6 engine Audi A8 Fourth Generation

The fourth generation of the A8 still stays true to its fundamental identity of being a full-sized AWD luxury saloon. It was globally unveiled in 2018 and was launched in India earlier this year. We get only one option here in India– the 55 TFSI Quattro which is powered by a 3-litre V6 which makes 343bhp and 500Nm of torque and is mated to an eight-speed transmission with the Quattro AWD system. Like it's quick predecessors, the A8 does the 0-100kmph in just 5.7 seconds. It comes with all the features that pamper the buyer like the massager seats in the rear, a detachable tablet for ease of usability, Matrix LED reading lights and adaptive air suspension and so on. But since it is a full import, the prices begin at 1.56 Cr (ex-showroom, New Delhi).

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