Out on the road, the A8 is surprisingly quick and agile. Stats like a more powerful V8 and lighter weight would seem to make this obvious, but the more substantive design heft makes you think you’re getting into a heavier car. A more solid thunk of the door closing just adds to that perception. Numbers win out over subjective impression though and the A8 is both quicker and more agile as we noted while careening down Spanish seaside roads in the car. As with all of the latest Audis using the company’s modular MLB chassis basis for their architecture, the A8 benefits from physical placement of the engine slightly further back in the structure for better balance while other hardware upgrades like Audi Drive Select and the awesome Sport Differential first seen in the S4 were equipped in our grey example and will likely be optional for American versions.
All of this kit functions the same, but when paired with the slick new shift-by-wire gear selector it all seems more harmonious. For one, shifts from Audi’s new eight-speed Tiptronic automatic are decidedly quick. Also, just a single pull on the handle will drop the car into Sport mode. Whereas you’d be fiddling with MMI to set up custom driver setup if you prefer sporty handling but don’t care to keep the revs high all the time, the driver can now simply drop the car into sane roadgoing shift patterns even if you are in the Le Mans inspired sport mode.
This is the first time we’ve seen Audi Drive Select applied to an air suspension and the pairing works well. The suspension itself offers the same level of height functionality as before, but it more rapidly changes from sport to luxury settings and handling seems more natural than the air suspension on the car’s predecessor.