2012 Audi A8 Review and Prices

Last Updated: May 25, 2011

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2012 Audi A8 Buying Advice

The 2012 Audi A8 is the best full-size luxury car for you if you want a state-of-the-art European sedan that combines handsome styling with impressive performance and a long list of cutting-edge features.

The 2012 Audi A8 should carry over with only minor alterations from the full redesign it received for model-year 2011. That redesign brought Audi’s flagship sedan into its third generation, one that continues to make extensive use of aluminum in its construction as a weight-saving measure. The 2012 A8 will carryover the redesign model’s new styling, choice of eight- and 12-cylinder engines, myriad mechanical updates, and slew of high-tech gadgets. It should again come in standard- and long-wheelbase models, latter featuring limousine-like rear-seat legroom. The 2012 Audi A8 competes with other flagships such as the BMW 7-Series, Jaguar XJ, Lexus LS and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

Should you buy a 2012 Audi A8 or wait for the 2013 Audi A8? Buy the 2012 Audi A8. The 2013 A8 is unlikely to receive any substantive updates or improvements, and buying a 2012 A8 means you’ll own the newest-generation version for an additional year and circumvent the probable price increase that’ll come with the 2013 model-year changeover.

2012 Audi A8 Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Audi A8 should continue with the styling changes that came on line with the model-year 2011 redesign. This means it will remain a large, generally conservative-looking sedan, as befits its flagship status, with elegant touches inside and out. Its aluminum bodywork is characterized by a deep front grille flanked by uniquely shaped LED headlamps (they include both high and low beams) that sweep up into muscular wheel arches and a crisp beltline that runs the length of the vehicle.

The standard-length 2012 A8 should continue on a 117.8-inch wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) and have an overall body length of 202.2 inches. The extended-length 2012 A8 will again be labeled the A8L – for long wheelbase. It’ll continue with a 122.9-inch wheelbase and a 207.4-inch overall body length. The A8L makes use of its longer wheelbase to provide additional rear-seat legroom, which should again measure a full 42.9 inches versus 38.7 inches in the standard-wheelbase A8. For comparison, other limo-like premium sedans include the BMW 750Li, with 44.3 inches of rear legroom, and the Mercedes-Benz S550, with 42.3 inches.

The 2012 A8 will return with a posh and expansive leather-upholstered, wood trimmed cabin. It’ll again be characterized by what Audi calls a sweeping “skyliner” design, said to help visually connect the driver and passengers. The gearshift lever is crafted to resemble a yacht’s throttle control. Tasteful LED accent lighting is user-selectable in ivory, polar and ruby hues. Instrument-panel gauges should again be appropriately large and legible, with an LCD screen mounted between to display a digital speedometer reading, trip computer data and other information. The 2012 A8 should also continue to feature a large locking glovebox that’s refrigerated to keep one or two soft drinks chilled while driving.

A separate, large LCD display used in conjunction with Audi’s MMI multimedia control system should again automatically fold out of the dashboard when the driver engages the ignition. MMI is similar in concept to other central-control systems used in other luxury cars these days. Audi employs it to reduce dashboard clutter. It does this by eschewing individual buttons and switches in favor of menu-driven operations controlled by a rotary pushbutton and associated function keys. The hockey-puck-sized rotary and its attendant buttons are mounted on the center console between the front seats. Like any of these systems, MMI takes a bit of practice to master, but it works well enough once you get the hang of it and the A8’s expansive LCD display should again lead the segment with its high-definition image quality.

Mechanical: The 2012 Audi A8 almost certainly will continue with a choice of two smooth, powerful engines. Returning as the base engine will be a 4.2-liter direct fuel-injected V-8 with 372 horsepower and 328 pound-feet of torque. (View horsepower as a measurement of an engine’s maximum power, torque as the force with which actually furnishes acceleration.) Again available on the 2012 A8L will be a 12-cylinder engine that’s configured as conjoined V-6s; Audi dubs this engine a W12 and rates it at 500 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque.

Both engines will again mate with an eight-speed automatic transmission that plays a big role in their smooth feel and spirited performance. This transmission should again come with a manual-shift mode that operates via either the gear selector or steering wheel-mounted paddles. Audi tabs V-8 versions the A8 4.2 and A8L 4.2 and says they do 0-60 mph in around 6 seconds, which is about average among large V-8-powered luxury sedans. It says the A8L W12 clocks a 4.9-second 0-60 mph run, which is truly quick for such a large car.

As with previous generations, the 2012 Audi A8 will continue extensive use of lightweight yet structurally rigid aluminum construction for its underlying spaceframe skeleton and its body panels. This helps keep the car’s mass to a minimum, which helps the A8 feel relatively agile and makes it as quick -- or quicker -- than the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class models that come with larger engines.

All else being equal, a lighter car is a more fuel-efficient, too, because it doesn’t need as large or powerful an engine to furnish desired performance. Indeed, the 2012 Audi A8 should again top out at a class-leading 17/27 mpg city/highway with the V-8. That should again make it exempt from the federal gas-guzzler tax that raises the price of comparable models from BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Unlike competing BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus models that come standard with rear-wheel drive and offer all-wheel-drive (AWD) only in select models, Audi should again include its quattro AWD system as standard equipment across the 2012 A8 line. The system is engineered to enhance both the car’s dry-pavement handling and its wet-road performance, which is where rear-drive cars can come unnerved.

As before, quattro should under normal conditions split the engine power between the axles on a 40/60 basis to help give the A8 a livelier rear-drive feel. It can automatically send additional power to either axle as needed to maintain grip when wheel slippage is detected. A sport rear differential should again be optional on the A8L. It further distributes engine power between the left and right rear wheels on a variable basis, sending a bit more to the outside wheel during cornering for added control.

An auto-leveling adaptive air suspension and an electromechanical variable-boost power steering system should continue to contribute to the 2012 A8’s pleasingly smooth ride with capable, though not exactly sports car-like handling. Audi’s Drive Select Control system should again come standard and allow the driver to tailor steering, throttle, transmission response and suspension stiffness according to selectable modes for a more or less-aggressive motoring experience.

A sport version of the air suspension with a slightly lower ground clearance and stiffer shock absorber settings should again be optional on the standard wheelbase model to afford somewhat more-tenacious cornering prowess. The 2012 Audi A8 should again ride on 19-inch wheels and tires, with 20-inchers available with the sport suspension.

Standard chassis-control systems will likely include stability control to help keep the 2012 A8 from careening out of control during extreme or emergency handling maneuvers. In testament to the A8’s status as an Audi technology showcase, the antilock four-wheel disc braking system should again automatically self-clean the brake discs and pre-fill the brake fluid system when the driver lifts off of the accelerator pedal to maximize stopping abilities.

Features: The 2012 Audi A8 should continue to come fully equipped with all the expected luxury features, from leather upholstery to a power sunroof, navigation system, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, heated front seats, HD Radio and a Bluetooth mobile phone interface. Front- and rear-side airbags, head-protecting side-curtain airbags for both rows of seats and knee-height airbags for the driver and front passenger are included for safety’s sake.

The navigation system should again be on the cutting-edge and include Google Earth maps to provide a striking (and often distracting) real-world view of the road in overhead or 3D views, along with the ability to input destinations with fingertip handwriting recognition via a center console touchpad, which otherwise serves to select among six radio station presets.
Myriad comfort and convenience amenities will likewise continue. These include heated rear seats, cooled front seats, keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, heated steering wheel and a rear backup camera. Again available will be a sunroof that comes with solar panels that power a fan inside the cabin to create a constant stream of fresh air and reduce ambient temperatures by up to 50 percent on warm days while the A8 is parked.

An Executive Rear Seat Package should again be offered on the A8L for those who prefer to be chauffeured; it will likely include such niceties as heated, cooled, reclining and massaging rear seats, a DVD entertainment system with dual 10-inch screens and a small built-in refrigerator.

Beyond that, the 2012 A8 should continue to offer a wealth of the latest high-tech features. These will include Audi’s Active Lane Assist system that warns if the car is inadvertently crossing highway lane markers; a Side Assist blind spot monitoring system to alert of unseen vehicles to the side and rear of the A8; a Night Vision system to display an otherworldly infrared view of the road ahead on the instrument panel LCD screen and automatically alert the driver to the presence of pedestrians in the car’s path.

The 2012 Audi A8 should also offer an adaptive radar-based cruise control system that does double-duty. It maintains a set distance from traffic ahead on the highway and can operate in stop-and-go traffic. Also offered will be Audi’s Pre-Sense system that automatically initiates protective measures – including tightening the seatbelts, closing the sunroof and side windows and priming the brakes to full stopping force – if it determines a collision is imminent. The available Pre-Sense Plus option should again be capable of engaging the brakes automatically if the A8 driver is not reacting quickly enough to help avoid or lessen the effects of a collision.

2012 Audi A8 Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Audi A8 weren’t released in time for this review but they should not increase much over the model-year 2011 levels. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Audi’s fee for the 2011 A8 was $875.)

Expect a base price for the standard-length 2012 Audi A8 4.2 of around $80,000. Estimated base price for the 2012 A8L 4.2 is $86,000. Figure the 2012 A8L W12 at no less than $100,000 to start.

Buyers of 2012 A8s should anticipating paying pay around $3,000 for a package that includes Pre-Sense plus collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, Lane Assist and Side Assist systems and a four-spoke multifunction steering wheel. Night Vision will likely cost about $2,300, with a dual-screen rear-seat DVD system priced at about $3,000 and the Executive Seating package on the LWB model at around $12,500.

2012 Audi A8 Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2012 Audi A8 weren’t issued in time for this review, but they should remain equivalent to their model-year 2011 figures. This means a respectable rating of 17/27 mpg city/highway for the V-8 A8 4.2 and A8L 4.2 versions. That would handily beat the V-8-powered AWD competition and allows Audi A8 buyers to avoid paying the federal gas-guzzler tax.

Expect the 2012 A8L W12 to rate at or near 15/21 mpg.

2012 Audi A8 Release Date back to top

The 2012 Audi A8 should reach dealers’ showrooms in September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Audi A8 back to top

Given the model-year 2011 redesign, the A8 and A8L aren’t likely to receive noteworthy changes until perhaps model-year 2014, and those likely would come under the heading of a midcycle freshening. Midcycle changes typically feature mild styling updates inside and out, along with a few added features, in this case, most likely in the way of smartphone connectivity. The A8’s next full redesign shouldn’t occur until model-year 2017.

With stricter U.S. and European fuel economy regulations phasing in over the next few years, it’s possible Audi could tweak the A8’s engines along the way to help further maximize mileage. A fuel-saving 3.0-liter turbo-diesel-powered A8 is offered in Europe and generates 250 horsepower with a pavement-burning 406 pound-feet of torque. It’s not likely to be sold in the U.S., however, at least not in the short term. Audi has a gas/electric hybrid version of its midsize A6 sedan in the works, and there’s a chance that powertrain could find its way into the A8 to boost fuel economy and/or performance. It might even replace the W12 at some point, much in the same way Lexus uses a hybrid V-8 in its flagship LS sedan instead of a 12-cylinder engine.

A high-performance S8 model could rejoin A8 line for the 2013 or 2014 model year. Though the previous rendition’s Lamborghini-derived V-10 engine will not likely come along for the ride, reports suggest a new S8 could come powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8.

2012 Audi A8 Competition back to top

BMW 7 Series: A rival to the A8 for title of best sporty large luxury sedan on the market, the 7-Series comes in standard- and long-wheelbase form with a wide choice of powertrains. It offers a 315-horsepower six-cylinder, a 400-horsepower V-8, and a 535-horsepower V-12. Also available is a gas-electric hybrid V-8 powertrain in the ActiveHybrid 7; it generates the equivalent of 440 horses. Rear-drive remains standard, AWD is offered on select models to deliver added traction on wet or snowy roads but retain a rear-drive feel under normal driving conditions. The big BMW’s performance is about as good as it gets in this class. Drivers can fine-tune the steering and suspension stiffness, engine throttle response, and transmission shift points according to selectable modes that range from “Comfort” to the full-tilt “Sport Plus.” Expect the 2012 7-Series range to run from around $72,000-$130,500, with assorted fanciful options available to drive up the prices even further.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class: The top-of-the-line Mercedes sedan delivers the goods with its elegant styling, roomy interior, myriad high-tech features and flawless performance engineering that ranges from solid to over-the-top, depending on the model. The 2012 S-Class will again come in a single wheelbase configuration that’s on a par with the long-wheelbase competition for room and comfort. The model lineup is broad and includes the S400 “mild” hybrid V-6 gas-electric model for the best fuel economy in the line. It’s followed by the S500 that packs a potent V-8 and can be fitted with Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD as an alternative to the standard rear-drive layout. Top AMG-tuned models will again include V-8 and V-12s with around 500 and 600 horsepower, respectively, though with fuel economy as an afterthought. A redesigned S-Class is anticipated for model-year 2014. Estimated 2012 S-Class base-price range is $92,000-$210,000.

Lexus LS: While it lacks a European lineage and can be considered a bland choice among large luxury cars, the LS is unashamedly built for comfort and delivers in spades with a quiet and opulent interior, long list of convenience features, and admirable – albeit not heart-racing –performance. It’s offered in standard- and long-wheelbase models with a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. At “only” 350 horsepower or so, the 2012 LS’s 4.6-liter V-8 looks weak against the competition but on the road it operates smoothly and provides all the performance you’re likely to need. Helping out is a very good eight-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid gas/electric-powered LS 600h L can run on gas, battery power or a combination of both and boasts quicker acceleration with slightly better fuel economy than the gas-only model. The LS is due a full redesign for model-year 2013. Expect the 2012 LS460 to start around $68,000, the LS460L around $73,000, and the hybrid LS600hL around $113,000.

2012 Audi A8 Next Steps