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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

132 Search results
Audi A8
7495 68500 GBP
  • Audi A8

    £28,000 £28,000

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

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 41000 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
    Lookers Group -Teesside Audi
    0845 149 9100 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • AUDI A8 3.0 TDI Quattro Sport 4Dr 2006

    £7,495 £7,495

    Stunning Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro Sport in metallic black with full grey leather interior, in excellent condition inside and out, looks and drives great, top spec model with all the extras including sat nav, bose stereo, parking sensors, cruise sontrol, keyless open and close and electric sun roof, genuine low miles with 8 services recorded with 5 of them being Audi main dealer stamps, very well looked after car in great condition with no dents or scratches, all four wheels are scuff free and have new matching Dunlop tyres all round, viewing is essential, we are consumer credit licensed with low rate finance options available, same day finance arranged with our finance partners Close Brothers Motor Finance, we accept any part exchange regardless of condition or age, drive away insurance available, nationwide delivery can be arranged, parts and labour warranty included in sale, all cars are hpi clear with up to date certificate, viewings and test drives are welcome but please call first as not all cars are stored on site, we are a fully vat registered limited company, we have been rated as a five star Auto Trader Dealer, please read our 5 star Autotrader reviews, all major debit and credit cards accepted.

    • Mileage: 88000 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £31,990 £31,990

    Variant name:Saloon S8 ,Derivative:4.0 TFSI quattro ,Variant: S8 TFSI Quattro 4dr Tip Auto Audi S8 4.0 TFSI quattro finished in Audi exclusive customised paint finish. Specification includes deluxe 4-zone climate control including rear comfort centre, digital TV reception, privacy glass, power door closure, electric slide-and-tilt solar-panel sunroof, electric sunblinds for rear window and for rear door window, garage door opener (Homelink), heated outer rear seats and Audi parking system advanced with top view.

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 55751 mi
    • Engine size: 4
    For sale
  • AUDI A8 TDI QUATTRO SE EXECUTIVE 2015 Auto Diesel 28000 Black

    £25,995 £25,995

    Upgrades - Privacy Glass from B-Pillar, Audi Parking System Advanced with Top View, 12 months warranty, Next MOT due 23/01/2018, Last serviced on 30/09/2016 at 18,146 miles, Full service history, Clean bodywork, Black Full leather interior - Clean Condition, Four wheel-drive, Standard Features - Satellite Navigation System - HDD - Based, Climate Control with Sun Sensor, Audi Parking System Advanced w. Reversing Camera, Cruise Control, Automatic Start - Stop Function, DAB Digital Radio Reception, Heated Front Seats with Variable Temperature Adjustment, Thatcham Category 1 Alarm, Rain Sensor, Alloy Wheels-19in x 9J 5-Arm Design, Electric Front and Rear Windows, Mobile Phone Preparation - Bluetooth Interface, MP3 Compatible Front-Loading CD/DVD Player, AM/FM Tuner, 60GB Hard Drive, 2 x SD Card Readers, Audi Music Interface (AMI), MMI Touch, Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator, Metallic or Pearl-Effect Paint, Upholstery - Valcona Leather, Colour Drivers Information System (DIS) with 7in High-Resolution Display. 5 seats, Black, Part Exchange and Finance welcome. Check Google or Facebook to see what our customers have to say.,

    • Mileage: 28000 mi
    • Engine size: 2.967
    For sale
  • AUDI A8 3.0 TDI QUATTRO SE 2009

    £7,950 £7,950

    % BUY NOW PAY LATER % NO DEPOSIT % FINANCE AVAILABLE % *FREE NATIONWIDE WARRANTY*, Upgrades - Alloy Wheels-9Jx20in 7-Arm Double Spoke Design, Adaptive Air Suspension - Sport, Audi Parking System Advanced, Exclusive Fine Nappa Leather, Exclusive Fine Nappa Leather-Pack2, Door Mirrors - Folding with Auto Dimming Function, Electric Slide and Tilt Glass Sunroof, BOSE Surround Sound, 4 Spoke Multifunction Steering Wheel, 12 months MOT, Full service history, Excellent bodywork, Interior - Excellent Condition, Standard Features - Satellite Navigation - DVD, Cruise Control, Automatic 4-Zone Air-Conditioning, DAB Digital Radio, Seat Heating for Front and Rear Seats, Acoustic and Optical Parking System - Front and Rear, Voice Control System - Key Function of MMI, Rain Sensor - Automatic Activation of Front Wipers, Keyless Go - Star / Stop Button, Drivers Information System (DIS), CD Autochanger (6 CD) in Glove Compartment with MMI, Metallic Paint, Anti - Theft Alarm (Thatcham Category 1 Approved), Front Seats - Electrically Adjustable (14-Way) w. Memory, Bluetooth Mobile Phone Connection, Upholstery - Valcona Leather, Green Tinted Glass, Electric Front and Rear Windows. 5 seats, Silver, MORE CARS AVAILABLE AT WWW.MJMCARSALES.CO.UK DEBIT/CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED,, GBP 7,950

    • Mileage: 110000 mi
    • Engine size: 2.967
    For sale
  • 2014 Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro SE Executive LWB 4dr Tip Auto

    POA POA

    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: 37000 mi
    For sale
  • AUDI A8 L TDI QUATTRO SE EXECUTIVE 2014 Auto Diesel 59000 Grey

    £22,995 £22,995

    Upgrades - Metallic Paint, 12 months warranty, Next MOT due 10/06/2018, Last serviced on 05/06/2017 at 58,968 miles, Full service history, Excellent bodywork, Black Full leather interior - Excellent Condition, Four wheel-drive, Standard Features - Satellite Navigation System - HDD - Based, Electric Tilt - and - Slide Sunroof, Electric Slide-and-Tilt Sunroof, Audi Parking System Advanced w. Reversing Camera, DAB Digital Radio Reception, Heated Outer Rear Seats, Heated Front Seats with Variable Temperature Adjustment, Automatic Start - Stop Function, Cruise Control, Electric Front and Rear Windows, Colour Drivers Information System (DIS) with 7in High-Resolution Display, Alloy Wheels-19in x 9J 5-Arm Design, Mobile Phone Preparation - Bluetooth Interface, Metallic or Pearl-Effect Paint, Thatcham Category 1 Alarm, Upholstery - Valcona Leather, 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, Tyre Pressure Loss Indicator. 5 seats, Metallic Grey, Part Exchange and Finance welcome. Check Google or Facebook to see what our customers have to say.,

    • Mileage: 59000 mi
    • Engine size: 2.967
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £26,500 £26,500

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

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 37377 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
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