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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

142 Search results
Audi A8
17000 76995 GBP
  • Audi A8

    £28,000 £28,000

    Variant name:4.2 TDI (385 PS) quattro Sport Executive ,Derivative:MK3 FL (4H) (D4) ,Variant: TDI QUATTRO SPORT EXECUTIVE

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 46000 mi
    • Engine size: 4.2
    For sale
    Lookers Group -Guildford Audi
    01483 547700 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Audi A8

    £27,000 £27,000

    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: 2014
    • Mileage: 37377 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • 2012 Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro SE Executive 4dr Tip Auto, Full Audi Service History, MMI Navigation, 20inch Alloy Wheels, Audi Music Interface, DAB Radio, Cruise, Electric Front Seats with Memory, Heated Front Seats

    £19,900 £19,900

    Multi award-winning prestige car dealership John Holland is delighted to offer for sale this outstanding Audi A8 Quattro SE Executive finished in Ice Silver with Black Valcona leather and Walnut Wood Inlays. The specification on this car includes MMI Navigation, 20inch Alloy Wheels, Bluetooth, Parking Sensors Front and Rear, Audi Music Interface, DAB Radio, Electric Folding Mirrors, Electric Seating Column, Multi Function Steering Wheels with Paddles, Cruise Electric Front Seats with Memory, Heated Front Seats, Keyless Start, Rain Sensors, Auto Lights and much more. This car benefits from a full Audi service history done at 18284miles on 19/05/14, 29474miles on 18/01/16 and 38916miles on 13/01/17. Supplied with 2 keys all original owners manuals. John Holland has been established for over 40 years supplying a premium level of service in the sale of sports, prestige and collectors cars. We have a team of experienced buyers who hand pick our cars from all parts of the uk so you can buy with confidence all vehicles are HPI Clear and prepared to the highest standard, full dealer facilities available call the sales team for further information.

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 44085 mi
    For sale
  • AUDI A8 TDI QUATTRO SE EXECUTIVE 2011

    £18,950 £18,950

    Top of the range, 100% pure unadulterated, refined luxury and comfort. This car is out of this world. Being the Quattro too, it sticks like glue. Looks fantastic, drives superb. Almost silent on the road and silky smooth. FULLY LOADED, I don't think I've ever seen a car with so many 'extras' Total class.;Audi are legendary for build quality and, sit in this car for just a few seconds and you can see where they get their reputation, this car just screams quality. Fantastic for Executive's and Managing Directors who want to arrive in style BUT, equally as good for the family man who wants to travel in comfort and total safety AND, for the slightly younger at heart, slip the box into 'Sport' mode, flip the paddles and hold tight, this car feels like it's been shot out of a catapult, awesome power when you want, or need it. This car really does have everything you could ever hope for in a top quality car. CALL NOW to arrange viewing and test drive, you will be delighted that you did. Flexible Finance options and Extended Warranties available, please ask for details. Part Exchange welcome, just tell us what you have now and we will do our best to make the numbers fit.

    • Mileage: 50000 mi
    • Engine size: 2.967
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £30,000 £30,000

    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: 20000 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £24,990 £24,990

    Variant name:TDI QUATTRO SPORT EXECUTIVE ,Derivative:MK3 FL (4H) (D4) ,Variant: 2014 64 Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro Sport Executive A fantastic opportunity to own and cherish this stunning showroom example new model low mileage 64 reg Audi A8 3.0 TDI Sport executive quattro automatic 4dr saloon, with 254 BHP .  This vehicle is finished in floret silver metallic and fully loaded with a massive specification which includes full black quilted leather, 8 speed automatic gearbox with paddle shift, cruise control, auto start / stop, audi multi media interface, 8' colour display screen, CD/DVD System, BOSE, DAB, Bluetooth with audio streaming, satellite navigation, multi view camera system, voice activation commands, electric heated memory seats, electric power tailgate, 21' alloy wheels, privacy pack, exterior chrome line, parking sensors and Audis Quattro 4 Wheel Drive System.  This is the ultimate sports luxury 4dr saloon with outstanding performance and stunning body styling.  Also benefits from the remainder of manufacturers warranty.  Viewing is essential as this cost £75740 new which gives its new owner a massive saving.  So call now for more information an to avoid disappointment as this is the best example available on the market!

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 61562 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £47,500 £47,500

    Variant name:Saloon Special Editions Black Edition ,Derivative:Black Edition ,Variant: 3.0 TDI (262ps) quattro Black Edition Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro Black Edition 4dr Tip Auto

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 4000 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £28,500 £28,500

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

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 23261 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £39,750 £39,750

    Variant name:TDI QUATTRO SPORT ,Derivative:MK3 FL (4H) (D4) ,Variant: 3.0 TDI (262 PS) quattro Sport Audi A8 3.0 TDI (262 PS) quattro Sport finished in Monsoon Grey, metallic. Specification includes MMI navigation system Plus, DAB digital radio reception, privacy glass, comfort seats, power door closure, advanced key, head-up display, comfort front seats with memory, heated front seats, valcona leather, LED ambient lighting package, Audi parking system advanced with top view, LED headlights, LED rear lights, Audi music interface (ami), tyre pressure loss indicator, Audi assistance package with pre-sense Plus and Audi active, parking system Plus - front and rear, 19" x 9j '7 parallel-spoke' design alloy wheels - with 255/, Audi pre sense Plus, MMI touch and front centre armrest.

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 5300 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £19,900 £19,900

    Variant name:Diesel Saloon SE Executive ,Derivative:SE Executive ,Variant: 3.0 TDI Quattro SE Executive 4dr Tip Auto, Full Audi Service History, MMI Navigation, 20inch Alloy Wheels, Audi Music Interface, DAB Radio, Cruise, Electric Front Seats with Memory, Heated Front Seats Multi award-winning prestige car dealership John Holland is delighted to offer for sale this outstanding Audi A8 Quattro SE Executive finished in Ice Silver with Black Valcona leather and Walnut Wood Inlays. The specification on this car includes MMI Navigation, 20inch Alloy Wheels, Bluetooth, Parking Sensors Front and Rear, Audi Music Interface, DAB Radio, Electric Folding Mirrors, Electric Seating Column, Multi Function Steering Wheels with Paddles, Cruise Electric Front Seats with Memory, Heated Front Seats, Keyless Start, Rain Sensors, Auto Lights and much more. This car benefits from a full Audi service history done at 18284miles on 19/05/14, 29474miles on 18/01/16 and 38916miles on 13/01/17. Supplied with 2 keys all original owners manuals. John Holland has been established for over 40 years supplying a premium level of service in the sale of sports, prestige and collectors cars. We have a team of experienced buyers who hand pick our cars from all parts of the uk so you can buy with confidence all vehicles are HPI Clear and prepared to the highest standard, full dealer facilities available call the sales team for further information.

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 44085 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £39,000 £39,000

    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: 1745 mi
    • Engine size: 4.1
    For sale
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