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Audi A8: Buying guide and review (1994-2002)

Audi A8: Buying guide and review (1994-2002) Classic and Performance Car
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It’s hard to believe, but Audi’s range topping A8 has been with us for 22 years now. A development of the Audi V8, the company’s first ever top-line luxury car, the A8 introduced some cutting edge new technologies such as an all-aluminium construction along with Quattro four-wheel drive, in an attempt to challenge the dominant Teutonic duo. 

The Audi Space Frame concept car of 1993 demonstrated the new weight saving techniques that the new A8 would employ and it was the lightest in its class when it launched the following year. An electronic stability program introduced in 1997 was a world first for an all-wheel drive car as were the front and rear side airbags.

In its third generation now, the large Audi has carved itself a niche in this tough class and competes head-to-head with the best cars in its class. We will be looking at the first generation cars and seeing how viable they are as used purchases and whether all that innovation and advanced '90s design has stood the test of time.
 

Which Audi A8 to buy?

 
The A8 may have an all-aluminium design but at close to two tonnes it is still a heavy car, so the smaller engined variants have their work cut out for them. The first 174bhp 12 valve 2.8s are rare these days, but it is worth opting for the later 193bhp 2.8. Ideally, you’ll be able to opt for the beefier 3.7 and 4.2-litre V8s. Quattro all-wheel drive was standard on the range topping 4.2l cars from the outset and was phased in to the rest of the range over the years. It can aid traction in slippery conditions however cars with Quattro do carry a weight penalty over the front wheel drive cars.

Handling was commendable for such a large luxury car and matched up well to its opposition however the ride was criticised for being a bit hard, especially when specified with sport suspension. Gearbox options range from 5 and 6 speed manuals to 4 and 5 speed automatics, the tiptronic autos were a good match for the large Audi’s character and most are so equipped. The 340bhp S8 was introduced in 1997 and with its Quattro drivetrain, 6 speed manual gearbox and sporty suspension settings was a unique offering in its class. These cars are rare but not as rare as the 420bhp W12 6.0l. The W12 was sold in very limited numbers and mostly to Asian customers so finding one will be tricky. The 2.5l diesel variants also did not make it to the UK. Values for most models are as low as they are likely to get but running costs can be a lot more affordable on the 2.8l cars so bear this in mind. 

Interior space was more than generous, even more so in the LWB 4.2l models which became available from 1999 on. Specification levels were high across the range with climate control, heated seats and electric everything as standard. For our money, one of the later V8 models is the one to go for, smooth and refined they offer strong performance for comparatively very little money. High mileages are not a concern but many owners and patchy service histories can mean big bills in the future. 

Performance and specs

 
Audi A8 4.2 Quattro
Engine 4172cc 24 valve DOHC V8 
Power 300bhp @ 6000rpm 
Torque 295lb ft torque @ 2300rpm
Top speed 155mph (limited)
0-62mph 7.4 seconds 
Fuel consumption 20 mpg
Gearbox Four-speed automatic/five-speed automatic
 

Dimensions and weight

 
Wheelbase 2880mm
Length 5034mm
Width 1880mm
Height 1436mm
Weight 1750kg
 

Common problems

 
• Aluminium body panels mean that it is easy to dent and this can be expensive to repair so ensure that the bodywork is in very good condition. Minor damage and scratches can be repaired at most Audi approved workshops however larger damage will require specialist attention.

• High mileages are common on these cars and should not be an issue as overall reliability is good. Evidence of regular servicing is important though.

• Parts are still widely available however as the A8 was a range topping vehicle and build numbers were relatively small, prices can be high for model specific items.

• Suspensions generally provide a hard ride in true Audi tradition however replacement dampers and suspension rubbers can help matters considerably.

• Some early cars suffered from ECU and tiptronic gearbox issues so check if the car you are considering has had any work carried out in the service records.
 

Model history

 
1994: All aluminium Audi A8 debuts with Quattro drivetrain and 300bhp 4.2 litre V8 with a four-speed automatic transmission as standard. 174bhp 2.8-litre V6 introduced, featuring front wheel drive and the option of manual or automatic transmissions
1995: 230bhp 3.7-litre V8 front-wheel drive model introduced
1996: 2.8-litre models receive multivalve heads and a power increase to 193bhp
1997: S8 Quattro introduced with 340bhp and six-speed manual gearbox
1998: Tiptronic gearbox made available on S8
1999: Minor update introduced with revised front end, suspension changes and interior upgrades. S8 gets power hike to 360bhp. 3.7-litre models now come with four-wheel drive. Long wheelbase variants become available in 4.2-litre form
2000: W12 engined A8 introduced featuring 420bhp. Grille and headlights are redesigned and 3.7-litre model is dropped from the range
2001: 2.8-litre models now also sold with four-wheel drive
2002: Final first-generation A8 sold, with over 100,000 units produced
 

Owners clubs, forums and websites


• www.a8oc.net A8 owners club
• www.audi-owners-club.co.ukOwners club for all Audi models
• www.unit20.orgAudi specialists
 

Summary and prices

 
If you are in the market for a cheap luxury car, then the A8 is a fantastic and almost unbeatable option. Audi’s evolutionary design philosophy means that this first-generation A8 still looks the part too. Value for money is the overriding factor here, as most models can be found for well under £3000. Some high-mileage V6 and 3.7-litre V8s can be found for under £1000, however you should be careful of expensive mechanical issues. Cat C and Cat D cars can be very tempting thanks to their bargain basement prices, but it is imperative that all bodywork repairs have been carried out by reputable Audi specialists as issues here are very expensive to rectify. 
 
The rare S8’s are closer to £5000, with the odd low mileage mint condition examples trading for £15,000. Limited availability means that you cannot be too picky but as long as you make sure that the car has a verifiable service history and have factored in running expenses, the first generation A8 can provide years of motoring pleasure for potentially very little outlay.

Words: John Tallodi
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Last updated: 31st Aug 2016
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Audi A8 cars for sale

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Audi A8
0 63750 GBP
  • Audi A8

    POA POA

    Variant name:Saloon SE ,Derivative:SE ,Variant: 4.2 Quattro SE 4dr Tip Auto Audi A8 4.2 Quattro SE 4dr Tip Auto

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 12 mi
    • Engine size: 4.2
    For sale
    SMC-SMC Ford Slough
  • Audi A8

    £26,995 £26,995

    Variant: 3.0 TDI (250 PS) quattro Sport Executive Audi A8 3.0 TDI (250 PS) quattro Sport Executive finished in Phantom Black, pearl effect. Specification includes sport executive, alloy wheels 9j x 21, Audi parking system advanced with top view, comfort front sports seats, privacy glass, comfort sports seats at front, 3-spoke leather multi-function steering wheel with gear-shi, with fixed bending light (without headlight range adjustmen, BOSE® surround sound, door mirrors - electrically adjustable - folding - heated a, Audi parking system Plus, LED headlights, high-beam assistant, electric seat adjustment for both front seats with memory s, Audi hands-free boot opening system, advanced key - keyless entry and keyless go and lower inlays - brushed Aluminium - Silver.

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 25596 mi
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £42,950 £42,950

    Variant name:Diesel Saloon SE Executive ,Derivative:SE Executive ,Variant: 4.2 TDI quattro SE Executive (385PS) LWB Audi A8 4.2 TDI Quattro SE Executive LWB 4dr Tip Auto

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 3890 mi
    • Engine size: 4.1
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £21,995 £21,995

    Variant: 3.0 TDI (250 PS) quattro SE Executive Audi A8 3.0 TDI (250 PS) quattro SE Executive finished in Glacier White, metallic. Specification includes alloy wheels 9j x 21, with front and rear view camera system, privacy glass, specific steering for rear view, SE executive, lower inlays - brushed Aluminium - Silver, Audi hands-free boot opening system, advanced key and parking aid Plus.

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 26596 mi
    For sale
  • Audi A8 2006

    £5,750 £5,750

    BOSE Surround Sound, Seat Heating for Front Seats, Fine Nappa Leather Upholstery, Satellite Navigation, Climate Control, Cruise Control, Parking Aid (Front/Rear), Alloy Wheels (18in), In Car Entertainment (Radio/CD Auto-changer), Leather - Valona, Alarm, Telephone Equipment (Mobile Prepaion), Electric Windows (Front/Rear), Upholstery Leather, Paint Metallic, Computer (Driver Information System), Seats Electric (Driver/Penger - Driver Memory) Drives like a dream!

    • Engine size: 4172
    For sale
  • AUDI A8 TDI QUATTRO SPORT 2005

    £3,850 £3,850

    Satellite Navigation, Seats Heated (Driver/Passenger/Rear), Cruise Control, Climate Control, Parking Aid (Front/Rear), Seats Electric (Driver/Passenger - Driver Memory), In Car Entertainment (Radio/CD Autochanger), Electric Windows (Front/Rear), Telephone Equipment (Mobile Preparation), Alloy Wheels (19in), Paint Metallic, 8.5Jx19in 12-Spoke Alloy Wheels, Upholstery Leather, Computer (Driver Information System), Alarm

    • Mileage: 93500 mi
    • Engine size: 2.967
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £22,000 £22,000

    Variant name:L TDI QUATTRO SPORT EXECUTIVE ,Derivative:3.0 TDI Sport Executive Tiptronic Quattro 4dr (LWB) ,Variant: L TDI QUATTRO SPORT EXECUTIVE Black, AA INSPECTED PLUS AA 3 MONTH WARRANTY, 1 owner, Last serviced on 29/11/2016 at 74,098 miles, 4 seats, Service History, Specification Includes, 20'' Alloy Wheels, L.e.d Matrix Headlights, L.e.d Daytime Running Lights, Front And Rear Audio/visual Parking Sensors, 360 Front/side/reversing Camera, Stop/start Technology, Key Less Go, Cruise Control, Front And Rear Digital Dual Zone Climate Control., Full Black Quilted Leather Interior, 3 Stage Heated Front And Rear Seats, Front Power Seats, 2 Drivers/passenger Seat Memory Settings, Adjustable Front Bolsters, Front Electric Seat Belt Height Adjustment, Electric Steering Column, Heated Steering Wheel, Pop Up Digital Display, Cd/dab Stereo System, Bose Premium Sound System, Satellite Navigation System, Voice Control, Bluetooth, Electric Sunroof With Manual Sunblind, 3 Rear Electric Sunblinds, Electric Powerfold Door Mirrors, Electric Tailgate, Blindspot Warning System, Audi Drive Select, Automatic/tiptronic Gearbox With Paddle Shift And Sports Mode.Value Financing Options Available, Fixed Prices., £22,000 p/x welcome

    • Year: 2013
    • Mileage: 75710 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £29,993 £29,993

    Variant name:L TDI QUATTRO SE EXECUTIVE ,Derivative:MK3 FL (4H) (D4) ,Variant: L TDI QUATTRO SE EXECUTIVE Panoramic Glass Sunroof, BOSE, Huge Specification Now in stock we have a very high specification Audi A8 3.0 TDi Executive SE Saloon. Offered in Floret Silver with Black leather this one owner example benefits from Circa £8000 of factory ordered optional extras. Factory options include but are not limited to Panoramic glass sunroof £1635, Individual electrically adjustable rear seats £2005, BOSE surround sound system £1175, Perforated Valcona leather comfort seats £1175, Audi active lane assist £510, Audi parking system advanced with top view and 360 degree cameras £500, Powered door closure £460, Rear vanity mirrors £275, Speed limit display £250, Wooden Gear shift selector £110. A very rare opportunity with a transforming Panoramic sunroof. Circa £84000 list new. Please register early interest.

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 24120 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8 2008

    £12,000 £12,000

    Audi A8 4.2 TDI Quattro Sport 2008, Stunning Black paintwork with loads of factory optional extras, including full electric heated leather seats, TV, Reverse Camera, 20" Alloy Wheels, Bang & Olufson stereo system (nearly £10,000 option when new) Very rare. Auto dimming mirrors, electric rear blind & built in manual rear door blinds, Finger print recognition sytem & start engine button, Fully keyless, electric open/close boot, Full Climate control front & back, too much to list! Full Audi service history 123000 miles (vehicle used regulary so will go up) I have just had fitted a detachable towbar with 13 pin electrics (only used once!) cost nearly £1000 MOT till 22/7/2017 last MOT no advisories Extremely reluctant sale due to current circumstances Very rare car to have all these extras

    • Mileage: 123000 mi
    • Engine size: 4134
    For sale
  • Audi A8 TDi Quattro SE Executive

    £20,990 £20,990

    Audi A8 4.2 TDI Quattro SE Executive 8 Speed Automatic finished in Phantom Black Pearl Effect with Full Black and Lunar Silver Valcona Leather interior and Burr Walnut inserts, BOSE Surround-sound System, Rear Parking Sensors, Automatic Lights and Wipers, Satellite Navigation, Electric Sunroof, 4 Corner Air Suspension with Electronic Shock Absorption Control, Leather Multifunction Steering Wheel with Paddleshift, Electric Heated Front Seats with Memory and Lumbar Support, Powered Tailgate, Keyless Entry and Go, Powerfold Heated Door Mirrors with Memory, Extended Safety System Pre-Crash Basic, Bi Functional Xenon Headlamps with Automatic Dynamic Range Adjustment, Cruise Control, Radio High, Bluetooth, 19 Inch Cast Aluminium 10 Spoke Y Design Alloys, DAB Radio, Electronic Parking Brake, Space Saver Spare Wheel Full Audi Service History at Coulsdon Audi on 09/04/14 at 14,500; 08/04/15 on 18,705. Finance available on request - subject to status and terms. Ask about our Company Directors packages. Fully Valeted; UK Wide Delivery Available; Part Exchange Welcome.

    • Year: 2010
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £20,990 £20,990

    BOSE Audio, Bluetooth, Xenon Headlamps, Heated Seats, Electric Seats, Memory Seats, Cruise Control, Parking Sensors, Electric Sunroof, DAB Radio, Keyless Entry, Push Button Start, Powered Tailgate, Satellite Navigation, 4x4, Main dealer service history Audi A8 4.2 TDI Quattro SE Executive 8 Speed Automatic finished in Phantom Black Pearl Effect with Full Black and Lunar Silver Valcona Leather interior and Burr Walnut inserts, BOSE Surround-sound System, Rear Parking Sensors, Automatic Lights and Wipers, Satellite Navigation, Electric Sunroof, 4 Corner Air Suspension with Electronic Shock Absorption Control, Leather Multifunction Steering Wheel with Paddleshift, Electric Heated Front Seats with Memory and Lumbar Support, Powered Tailgate, Keyless Entry and Go, Powerfold Heated Door Mirrors with Memory, Extended Safety System Pre-Crash Basic, Bi Functional Xenon Headlamps with Automatic Dynamic Range Adjustment, Cruise Control, Radio High, Bluetooth, 19 Inch Cast Aluminium 10 Spoke Y Design Alloys, DAB Radio, Electronic Parking Brake, Space Saver Spare Wheel Full Audi Service History at Coulsdon Audi on 09/04/14 at 14,500; 08/04/15 on 18,705. Finance available on request - subject to status and terms. Ask about our Company Directors packages. Fully Valeted; UK Wide Delivery Available; Part Exchange Welcome.

    • Mileage: 30200 mi
    • Engine size: 4134
    For sale
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