You are looking at the facelifted Audi A8.The optional headlamps on the A8 are the most significant part of the facelift. Twenty five individual LEDs that can be switched on and off independently make up the headlamps in the facelifted Audi A8. What they can do, among many things, is blank off individual LEDs that are shining in the face of the driver of an oncoming vehicle while continuing to light up the rest of the road with full beam. It works via the information it gets from an on-board camera and this is proper sci-fi stuff.
Peer at the car a bit more and you'll pick out typically understated German styling tweaks. There's a new bonnet featuring more defined creases, a lightly reworked grille, a less-rounded front bumper and flatter headlights. At the rear, the aluminium-bodied A8 gets a new boot lid, new tail-lamps and a crisper bumper with trapezoidal exhaust tips.
Our test car has the 3.0-litre TDI V6 that makes 254bhp and 59.14kgm of torque – gains of 8bhp and 3kgm of torque over the pre-facelift car. It's a bump up that's not terribly obvious because the 'old' engine was quite accomplished itself. Push the engine start button and the car settles into a smooth, if slightly audible idle. On the move, the A8's engine becomes incredibly refined and quiet – it's hard to tell there's a reasonably big diesel under the hood, and even when you rev it, the loudest noise you'll hear is a cultured purr.
In fact, that sound is one of many things that tell you that the A8 is seriously moving. Push down on the throttle and you'll feel the nose rise slightly and you get gently pushed into your seats as the engine's strong, creamy mid-range kicks in. The eight-speed torque converter automatic smoothly snaps up ratios and, given the space, the feeling of surfing a never ending wave of energy only starts fading when you're near 200kph. The A8, weighing in at 1935kg, will hit 100kph in 6.6sec which is a tad slower than the old car. We put this down to the fact that the old A8 was slightly lighter, at 1890kg.
What's immediately apparent on the move is how good this car's low speed ride is, thanks to Audi tweaking the suspension. Set in 'Comfort' mode, small imperfections are smothered somewhere between the pillows that seem to exist between the wheels and the seats and it's only expansion joints and bigger potholes that get relayed into the cabin with a thud. This, despite our car's 18-inch wheels and high profile tyres that help the air-suspension take the edge off our roads. Also, at low speeds, there's a hint of wallow but that said, the A8 simply doesn't ride with the same authority that the S-class does over our roads. Where it also disappoints somewhat is when you're driving on concrete surfaces -- there's a bit of unexpected road and tyre noise entering the cabin but this is a minor chink in the A8's armour.
Still, the way this car goes around fast corners is breathtaking – it'll hang on unbelievably with just a hint of tyre squeal as you approach the limits. This car feels safe and secure at high speeds and it is definitely sportier and more youthful than an S-class. The electro-mechanical steering is also quite direct but it trades in real feel for artificially induced weight, which is okay. Not too many owners will be looking for steering feel, much less spend time behind the wheel.
What they will care about are the interiors and in particular, the rear seats. The optional rear seat executive package fitted to our test car can rival a business class seat. They recline, adjust for thigh support and have a massage function along with an electrically operated foot rest, individual rear screens, a refrigerator and pop-out writing tables.
Up front, the new Alcantara, aluminium and wood trim along with Audi's signature red and white lighting scheme makes the cabin a really nice blend of cutting-edge and traditional. It's not quite as elegant and restrained as the S-class in this respect, but it is a very pleasing place to be in nonetheless. What we didn't like is the the yacht shaped gear shifter – its fiddly. That and the confusing mass of buttons on the center console means it isn't the easiest system to use on the move.
The facelifted A8 costs Rs 1.1 crore and for that, you get plenty of standard equipment. Know that all the delicious stuff is on the options list – things like the panoramic sunroof, Bang & Olufsen stereo (the standard fit is Bose), seat ventilation, massage seats, front and rear cameras, insulated glass, the matrix beam headlamps, the automatic parking system (much like on the VW Passat) and the night vision are all options. And going by what we know of Audis, they'll be pretty expensive as well.
Still, it's clear the A8 has upped its game with this facelift and it would be at the top of its game if it weren’t for one formidable rival from Stuttgart.