THE POWER OF EIGHT
evo India|October 2020
Audi’s flagship sedan and SUVs come together in India for the first time, to explore the significance behind the numeral in their names
AATISH MISHRA

“I’M TAKING THE RS Q8”

Of course the Ed is taking the RS Q8. He’s been deprived of fast cars for so long that the faintest whiff of a V8 has him salivating. Doesn’t matter, because I had my eyes set on something else. The Audi A8. Forget the fact that it’s a proper looker, and can hold its own against these fierce-looking SUVs beside it. The A8 is the pinnacle of luxury from Audi, and I was in the mood to indulge myself. evo India is all about the Thrill of Driving, and normal circumstances dictate we begin our reviews from the hot seat. Behind the wheel, chasing another car up a twisty road, or simply chasing happiness. But that morning, happiness was a little further behind the steering wheel than usual. So I toss the keys to the wide-eyed intern, kick my feet up and get comfortable in the back!

The OG

The origins of the Audi A8 go back to the early ‘90s. The first-generation A8 was showcased at the Geneva Motor Show in February 1994. To give you context of how long ago that was, I was born a month later. And in the years since, I grew hair and lost it but the A8 has remained a technological tour de force. I actually found a press release from that event — on sale on eBay, of all places — that called the A8 a “trendsetter in the luxury class”, and that it made a “quantum leap in body architecture”. Which is true. The 1994 A8 had aluminium construction and an aluminium body which was radical at the time. It was also the first Audi flagship to wear an 8 in its name. Well, kinda. The A8 replaced the Audi V8, and that also happened to be flagship. But the V8 didn’t spawn an entire line of sedans that it sat at the helm of. The A8 set precedent and was followed by the A4 a few months later. Today, that lineage has expanded to everything from the A3 to the A7. But the A8 remains in a league of its own.

Forget business class, it’s first class in the backseat of the A8. I’ve never had such a luxurious drive to the hills of Lavasa. I’d taken the little tablet that controls pretty much everything in the car (except the actual driving) out of the centre armrest — rolled the blinds up, reclined my seat back and pushed the seat in front of me as far forward as it could go. I’m taller than the average Indian and even I could stretch — no exaggeration — my legs all the way forward. The seat was kneading my back and cooling my arse at the same time, and I even had control over the tunes. Daft Punk. Completely out of character with the A8, but let’s break a few stereotypes now that we’re here.

Allow me to give you an example of overkill. The A8 doesn’t just have matrix LEDs on the front of the car. It gets them inside the car as well. As reading lights. My little tablet can control where they fall on my lap and how intensely they shine. That’s not all, the A8 even has a foot massager built into the passenger seat back. You should have seen the look on the intern’s face when I told him I was getting my feet kneaded. We almost went into a ditch when he turned around to check if I had hidden someone in the footwell!

Calling the Ed and telling him the A8 was in a ditch wasn’t my idea of fun. So I banished the intern to the back (not that he was complaining) and took over chauffeur duties. The A8 isn’t just a one-seat-wonder though. Get in to the driver’s seat and there’s plenty to keep you thrilled. A turbo V6 that puts out 335bhp and 500Nm for starters. It’s deathly silent inside the cabin but it sure can get the A8 hustling. A sub 6-second 0-100kmph time in a car with an in-built refrigerator and tweeters that rise out of the dash is really impressive.

The quattro AWD system has no small role to play there and ensures all that power can be put down to the road. Quattro is the archetype of motorsport technology filtering down to the road. Created in the ‘80s to terrorise rally stages, it was so effective that Audi figured putting it on road cars would help them fly off shelves, not to mention making them faster and safer all at once. The original A8 debuted quattro in 1997, and it remains at the core of the A8 identity over 20 years later. This fourth-generation car pushes innovation further — it gets rear-wheel steering. In the corners, it feels like a much smaller car than it actually is and likes being thrown around. If you enjoy driving, the A8 will not disappoint.

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