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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

208 Search results
Audi A8
7495 79950 GBP
  • Audi A8

    £49,841 £49,841

    Variant name:3.0 TDI Quattro Black Edition 4dr Tip Auto ,Derivative:Black Edition ,Variant: BLACK CD Player,Electric Windows,Multiple Airbags,Onboard Computer

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 1573 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
    Lookers Group -Wearside Audi (formerly Benfield)
    0845 149 9100 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Audi A8

    £49,995 £49,995

    Variant name:S8 TFSI V8 QUATTRO ,Derivative:MK3 FL (4H) (D4) ,Variant: 4.0 TFSI quattro Audi S8 4.0 TFSI quattro finished in Glacier White, metallic. Specification includes 21" x 9j '5-arm rotor design' in titanium optic alloy wheel, privacy glass, electric slide-and-tilt sunroof, heated outer rear seats, enhanced sport exhaust and parking system Plus - front and rear.

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 11018 mi
    • Engine size: 4
    For sale

    £10,490 £10,490

    A FANTASTIC HIGH SPECIFICATION CAR. HEATED LEATHER. SAT NAV. BI XENONS. AUDI PARKING SYSTEM ADVANCED. BLUETOOTH. CRUISE CONTROL. GBP 6000 OF OPTIONS. Phantom black metallic with black natural leather interior. Good service history. Recently fitted with matching Pirelli tyres. Mot to 15/10/2017 with no advisory notes. Dvd MMI satellite navigation. Bi xenon headlights. Digital 4 zone climate control. Audi parking system advanced - front and rear acoustic and visual parking sensors with reverse camera. Electrically operated, Comfort seats. 6 stage heated seats front and rear. Bluetooth. Cruise control. Keyless entry and start. Audi Music Interface, Bose Sound System with DAB / RDS Radio and 6CD player. 19" multi spoke alloy wheels with locking wheel nuts. Adaptive air suspension. Auto lights and wipers. Automatic dimming rear view mirror. Voice control. Front and rear centre arm rests. Multi function leather steering wheel. Electric steering column. Electric rear inside blinds. Electric, heated, folding, dimming door mirrors. Removable tow bar. Headlamp wash. Drivers information system. Walnut burr fascia inlays. Multiple airbags with passenger deactivation. Front fog lights. Electric windows. Carpet floor mats. Remote central locking with alarm and immobiliser. 12v power point. Cup holders. quattro 4WD. 2 keys. 3 owners. Excellent condition. HPI checked and clear. Finance arranged. 0121 457 7644 www.incentivecars.co.uk

    • Mileage: 93403 mi
    • Engine size: 4.172
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £37,941 £37,941

    Variant name:Diesel Saloon SE Executive ,Derivative:SE Executive ,Variant: 3.0 TDI (262ps) quattro SE Executive LWB Audi A8 3.0 TDI 262 Quattro SE Executive LWB 4dr Tip Auto

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 5039 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £57,850 £57,850

    Variant name:3.0 TDI (262ps) quattro SE Executive LWB ,Derivative:L TDI QUATTRO SE EXECUTIVE ,Variant: 3.0 TDI (262ps) quattro SE Executive LWB

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 2500 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale

    £79,000 £79,000

    Satellite Navigation System - HDD - Based, 2x SD Card Readers, 60GB Hard Drive, Heated Front Seats, Audi Parking System Advanced with Top View, Adaptive Cruise Control/Stop and Go/Pre-Sense Front, Advanced Speech Recognition, Automatic Start - Stop Function, Climate Control with Sun Sensor, DAB Digital Radio Reception, Rain Sensor, 21in x 9J 5 - Double Spoke Black Alloy Wheels with 275/35 ZR21 Tyres and Locking Wheel Bolts, Electric Front Seats with Memory (22 - Way Adjustable), Audi Sound System, AM/FM Tuner, MP3 Compatible Front-Loading CD/DVD Player, MMI Touch, 6 CD/DVD Changer Located in Glovebox, Privacy Glass from B-Pillar, Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator, Colour Drivers Information System (DIS) with 7in Display, Thatcham Category 1 Alarm, Mobile Telephone Preparation-High w. Audi Connect, Perforated Valcona Leather w. Comfort Sports Seats, Electric Windows - Front and Rear

    • Mileage: 5500 mi
    • Engine size: 3.993
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £24,795 £24,795

    Colour SatNav, Panoramic Sunroof, Bose, Electric Seats, Heated Seats, Parking Camera, 4x4 Fantastic Example of this 4.2 Litre V8. Very Low Miles, Drive is Sublime. Incredible Specification Including Comfort Front Seats, Bose Surround Audio, Audi Lane Assist, Power Door Closure, as well as Electric Adjustment Rear Seats, Costing Over £5,000 For This Alone! Great Condition Throughout., Upgrades - Electrically Adjustable Rear Seats, Bose Surround Sound System, Audi Lane Assist, Power Door Closure, Valcona Leather Upholstery w. Comfort Seats, Electric Adjustment Front Seats with Memory, 21'' Audi A8 Plus Wheels, Heated Front & Rear Seat, Comfort Headrests for Rear Seats, Mobile Telephone Preperation, Audi Parking System Advanced. Aids Parking by Front and Rear Camera, Adaptive Head Lights, Centre Armrest, Rear Vanity Mirrors, Garage Door Opener, Standard Features - Satellite Navigation System - HDD - Based, Electric Tilt - and - Slide Sunroof, Audi Parking System Advanced / SE Exec, Deluxe 4 - Zone Climate Control Including Rear Comfort Centre Armrest, DAB Digital Radio with Audi Music Interface and CD/DVD Changer for 6 DVDs or CDs (MP3, WMA, AAC and WMV Formats), 7in High Resolution Touch Screen, Cruise Control, Mobile Telephone Preparation - High with Bluetooth Including Online Services, Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator, Thatcham Category 1 Alarm, Metallic or Pearl Effect Paint, Electric Front and Rear Windows, Rain Sensor, Colour Drivers Information System (DIS), Advanced Key - Keyless Entry and Keyless Go. 5 seats, Grey, FINANCE PACKAGES - With a number of lende

    • Mileage: 38000 mi
    • Engine size: 4134
    For sale
  • AUDI A8 2008 Auto 112999 Diesel Silver

    £7,495 £7,495


    • Mileage: 112999 mi
    • Engine size: 2.967
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £10,895 £10,895

    Bose, Colour SatNav, Full Leather, DAB Tuner, 4x4 1 Private Owner From New, Ex Audi Demo Boasting Numerous Extras Including Soft Close Doors, Bose Surround & GSM Phone Preparation. Full Dealership Audi History, The Car Is In Fantastic Condition Throughout, Upgrades - BOSE Surround Sound, Satellite Navigation - DVD, Automatically Actuated Boot Lid, Power Door Closure, Heated Front Seats, Audi Music Interface, GSM Mobile Phone Preparation, Upholstery - Bi Colour Valcona Leather, DAB Digital Radio Module, Bluetooth Mobile Phone Connection, 3 months warranty, Last serviced on 11/08/2016 at 98,043 miles, Full dealership history, Black Full leather interior, Four wheel-drive, Standard Features - Automatic 4-Zone Air-Conditioning, Cruise Control, Voice Control System - Key Function of MMI, Acoustic and Optical Parking System - Front and Rear, 19in x 8.5J 5 - Spoke Design Alloy Wheels with 255/40 R19 Y Tyres, Rain Sensor - Automatic Activation of Front Wipers, Anti - Theft Alarm (Thatcham Category 1 Approved), Drivers Information System (DIS), Green Tinted Glass, Front Seats - Electrically Adjustable (14-Way) w. Memory, CD Autochanger (6 CD) in Glove Compartment with MMI, Metallic Paint, Keyless Go - Star / Stop Button, Electric Front and Rear Windows. 5 seats, Metallic Daytona Grey, FINANCE PACKAGES - With a number of lenders on board we are able to offer packages to suit individual circumstances. HPI CLEAR - All vehicles are provided with full HPI reports. Call or Text up to 10pm. 7 days a week. Please call James, Tom or Andrew to

    • Mileage: 103000 mi
    • Engine size: 2967
    For sale

    £9,890 £9,890

    Audi A8 4.2 TDI SE Quattro 4dr (HUGE SPEC- HPI CLEAR+ FULL HISTORY);FULLY LOADED, 12 MONTH NEW MOT, FULL LEATHER INTERIOR, FRONT HEATED SEATS, SAT NAV, REAR CAMERA, FRONT AND REAR PARKING SENSORS, PRIVACY GLASS, XENON LIGHTS, BLUETOOTH, GREAT BHP, FANTASTIC DRIVER, MANAGER'S SPECIAL, VERY CLEAN BODY WORK, WELL MAINTAINED, FULL DEALER FACILITIES, WARRANTY AVAILABLE, Full service history, Satellite Navigation - DVD, Voice Control System - Key Function of MMI, Cruise Control, DAB Digital Radio, Acoustic and Optical Parking System - Front and Rear, Automatic 4-Zone Air-Conditioning, Seat Heating for Front Seats, Rain Sensor - Automatic Activation of Front Wipers, Metallic Paint, Front Seats - Electrically Adjustable (14-Way) w. Memory, Keyless Go - Star / Stop Button, Green Tinted Glass, Anti - Theft Alarm (Thatcham Category 1 Approved), Drivers Information System (DIS), Electric Front and Rear Windows, CD Autochanger (6 CD) in Glove Compartment with MMI, Bluetooth Mobile Phone Connection, Upholstery - Valcona Leather, 18in x 8.5J 5 - Arm High Gloss Alloy Wheels w. 255/45 R18. 5 seats, Blue, All major banks cards accepted, contact us any time on: 07989 424242, or email sales@redbridgemotortrade.co.uk, We are open 6 days a week 9.30am till 6.30pm alternative appointment can be arranged, please visit our website at www.redbridgemotortrade.co.uk to view our wide range of top models, we can arrange delivery please ask for a competitive quote

    • Mileage: 96332 mi
    • Engine size: 4.134
    For sale

    £10,950 £10,950

    Body: Saloon Transmission: Automatic Mileage: 75,000 Fuel Type: Diesel Registered: 2009 (09) Doors: 4 Engine Size: 3.0 Finished in: PHANTOM BLACK WITH GRAPHITE GREY 18" alloys

    • Year: 2009
    • Mileage: 75000 mi
    For sale
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