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Audi's all-new A8 is decidedly understated at first glance, opting for class rather than making a fashion statement. However, hidden beneath the sensible business suit exterior is a high-tech luxury saloon that has been developed to appeal to top boardroom execs.
Initially available in the UK from May with a choice of one petrol and one diesel 4.2-litre V8 engine, the A8 will quickly add a 250PS 3.0 TDI, which will be the version businesses will initially find most attractive.
While Audi claims all power plants are efficient for their size, the 3.0 TDI comes in at an impressive 174g/km, which equates to 42.8mpg. That's nothing short of amazing, bearing in mind that this car, with a 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds, is hardly slow thanks to a lightweight aluminium structure.
If you have a 160g/km fleet limit that even the chairman's sticking too, then tell him to wait until November when the 159g/km version of the 3.0 TDI arrives. It drops power to 204PS and makes do with front drive, rather than quattro all-wheel drive, which is standard across the rest of the range.
Beyond the engines, the new A8 is packed with electronic goodies including a system called MMI, that's similar to BMW's ConnectedDrive, which allows owners to send navigation information to the car from their computer. However, Audi's system has two advantages: you can perform a Google search from the car to find a satnav location or, if you wish, use a touch-sensitive pad to spell out a destination with your finger. It works well, but the additional buttons make use a tad more complicated than rival systems from BMW or Mercedes. However, with time, owners are likely to get used to it. Interestingly, the system uses the driver's mobile phone, connected via Bluetooth, rather than an internal system (as with BMW), which means users may rack-up larger phone bills for the data connection.
The car's safety tech is also top-notch, with night vision, lane sensors, new clever lights and a system that will automatically slow the car if it thinks an accident is unavoidable.
Interior space and comfort is first rate in both the front and, importantly for the chauffeur market, in the rear seats, too, where there's plenty of space for the tallest passengers. Powered reclining rear seats are also available.
Ride is excellent across all models with a choice of 'comfort', 'auto' and 'dynamic' suspension settings, which are distinct and work well.
At 250PS the 3.0-litre diesel may be 100PS down on the range-topping V8 diesel, but it's easily enough power for just about every circumstance, or overtaking manoeuvre, and is the natural business choice.
The overall package puts the new A8 to the front of the class. All fleet users have to do is decided if they want the 250PS diesel now, or wait for the ultra-low CO2 204PS that's due in November.