Audi's largest and most luxurious sedan—the 2021 A8—hides its high-dollar cabin behind a handsome-yet-understated façade. From a distance, it's easy to mistake this nearly six-figure sedan for a humble A4, but that sort of anonymity may actually be appealing to more restrained millionaires.
Inside, buyers will find a cabin that is just as spacious and elegantly outfitted as the showier Mercedes-Benz S-class and BMW 7-series, including available massaging seats for front and rear passengers. Audi has rolled out its entire cavalcade of infotainment and driver-assistance technology here, as the A8 serves as a rolling showcase of whiz-bang features.
Audi is ratcheting up the luxury on the A8 for 2021 by making 22-way, power-adjustable front seats with heat and ventilation standard across the lineup. Also now standard is a wireless smartphone charging pad and a 360-degree exterior camera system.
The top-flight 60 TFSI model now comes with the Sport Style package (20-inch wheels, front-lip spoiler, and chrome lower body cladding) as well as Matrix-design LED headlights and soft Valcona leather upholstery.
Going with the 60 TFSI model puts the A8's best feature under the hood: A 453-hp twin-turbocharged V-8. In addition to the more powerful engine, we'd also order the Rear Seat Comfort package, which adds power rear seats with massage and heat to really pamper our passengers.
The Executive package makes our list too. It includes massaging front seats, a head-up display, a heated steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring, and interior ambient lighting.
The base 55 TFSI comes with a turbocharged V-6 rated at 335 horsepower, and the 60 TFSI has a 453-hp twin-turbo V-8 engine. Both versions use a 48-volt hybrid system. An eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive are standard.
The plug-in hybrid 60 TFSI e combines the V-6 with an electric motor and a rear-mounted 14.1-kWh battery pack. The 2021 Audi A8 TFSI e is rated at 443 hp. So far, which sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds at The test track.
Among six-cylinder executive sedans, that's on par with the Mercedes-Benz S450 but a few tenths off the rapid pace of the BMW 740i.
The Audi's engine is smooth, but there's no fanfare to its power delivery, and sound-deadening measures are so extensive that it's practically inaudible with the windows up.
The A8 offers a very Audi-like blend of athleticism and ride comfort. An adjustable air suspension and driver-adjustable adaptive dampers are standard.
Optional with the V-8 is a more advanced active suspension that scans the road ahead for bumps and takes measures to compensate. With the base suspension, the Audi A8 isolates you from road irregularities but can still hammer down a back road when the mood strikes.
2020 Audi A8
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
While the EPA hasn't released fuel-economy estimates for the 2021 model yet, the A8's lack of mechanical changes suggest its ratings won't change from last year. The six-cylinder 2020 A8 is expected to earn 17 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
While we haven't tested a 2020 model with that engine, but the last one we evaluated on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route earned 30 mpg. We haven't tested the V-8 model, which is rated at 15 mpg city and 23 highway.
The plug-in hybrid is rated at 21 mpg city and 27 highway, with a combined gas-electric rating of 54 MPGe. Its 14.1-kWh battery pack also allows an EPA-rated 17 miles of all-electric driving range.
Impressive passenger space is an A8 hallmark, and its long wheelbase ensures that rear-seat passengers are well accommodated.
Five-passenger seating is standard, but an optional four-passenger seating package deletes the rear center seat and provides a pair of power-adjustable rear seats with heating, ventilation, and massage as well as a heated foot-massage function and a pair of individual entertainment tablets (while reducing power adjustments for the front passenger seat to make room for all that).
Fine materials are in abundance, and you can order up extended leather and a small forest's worth of wood inlays. But much like the A8's exterior, the interior ambience is sober and not as lavish as that of the Mercedes S-class. Trunk capacity is modest for a big luxury sedan at just 13 cubic feet.
Audi's excellent 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster is standard as are the 10.3-inch upper and 8.6-inch lower haptic center screens with the MMI Touch Response system.
There's a lone volume knob for the audio system, since most functions are controlled through the touchscreens. It can be overwhelming initially, but the system is quick to respond and highly configurable, allowing owners to choose their own dedicated buttons on the lower screen while offering permanent buttons for navigation, weather, telephone functions, and radio on the left side of the upper screen.
Just know that you'll wear out the included microfiber wipe trying to remove fingerprints. Up front, there are two USB ports with combined data and charging capability, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone integration is standard along with Amazon Alexa compatibility. Wi-Fi via Audi Connect Plus is available for an additional subscription fee.
The Audi A8 has much the same driver-assistance technologies as other high-end sedans. When equipped with Traffic Jam Assist (Driver Assistance package), the A8 will help you out with acceleration and braking in heavy traffic, but your hands can't leave the wheel for more than a few seconds.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has crash-tested the A8. Key safety features include:
Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
Standard lane-departure warning system
Available adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving mode