2011 Audi A8 Performance
This performance review was written when the 2011 Audi A8 was new.
Although slightly underpowered compared to other V8 super luxury cars, most reviewers think that the 2011 Audi A8 is quick enough, thanks to its lighter weight and excellent eight-speed transmission. That combination also helps the A8 get the best fuel economy available among super luxury cars. Its annual fuel costs match the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid and the V6-powered Porsche Panamera, but in many respects the Audi has a leg up. It has 77 more horsepower than the Mercedes and 72 more than the Porsche, and its Quattro all-wheel drive system makes the A8 a sure-footed choice.
The A8’s handling is generally liked by reviewers, although one says that he would’ve preferred a firmer suspension system. Audi’s flagship comes with an adjustable air suspension that lets the driver chose between comfort, automatic and dynamic modes to adjust the cars handling characteristics. It’s not as posh as competitors like the Lexus LS, and also not as firm as the BMW 7-Series or Porsche Panamera. One reviewer disliked the brakes, saying that the pedal feels mushy on initial contact.
- "The combination makes the A8 a very responsive car -- Audi claims a 0-to-62 mph time of 5.7 seconds -- it's just not quite as quick as the eight-cylinder BMW 7-series, Mercedes-Benz S-class, or Lexus LS460." -- Automobile Magazine
- "The new ‘Dynamic’ steering system is responsive and quick, helping the car exhibit excellent turn-in and feel much smaller than its 202-in. overall length would indicate." -- Road and Track
- "We were astounded by the handling, given the size of the car, and its 27 mpg highway rating. Audi takes advantage of a number of technologies, including the latest version of its all-wheel-drive system, to make it slip neatly through the curves at speed. The eight-gear transmission helps keep engine speed down on the freeway, saving considerable fuel." -- CNET
Acceleration and Power
Compared to other V8-powered super luxury cars, the 2011 Audi A8’s 372-horsepower, 4.2-liter V8 is a little short on power. Some reviewers think this is a problem, while others rave that the excellent eight-speed transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive help the A8 accelerate quickly enough to remain competitive. But the biggest complaint is likely the A8’s shifter. The transmission is electronically controlled, and the A8’s shifter requires the driver to carefully nudge the stick towards the desired gear. Push too hard and the A8 might end up in Sport mode instead of drive, or park instead of reverse.
If you’re considering more powerful super luxury cars like the V8-powered BMW 7-Series or Porsche Panamera S, you’ll have to drive the A8 to see if the power deficit is really that noticeable. However, neither of these competitors can match the 2011 A8’s fuel economy. The EPA estimates that both the A8 and the A8 L get 17 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. These averages give the A8 an EPA-estimated annual fuel cost of $2,877 – which is the currently the lowest among super luxury cars. If fuel economy is a top priority, check out the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid and the V6-powered Porsche Panamera, which both match the A8’s annual fuel cost.
- "The test car's new-style shift lever--shaped like a yacht's hand-throttle, Audi says--had a stiff action that often resulted in overshooting the desired position." -- Consumer Guide
- "The A8's new transmission, on the other hand, is one of the smoothest on the market: a high-tech eight-speed automatic with a manual shifting function and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters." -- BusinessWeek
- "We have few criticisms about the A8, but sacrificing a little horsepower in favor of torque would make it move a little more adroitly in low-speed city maneuvering. As it was, the A8 is more likely to leap from a stop than roll forward in stately luxury." -- CNET
Handling and Braking
Most reviewers are impressed with the 2011 Audi A8’s adjustable air suspension, which allows the driver to choose between Comfort and Dynamic driving modes, or an automatic mode that’s the middle ground between the two. Still, one reviewer said he preferred the firmer suspension of rival cars made by Porsche and BMW, while another thought that the brake pedal felt mushy at first. Audi’s Drive Select system also adjusts steering feel with the suspension – select comfort mode and steering is light, but if you put the car in dynamic mode the steering gets a sportier, and heavier feel.
- "Comfortably controlled and absorbent on most surfaces regardless of Drive Select mode and despite the test car's 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 with a hint of float over large humps and dips. Automatic splits these differences." -- Consumer Guide
- "The A8's ride is a bit boaty for my taste. The suspension smoothes out most potholes and bumps during day-to-day driving, but on the highway you feel like you're floating a little above the pavement. I prefer the stiffer suspension, heavier steering feel, and general sportiness of the BMW and Porsche. But if a luxurious ride is what you want, the A8 rivals the Mercedes S550, though it doesn't feel quite as solid and sound-deadened as the Mercedes." -- BusinessWeek
- "Piloting the big A8 around the city, we left it in Comfort mode, where the adaptive suspension did an excellent job absorbing the bumps without letting the driving experience feel sloppy." -- CNET
- "Audi's chassis and powertrain boffins have focused on making this big boy dance. And it does. You wouldn't think that something this large and this lux could be this quick on its feet, responding to steering inputs with immediacy and selecting the perfect of its eight ratios to put the power down, but it does." -- Autoblog
- "Our largest dynamic complaint concerns the brake pedal, which is mushy in its first couple of inches of travel." -- Car and Driver
All Wheel Drive / 4 Wheel Drive
Reviewers love the standard Quattro all-wheel drive that comes on the 2011 Audi A8. They say that it adds to the A8’s sporty feel and provides an impressive level of traction. The system generally puts 60 percent of the power to the rear wheels and the remaining 40 percent to the front, but can also shift more power in either direction to improve traction. An optional Sport Rear Differential is available and also adds torque vectoring – a system that improves handling by shifting power between the left and right rear wheel when cornering.
- "Quattro all-wheel drive, which defaults to 40 percent front and 60 percent rear torque, shifted power from front to back as needed, and also between right- and left-rear wheels." -- CNET
- "Our test car felt that quick--abetted by AWD traction--and had strong mid-range passing power." -- Consumer Guide
- "The combination of the lightweight aluminum space-frame chassis and the 372 horsepower, 4.2-liter direct injection V8 means the A8 is on par with its peers, but the addition of Audi's rear-biased Quattro all-wheel-drive puts it into new territory." -- Autoblog