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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

152 Search results
Audi A8
15995 94950 GBP
  • Audi A8

    £79,000 £79,000

    Variant name:Saloon S8 Plus ,Derivative:S8 Plus ,Variant: 4.0 T FSI (605 PS) quattro Audi A8 S8 Plus TFSI Quattro 4dr Tip Auto

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 3047 mi
    • Engine size: 4
    For sale
    Lookers Group -Edinburgh Audi
    0844 947 3636 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER

    £29,995 £29,995

    Here we have a 2015 Audi A8 Sports Executive Quattro. This car is in excellent condition both mechanically and cosmetically, Beautiful Colour combination with nice specification such as Matrix beam LED lights, 360 Cameras, Adaptive Air Suspension, Luxury Sport Seats, Hands Free Boot Opening System and much more! The interior is finished in Black Leather with Black Piano and Aluminum Trim surrounded by Bose media Sound System. Fantastic Example and a serious piece of German motor car engineering! ANY inspection is welcome, potential buyers WILL NOT be disappointed in this car! ;Various Finance options available please call for more details or to arrange a viewing.;;CHESTERFIELD MOTOR SALES is a friendly, family run independent car dealership, we pride ourselves on only selling only the best quality of stock and we provide a full range of facilities such as finance packages tailored for the individual, nationwide delivery and we supply national warranty packages that range from 3-36 months!;We take credit/debit card payments, offer drive away insurance and ALL our cars are HPI checked and clear!;You can even take advantage of our hassle Free Part exchange Service.... We are confident in what we do and ANY inspection is welcome, potential buyers can view the car of their choice in our indoor showroom and we are certain you won't be disappointed!;For more information on this car or to arrange a test drive don't hesitate to give us a call today.;Please Note viewing is by appointment only.

    • Mileage: 33331 mi
    • Engine size: 2.967
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £32,941 £32,941

    Variant name:Diesel Saloon SE Executive ,Derivative:SE Executive ,Variant: 3.0 TDI (258 PS) quattro SE Executive Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro SE Executive 4dr Tip Auto

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 5612 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale

    £26,480 £26,480

    A STUNNING LOOKING AUDI A8 QUATTRO SPORT EXECUTIVE, UNMARKED THROUGHOUT, HAS FULL AUDI HISTORY, HUGE SPEC INC 21" BLACK EDITION ROTA ALLOYS, PRIVACY DOUBLE GLAZED GLASS, HEATED COMFORT BLACK LEATHER INTERIOR, SAT NAV MMI, START/STOP TECH, MATRIX LED LIGHTS, COLOUR COMBO BLACK WITH BLACK INTERIOR, 2 X KEYS, *** HPI CLEAR *** PROUD TO BE PART OF THE AA DEALER PROMISE *** FREE 12 MTH AA BREAKDOWN *** 3 TO 36 MONTHS EXTENDED WARRANTY AVAILABLE *** COMPETITIVE FINANCE ARRANGED ** ALL OUR CARS ARE HPI CHECKED *** DRIVEAWAY INSURANCE *** 5 STAR REVIEWS, CHECK OUR CUSTOMER REVIEWS *** 12 MONTHS MOT AND NATIONWIDE WARRANTY ON EVERY VEHICLE *** FOR LIVE CHAT FEATURE VISIT WEBSITE ***, VIEWING STRICTLY BY APPOINTMENTS ONLY, CALL 0121 4484554, 07860251554 TO ARRANGE VIEWING, GBP 26,480;;THIS CAR COMES WITH:;;Valcona Leather w. Comfort Seats, Alloy Wheels-21in x 9J 5-Arm Rotor Titan.Fin.Des., Deletion of Model/Engine Tech. and quattro Badges, Metallic Paint, Alcantara Package, Non Smoking Package, Sports Air Suspension with El. Shock Abs. Control, Speed Limit Display, Quattro with Sports Differential, Mobile Telephone Preparation High (Front Armrest), Bose Sound, 360 Camera, Heated Front Seats, 3-Spoke Multi-Function Leather Steering, Audi Matrix Lights, Standard Features - Satellite Navigation System - HDD - Based, Heated Front Seats with Variable Temperature Adjustment, Automatic Start - Stop Function, Climate Control with Sun Sensor, Cruise Control, DAB Digital Radio Reception, Audi Parking System Advanced with Top View, MP3 Compatible Front-Loading CD/DVD Player, AM/FM Tuner, 60GB Hard Drive, 2 x SD Card Readers, Audi Music Interface (AMI), MMI Touch, Rain Sensor, Colour Drivers Information System (DIS) with 7in High-Resolution Display, Perforated Valcona Leather w. Comfort Sports Seats, Privacy Glass from B-Pillar, Mobile Telephone Preparation-High w. Audi Connect, Electric Front and Rear Windows, Thatcham Category 1 Alarm, Metallic or Pearl-Effect Paint, Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator. 5 seats

    • Mileage: 56000 mi
    • Engine size: 2.967
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £15,995 £15,995

    4x4, Service history Driver, Passenger And Front Side Air Bags,Anti-Lock Brakes,Bluetooth Interface Telephone Equipment,Sound Processor,Satellite Navigation,Traction Control System,Cruise Control,Alarm,18In Alloy Wheels,Front/Rear Head Air Bags,Adjustable Chassis,4 Or More Zone Automatic Climate Control Climate Control,Three Seats - Front & Rear Seat - ISOFIX Anchorage Point,Power-Assisted Steering,On-Board Monitor,Remote Central Door Locking,Front/Rear Parking Aid,Driver/Passenger Heated Seats,Front/Rear Electric Windows,Front/Rear Armrest,Electronic Brake Force Distribution,Memory Driver/Passenger Electric Seats,Memory Electric/Heated/Folding/Auto Dimming Door Mirrors,Front Fog Lights,Steering Wheel Leather,Tinted Glass,Rain Sensor,Body Coloured Bumpers,Centre Rear Seat Belt,Memory Rake/Reach Adjustable Steering Column/Wheel,Front/Rear Head Restraints,Cup Holder,Nine Speakers,Heated Washer Jets,Adjustable Chassis,Immobiliser,Automatic Dimming Rear View Mirrors Internal,Driver/Passenger Electric Seat Lumbar Support,Gear Knob Metal,Heated Rear Screen,Xenon Headlights Exterior Lighting,Interior Lights,Double Glazing,Centre Console,Floor Mats,CD Autochanger,Limited Slip Differential,Leather interior, Call us today about the finance options on this vehicle. Part exchanges welcome.

    • Mileage: 72409 mi
    • Engine size: 4172
    For sale
  • 2014 Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro SE Executive LWB 4dr Tip Auto


    Upgrades - 3-Sp. Lth. Multi-Fun. Steer. Wheel/Gear Shift Pad., Massage Seats, Front and Outer Rear, Seat Ventilation/Mass. Fun. for Front/Rear Seats, Alloy Wheels-20in x 9J 7-Twin Spoke Des.High-Gloss, Panoramic Sunroof, Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System, Extended Leather Package Advanced, Night Vision Assistant with Pedestrian Detection, Audi Side Assist/Audi Lane Assist/Pre-Sense Rear, Audi Parking System Advanced with Top View, Twin-Pane UV/Heat-Insulating Glass/Heated Windscr., Deletion of Model/Engine Tech. and quattro Badges, Audi Exclusive Paint, Audi Assist Pack w. Pre Sense Plus and Lane Assist, Black Alcantara Package, Audi Exclusive Leather Pack 3 in Valcona Leather, Rear Vanity Mirror incl. Two Add. Reading Lights, Speed Limit Display, Interior Ioniser, Audi Exclusive Inlays, LED Ambient Interior Lighting, Additional Rear Interior Lighting, Deluxe 4 Zone Climate Control Inc Rear Comfort Armrest, Hands Free Boot Opening, Keyless Entry, Auto Folding Door Mirrors, Audi Park System Plus With Auto Park, All-LED Headlights incl. High-Beam Assist, Rear Power Reclining Seats, Mobile Telephone Preparation-High w. Audi Connect, Head Up Display With Speed, Speed Limit Navigatio

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 36000 mi
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £21,500 £21,500

    Bluetooth, Climate Control, Colour SatNav, Full Leather, iPod Connectivity, Memory Seats, Powered Folding Mirrors, Rain-Sensing Wipers, Xenon Headlamps, Immobiliser, Remote Central Locking, Electric Seats, Heated Seats, Lumbar Adjustment, Adjustable Steering Column, Cruise Control, Multi-function Steering Wheel, Parking Camera, Parking Sensors, Traction Control, ABS, Isofix, Multiple Airbags, Auto Lighting, Headlamp Jetwash, Auto-dip Rearview, Automatic Electric Windows, Electric Handbrake, Push Button Start, CD Player, Steering Wheel Audio Controls, REAR PARKING CAMERA, 19'' Alloys, 4x4, Full service history ONE COMPANY DIRECTOR , CHAUFFER DRIVEN , POST BREXIT PRICE .

    • Mileage: 142669 mi
    • Engine size: 4134
    For sale
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