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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

146 Search results
Audi A8
3995 117027 GBP
  • Audi A8

    £55,000 £55,000

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

    • Year: 2017
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
    Marshall Motor Group-Marshall Audi of Wimbledon (Sales)
    020 3484 2070 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Audi A8

    £24,900 £24,900

    Variant name:Diesel Saloon Sport Executive ,Derivative:Sport Executive ,Variant: 3.0 TDI (250 PS) quattro Sport Executive Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quattro Sport Executive 4dr Tip Auto

    • Year: 2014
    • Mileage: 32720 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £40,000 £40,000

    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
  • Audi A8

    £4,495 £4,495

    6 MONTHS WARRANTY INCLUDED, DIESEL, AUX INPUT, AIR CONDITIONED, FINANCE AVAILABLE, LEATHER INTERIOR, OUTSTANDING CONDITION , SAT- NAV, TOP SPECIFICATION, VERY HIGH SPECIFICATION, Satellite Navigation, Trip Computer, Traction Control, Electric Windows, Electric Mirrors, Child Locks, ABS, Multiple Airbags, Colour Coded Body, Front Fog Lamps, Metallic Paintwork, Remote Central Locking, Remote Alarm, Colour Coded Interior, Front Centre Armrest, Head Restraints, Heated Seats, Height Adjustable Seat, Lumbar Adjustment, Retractable Headrests, Rear Headrests, 4x4

    • Mileage: 119357 mi
    • Engine size: 2967
    For sale
  • AUDI A8 QUATTRO 2005 Auto Petrol 0 Grey

    £3,995 £3,995

    Upgrades - DVD Based Navigation System, BOSE Surround Sound, Four Zone Electronic Climate Control, Automatically Activated Boot Lid, Seat Heating for Front Seats, Coming/Leaving Home Function, Door Mirrors - Automatic Dipping Function, 4 Spoke Multifunction Steering Wheel, Metallic Paint, Next MOT due 03/06/2018, Full service history, Black Full leather interior, Standard Features - Parking Aid (Front/Rear), Cruise Control, Climate Control, Alloy Wheels (18in), Alarm, Upholstery Leather, Computer (Driver Information System), Electric Windows (Front/Rear), In Car Entertainment (Radio/CD Autochanger), Paint Metallic, Seats Electric (Driver/Passenger). 5 seats, Grey, Part Exchange and Finance welcome. Check Google or Facebook to see what our customers have to say.,

    • Engine size: 4.172
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £25,000 £25,000

    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: 44519 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • AUDI A8 3.0 TDi 260 Quattro Sport Executive Auto 4dr 2014

    £22,990 £22,990

    Vat Inclusive Price-Hpi Clear-1 Owner-Full Audi Service History+12 Months Gold Warranty-Mot 06-2018-New Facelift Model-Finished In Awesome Phantom Black Pearl Effect-Full Black Valcona Leather-Audi HDD SatNav 4G With MMi Touch-21 Inch Titanium Rotor Alloy Wheels-Electric Tilt Slide Sunroof-Bose Surround Sound System- Electronic Climate Control-Cruise Control-Fully Electric Heated Memory Comfort Seats-Audi Parking System Advanced Front/Rear With 360 Degrees Camera-Audi Advanced Keyless Go Start-Power Tailgate-3 Spoke Multi Function Steering With F1 Paddleshift-Bluetooth High With Streaming-Adaptive Xenon LED Matrix Headlights-High Beam Assist-Privacy Glass-DAB Digital Radio/DVD+CD Player-SD Cards-Audi Ipod+USB Music Interface-Electric Folding Mirrors-Black Piano Wood Trim-Audi Drive Select-Adaptive Air Suspension-Ambient Lighting Package-Tyre Pressure Monitor-Auto Headlights/Wipers-2 Keys-Alarm Immobiliser-12 Months Gold Comprehensive Nationwide Parts + Labour Warranty Included-1 Owner With Full Audi Service History- Serviced At 19K-37K-57K-78K-Full 12 Months Mot-4 Brand New Pirelli Tyres+New Brakes All Round-Absolutely Stunning Huge Spec New Shape Facelift A8 Quattro Sport Executive-Sheer Luxury Performance Style All in One-Over GBP 70k New-Low Rate HP-PCP Finance Available-Rates From 5.9% APR Fixed-Driveaway Insurance-All Major Cards Accepted-Full Dealer Facilities-Export Enquiries Welcome.Nationwide Delivery-REF: VN14 MYW

    • Mileage: 88000 mi
    • Engine size: 2.967
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £38,000 £38,000

    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: 2283 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £18,990 £18,990

    Variant name:Diesel Saloon SE Executive ,Derivative:3.0 TDI (250 PS) quattro SE Executive ,Variant: 3.0 TDI Quattro SE Executive 4dr Tip Auto Audi A8 3.0 TDI (250 PS) quattro SE Executive finished in Phantom Black, pearl effect. Specification includes MMI navigation system Plus, climate control, isofix child seat mounting, SE executive, double acoustic glazing, LED ambient lighting package, separate daytime running lights, light and rain sensor, 19" x 9j '10-spoke y' design alloy wheels with 255/45 r19 t, lower inlays - brushed Aluminium - Silver, Audi parking system advanced, Audi hands-free boot opening system and advanced key - keyless entry and keyless go.

    • Year: 2012
    • Mileage: 52572 mi
    • Engine size: 3
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £77,950 £77,950

    Variant name:S8 PLUS TFSI V8 QUATTRO ,Derivative:MK3 (4H) (D4) ,Variant: 4.0 T FSI (605 PS) quattro CARS (exc. Off-Road)

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 1141 mi
    • Engine size: 4
    For sale
  • Audi A8

    £11,995 £11,995

    4x4 09 Reg - Quartz Grey with Full 2-Tone Grey Leather Trim, This 3.0 TDi Quattro Sport comes with an enormous specification which includes: Factory Fully Functioning TV, Full Functional DVD Player, Factory Flip-up Colour Satellite Navigation, Rear Parking Camera, Electric Glass Sunroof, Bose Sound System, Soft Close Doors, Keyless Entry & Go, Xenon Headlamps, Power Boot, Electric Adjustable Memory Seats, Heated Seats, Factory Front & Rear Park Assist, Electric Folding Mirrors, 4-Zone Climate Control, Cruise Control, Trip Computer, CD Player with Fingertip Controls, Auto Lights, Auto Dipping Mirror, Leather Steering Wheel, Airbags, ISO-Fix Seating, 20'' Alloy Wheels, Front Fogs, Fitted Mats, 2 Keys, Incredibly an Audi demonstrator plus 2 private owner from new and comes with a full Audi main dealer service history (5 services), really an incredibly example of a stunning car, if you are looking an extremely low mileage, well serviced A8 Quattro Sport with 'out of this world' high specification then you probably couldn't do much better than this, truly an exceptional example, drives superbly so any inspection welcome, HPI Clear, Part Exchange up or down welcome. **Debit/Credit Cards Accepted** **Open 7 Days a week** **POOR CREDIT NO PROBLEMS - Finance available (subject to status)**

    • Mileage: 68000 mi
    • Engine size: 2967
    For sale
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