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Can the twain meet?

The A8 gets a 250bhp diesel V6. How well does luxury work with economy?


Diesel motors have always been a dilemma for petrolheads. But it is only when you tank up the A8 3.0litre TDI's 80 litre tank that the car makes most sense. One could say that big luxury limo owners look forward more to the refinement and displacement of their car than the fuel prices, but this A8 diesel begs to differ. The V6 in this diesel is so creamily smooth, quiet and flexible that you really wouldn't miss the grunt of the 376bhp V8 petrol. More importantly, you won't have a mini-stroke every time you see your fuel bill.

But there are other reasons to buy this car, starting with the price. The base price for a diesel A8 is Rs 78 lakh; a similarly specced 4.2 petrol V8 petrol costs Rs. 11 lakh more.

Still need more convincing? You'll find that there's nothing to complain about in the way it moves. The diesel may be 126bhp down on the petrol, but it makes 11kgm more torque!

This means the 3.0-litre TDI does a good job of whooshing you about. Flat out, it doesn't have the brisk pace of the petrol but manages to give you a nice shove in the back nonetheless. The engine is particularly impressive from 2000rpm through to 4000rpm, where it provides a satisfying surge of acceleration and with the gearbox in sport mode, kick-down is quick and smooth. For a diesel-powered limo, the A8's performance is not bad at all. Making full use of its all-wheel-drive system, that 56kgm of torque and its eight tightly stacked gear ratios get you to 100kph in 6.3sec and 200kph in 27sec.


Yet the figures themselves aren't half as impressive as the manner in which they're delivered. A slight grumble at idle is the only way most occupants would ever know which fuel feeds this engine. It's whisper-quiet at a constant cruise, with just a hint of a snarl when it gets down to business.

A bit of nitpicking here: floor the throttle pedal and the gearbox hesitates momentarily. Hence power delivery is a tad spiky and not as linear and comfortable as you would expect from a car such as this — the resultant lurching can get a bit uncomfortable for passengers.

With the drive select system in ‘Comfort' mode, the A8 absorbs bumps quite adeptly but the aluminium-bodied A8 has a light feel and doesn't feel as settled as we would have liked. Also, in the softest setting, the big limo tends to get a bit floaty on undulating surfaces. The ride is significantly tauter in ‘Dynamic' mode and thumps a bit more over expansion joints but it's surprisingly still comfortable and makes high speed driving very reassuring. What won't be appreciated by owners is the fair amount of tyre roar and the A8 doesn't seem to be as well-insulated from road noise as its rivals.

That apart, the A8 diesel is a very relaxed cruiser and the eight-speed automatic does a brilliant job of making it feel so. It shifts smoothly and does a good job of keeping the engine in the thick of its torque curve.

Throw the A8 down a hill road, and you'll find a car that is more than manageable for its size — there's good grip and decent body control, and the Quattro system does a good job of keeping all 1890kg heading in the direction you want it to. That said, you're always aware of the car's sheer size and the steering isn't involving either. Switching to ‘Dynamic' mode weights up the steering but it doesn't improve the feel which remains inert. The diesel A8's interiors are unchanged and cabin quality is what sets the Audi flagship apart. Well-designed, beautifully built and with fantastic attention to detail, we can't help but love this cabin. The lighting is right and the seats are great. In fact, sitting in this car can make you really lazy — everything is electrically operated — about a million little motors move everything from the steering wheel to the rear sun to the sunblind. The diesel A8 is a surprisingly holistic car. It's quick, well-built, clever and looks great. The ride would fit any expectations you might have of a car of this class and the cabin ambience is extra special. And at Rs.78 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) it costs much less than its petrol sibling. Luxury meets economy is the paradoxical truth about this car.

OUSEPH CHACKO

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