Of all the diesel cars we’ve tested, the A8 4.2 TDI is the fastest. It’s even faster than most petrol cars we’ve tested. That something so long, so wide and so luxurious can whisk you into sportscar territory so effortlessly tells you all you need to know about Audi’s new uber-saloon.
It gets to 100kph in 5.1 seconds and to 200kph in just another 16 seconds. And it’s all because of the 90deg V8 diesel that sits under the wide bonnet. Displacing 4134cc, it makes 350bhp and peak torque stands at a thumping 81.6kgm all the way from 1750rpm to 3000rpm. And the Quattro masters at Audi have figured a way to usefully squeeze all that torque through an eight-speed torque-converter automatic to all four wheels. Nail the throttle and there’s a brief, anxious wait from the drivetrain before all hell breaks loose. Where the 3.0 V6 TDI gently pushes you back, the 4.2 kicks you in the kidneys and the thrust doesn’t let up until you’re well past 220kph!
But it’s still a relaxing car to drive. It can potter around town all day, but all it takes to unleash the madness is a simple dab of the throttle. The engine’s got a wide powerband and pulls hard and strong, almost all the way to the redline. Gearshifts are smooth and the gearbox is pretty accommodating in the way it downshifts when you ask it to.
The V8 engine is really impressive – smooth and quiet when you are not being silly with the throttle. And even once it’s spinning fast, you can only hear a muted growl from somewhere ahead of you, with a blissful absence of vibration. With its silky power delivery and effortless performance, the engine is the jewel in this car.
All this performance is also manageable because the air suspension goes a long way to keep that power in check. Stick it in Dynamic mode and you’ll be surprised to find that the Audi A8 4.2 TDI can go around corners rather well, provided the road is wide enough. Yes, the steering isn’t the best, but the Quattro system and the tremendous grip give it a certain ability to shrink around you. What we would have liked, though, is a better ride. When driving with the suspension in Comfort, it feels a bit too soft and it’s best to leave it in Dynamic or Auto. This makes the ride much flatter and more comfortable.
The all-aluminium monocoque construction makes the A8, at 2120kg, rather light for its class. While this has huge benefits in terms of fuel economy and performance, it does have one significant downside. The A8 doesn’t have the tank-like build of a Mercedes S-class, and this might be a put-off for some. It also doesn’t have the stately aura of the Merc and doesn’t look particularly special either. In fact, if it wasn’t for the 4.2 TDI badge on the tail-gate, you wouldn’t be able to tell it apart from its smaller-hearted sibling. Even the wheels are the same.
Still, fit and finish is excellent, the interiors are of a high standard, the seats are comfortable and it’s a car that has the potential to make you lazy. Everything in here is powered, down to the sun blinds on the side windows.
There’s lots of equipment too – a massive sunroof, four-zone climate control, MMI, DVD player, paddle-shifters, leather seats, a refrigerator, a hard drive for your music, and optional reclining and massaging rear seats.
And in terms of technology – Quattro, aluminium spaceframe construction, all-LED headlamps – there’s plenty to brag about.
The A8 4.2 TDI costs Rs 1.01 crore, around Rs 13 lakh more than a similarly equipped 3.0 TDI. Is it worth it? The truth is the A8 3.0 TDI is all you need most of the time and it makes the 4.2 TDI look overly excessive. But there is no price for the 4.2 TDI’s explosive performance and if you want the fastest diesel saloon in the country it is certainly worth the asking price.