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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

183 Search results
Audi A8
0 116680 GBP
  • Audi A8

    £17,990 £17,990

    Variant name:S8 FSI QUATTRO V10 ,Derivative:MK2 (4E) (D3) ,Variant: 5.2 FSI Quattro 4dr

    • Year: 2009
    • Mileage: 83624 mi
    • Engine size: 5.2
    For sale
    Williams Group-Williams Select
    0161 955 5575 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Audi A8

    £58,993 £58,993

    Variant name:S8 TFSI V8 QUATTRO ,Derivative:MK3 FL (4H) (D4) ,Variant: S8 TFSI V8 QUATTRO Massive Specification 21 Inch Triple Spoke Alloys, Adaptive Cruise, Exhaust Sound System And More Due in stock we have a stunning Audi S8 4.0 TFSi V8 Quattro. Offered in Mythos Black metallic with Beige leather this car has huge kerb appeal. Many factory ordered optional extras include but are not limited too 21 Inch triple spoke alloys, Heated rear seats, Adaptive cruise control, Lane assist, Electric sunroof, Deluxe 4 zone climate control, Privacy glass, Audi Exhaust sound system upgrade. More details to follow on arrival including photographs.

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 10000 mi
    • Engine size: 4
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £44,841 £44,841

    Variant name:4.2 TDI quattro SE Executive (385PS) LWB ,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: 3076 mi
    • Engine size: 4.1
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £45,993 £45,993

    Variant name:L TDI QUATTRO SE EXECUTIVE ,Derivative:MK3 FL (4H) (D4) ,Variant: 4.2 TDI LWB QUATTRO SE EXECUTIVE - Superb Specification Including Many Factory Optional Extras Due in stock we have a superb Audi A8 4.2 L TDi 385 Quattro SE Executive. The standard specification on this flagship model is extensive and represents incredible value. Factory ordered optional extras add too this cars appeal and include 19 inch alloy wheels 10 Y spoke design, Privacy glass, BOSE surround sound system, Car phone preparation high with connect, Extended leather pack, LED matrix headlights, Reading lights rear, Rear seat electric individual seat adjustment, Digital TV function, Rear vanity mirrors, Windscreen UV Insulated heated, Incredible car with a outstanding specification and perfect provenance. Please register early interest.

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 2289 mi
    • Engine size: 4.2
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £29,993 £29,993

    Bluetooth, Cruise Control, Alloy wheels, Service history ***All vehicles come with a minimum of 6 months RAC warranty, 12 months breakdown and home start**** BLACK, We are delighted to present for sale this immaculate and rare A8 W12 Quattro painted in a stunning Phantom pearl Black and comes with a full Audi service history, Audi warranty until 18/1/18 and Audi roadside assistance until 24/1/18 The cars features include 19 inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, LED daylight running lights, Xenon headlights, auto open/close tailgate, Cream leather interior with extended leather dashboard, Multi functional electrically adjustable steering wheel, Gear change paddles, Soft door close, Sat Nav, Bluetooth, CD, AUX, DAB Radio, Rear cam, Key-less entry with stop/start function, Cruise control, 4 zone air con, Rain sensors, Bose speakers, Panoramic electric sun roof, Front and rear electrically adjustable seats with front memory package, Heated folding mirrors and Front and rear heated seats. Category 1 alarm and immobiliser. ***This car is HPI clear, we accept credit and debit card payments, we can organise competitive finance for you and will would be happy to take your current vehicle as part exchange. Indoor viewing area. Nationwide delivery available. All vehicles are subject to a £80 admin fee. VIEWING BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. ***(AD61 VAY), £29,993, If somebody replies with the e-mail address leontommy6gmail.com, please disregard and inform us directly, as they are not associated to our business.

    • Mileage: 57000 mi
    • Engine size: 6300
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    €116,680(£104,031.89) €116,680(£104,031.89)

    Variant: 3.0TDI 262HP quattro Tiptronic SE Executive * This Car Is In Stock Ready For Immediate Delivery * SE Executive Adds the following to SE - Comfort Seats with 22 way Adjustment - 19 10 V Spoke Alloys - Adaptive Cruise Control - 360 Camera - Acoustic Glazing - Matrix Beam - 4-Zone Climate - Servo Closing Doors - Audi Connect with phonebox and wireless charging. Sport Package - Contents: Matrix LED Beam - 20 5 Spoke Blade Design Alloys - Tinted Rear Windows * This Car Is In Stock Ready For Immediate Delivery *

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 200 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £61,990 £61,990

    Variant name:Diesel Saloon Sport ,Derivative:3.0 TDI (262 PS) quattro Sport ,Variant: 3.0 TDI 262 Quattro Sport 4dr Tip Auto Audi A8 3.0 TDI (262 PS) quattro Sport finished in Mythos Black, metallic. Specification includes cruise control, climate control, privacy glass, comfort seats, 3-spoke leather multi-function steering wheel with gear-shi, comfort headrests for rear seats, sport package, LED ambient lighting package, hill hold assist, heated front seats, 19" x 9j '7 parallel-spoke' design alloy wheels - with 255/, lower inlays - brushed Aluminium - Silver, power door closure, Audi parking system advanced, comfort front seats with memory, electric front seats with memory function, Audi hands-free boot opening system, advanced key, door mirrors - with memory and auto dimming function. elect, led headlights, BOSE® surround sound, led rear lights and mobile telephone preparation - high with Audi connect.

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 50 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £39,500 £39,500

    Variant name:Saloon S8 ,Derivative:S8 ,Variant: S8 TFSI Quattro 21 inch Alloys Satellite Navigation Bluetooth Front and Rear Cameras DAB Stunning Example John Holland Winner of Dealer's Dealer of the Year at the National Car Dealer Awards 2014/15 is delighted to offer for sale this Stunning Audi A8 S8 TFSI Quattro 4dr Tip Auto. Finished in Phantom Black Pearl with complimenting Black Leather Upholstery and Carbon Fibre Interior Inlays. This beautiful example comes with a huge specification to include, 21" Double Spoke Alloy Wheels, Satellite Navigation, Bluetooth, Front and Rear Cameras, Multi Function Leather Steering Wheel, Paddle Shift, Adaptive Cruise Control, Electric Steering Colum, Dual Climate, DAB Radio with ipod Connection and BOSE Surround Sound, Keyless Entry and Start, Heated Electric Front Seats with Drivers and Passengers Memory, Heated Rear Seats, Privacy Glass, Auto Lights, LED Daytime Running Lights, Xenon Headlights, Electric Folding Mirrors and much more. Also benefiting from a full Audi service history completed on the 04/07/13 at 22135 miles and again on the 13/12/16 at 26492 miles exclusively at Hull Audi Centre. Supplied with 2 keys and all its original owners manuals and wallet. 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: 2013
    • Mileage: 27170 mi
    • Engine size: 4
    For sale
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