German automakers have long led the way in boosting the presence of diesels cars and SUVs here in the states. But, oddly, one brand, Audi has relegated most of their diesels to utilities, keeping their carline mostly gasoline powered. Well, that’s about to change. As for proof, their top tier A8 sedan now sports turbo-diesel power. So, let’s see if it’s a good move, or just a bunch of clatter?
Being part of Volkswagen Group means that there are certainly enough diesel engines available for Audi to tap into for the 2014 A8. But it’s their 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 you’ll find under the hood here. There’s 240-horsepower. But, it’s the torque that really matters with a diesel, and this small six churns up 406 lb-ft. of it, and that comes close to the A8’s 4.0-liter petrol V8 turbo.
But, there’s a lot more to the flagship A8 than a new diesel engine; there’s that stellar interior with high quality, finely stitched leather, great looking wood appliqués, and a giant panoramic sunroof. Our car’s optional climate controlled seats with massage were very comfortable, and with 22 adjustments; you should have no problem dialing in a suitable driving position.
The four spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters fits us perfectly. And, beyond that is a deeply hooded gauge cluster that still uses serious needles and dials.
Indeed, despite all the comfort, there is still a sporty feel as controls surround the driver. Audi’s MMI touchpad interface continues to be our hands down favorite when it comes to controlling the multiple infotainment choices in today’s digital car.
For the time being, all TDI A8’s will be the long-wheelbase variety, which means more room and more features for back seat drivers.
But for such a big car, it is surprising to see only 13.2 cubic-ft. of cargo space in the trunk. So pack light.
Diesels aren’t exactly designed with track work in mind, but all of that torque made us happy. It was foot to the floor for a 5.9 0-60 time, and a 14.4-second trip down the ¼-mile cruising at 93 miles-per-hour. Smooth and easy the whole way, that is, after some neck snapping acceleration at launch! Shifts come quickly, but they are very firm thanks to the 8-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual and sport modes.
While it’s not an Audi S car, and it’s hard to ignore the A8’s large dimensions and 45-hundred pound weight, it does quite well when it comes to handling, with “well composed” and “nice balance” being words our testers used often.
Through the cones, turn-ins are quick, steering feel is weighty, and with Quattro all-wheel drive standard, there’s an unreal amount of grip. We actually got best results leaving the Drive Select in Comfort mode, as Dynamic mode just seemed to add some fake weight to the steering process without helping progress.
Brakes are equally impressive, stopping this weighty wonder from 60 in just 110-feet with a calm, almost surreal nature that ignores the harsh reality that is taking place behind the optional 20-inch wheels of our test car.
Not much has changed outside the A8, save for new full LED headlights that come as part of the Premium Package. And that’s okay by us, as the A8’s particular brand of understated elegance is a hit with most of our staff.
Where the A8 really shines is Government Fuel Economy Ratings which are the true highlight for the Diesel engine, powering the A8 to 24 miles-per-gallon City, 36-Highway, and 28-Combined. That gives it the best fuel economy in the segment. We cheerfully clattered our way to 27.6 miles per gallon, aided by automatic stop/start.
That makes for an Energy Impact Score of 13.6-barrels of oil consumed per year, with CO2 emissions of 6.0-tons.
There is a long wheelbase and diesel pricing premium compared to the standard gas V6 A8. It will cost you $7,400 more than the base car, which starts at $75,995. We didn’t find that out of line for such a prestige product. And, the TDI is far from the top of the line option as the turbo gas V8 and W12 are pricier still.
Since Audi is also adding a 3.0-liter TDI to its A6 and A7 carlines, our wish to see a wider variety of diesel cars in America is being granted.
As to the 2014 Audi A8L TDI, the few who will pony up the bucks for one will be rewarded a sweet full-size luxury ride, with a serious driver’s car edge, and fuel economy that rivals a compact. So, thank you Audi for loving diesels, and for making the great A8…even greater.
Engine: 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6
Torque: 406 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 5.9 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.4 seconds @ 93 mph
EPA: 24 mpg city/ 36 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 13.6 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 6.0 tons/yr