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Audi A8 3.2 FSI V6 review (2005-2008)
Model: Audi A8 3.2 FSI V6
Bodystyle: 4dr luxury saloon
Engine: 3.2–litre FSI V6 Petrol
Transmission: 7–speed CVT automatic, Front-wheel-drive
Date of Test: June 2005
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What is it?
The 3.2-litre FSI V6 is the refreshed, 2005 entry-level model in Audi’s flagship luxury saloon range. It’s a direct replacement for the previous 3.0-litre V6 engine, its introduction seeing the cheapest A8 now offering 260bhp compared to 220bhp in the old unit. The changes aren’t just restricted to a new engine, as Audi has taken the opportunity to refresh the entire A8 range by adding the more prominent grille from the range-topping 6.0-litre W12 model through the entire model line up, while also enhancing standard and optional equipment, too. Audi’s range flagship is also its technological showcase, the A8 featuring several unique features in this class, including its spaceframe aluminium construction and the availability of quattro four-wheel-drive transmissions.
Where does it fit?
It might be the most affordable model in the A8 range, but it still weighs in at around £48,000 for the standard wheelbase model, and you can add about £3,000 to that if you opt for the long-wheelbase version, too. Its competition includes models like the BMW 7 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the Jaguar XJ6, all of which it beats on combined consumption and CO2 figures with 28.8mpg and 238g/km respectively. Unlike these rivals the A8 3.2 V6 is front-wheel-drive, though Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive transmission will be made available at later date for increased traction.
Is it for you?
According to Audi the A8 appeals to a particular type of customer who they state tend to be very high profile, particularly discerning and conscious of the A8’s advanced technology. They also claim that buyers use their own resources rather than company money. That may be, but around 34% of A8s in 2004 went to fleet buyers… They also claim that typical A8 customers are keen drivers, suggesting that the A8 appeals to them for its sporting appeal. If that’s the case they’ll be disappointed, as for all the A8’s impressive power and technology it simply cannot match the BMW 7 Series for driver appeal. However, for shear style, impeccable build and pace the A8 is a tough competitor in the luxury car market.
What does it do well?
Of all the luxury saloons the A8 is unquestionably the most stylish. This combined to its impressive technological features means it appeals to a younger audience than is typical for cars in this class. It’s not difficult to see why - Audi lacks the brand stigma often associated with its rivals, which immediately makes it an attractive buy to many. The interior is unsurpassed in this class for visual appeal, ease of operation and build quality, even the MMI interface that operates the A8’s numerous car and entertainment controls is a cinch to use after a few moments of familiarisation. All the engines offer highly competitive performance, not just in regard to 0-60mph times and top speeds, but with consumption and CO2 emissions too. It’s got a huge boot, a brilliant standard stereo and is superbly refined even at the high cruising speeds it’s capable of on the autobahns of its homeland.
What doesn’t it do well?
The performance figures for the 3.2-litre FSI are impressive, but its peak power comes in at high revs meaning it needs to be worked rather hard to achieve the quoted 7.7 second 0-60mph time. That engine comes mated to Audi’s multitronic CVT automatic transmission, which while undoubtedly representing an impressive technological achievement actually lacks the smoothness of operation of a conventional automatic. The ride in all is rather unsettled, the firm dampers struggling with sharp ridges and bumps and the steering lacks any kind of feedback. The new grille does little for the A8’s previously discreet style, likewise the new shape steering wheel is plain ugly in an otherwise beautiful interior.
What’s it like to live with?
So long as you’re not expecting an involving driving experience then the A8 3.2 V6 FSI is a tempting proposition. It’s very well equipped, is quicker than any of is direct rivals and has them licked on interior quality, too. It’s a very smart looking machine, even if the new grille is something of an acquired taste. The ride can be a bit harsh and the steering devoid of feel, but it more than makes up for this with its otherwise impressive comfort, ease of use and neat interior design. Residuals are decent enough so as not to punish you too much when you come to sell it, but with its timeless looks it’s more than likely you’ll want to keep it for longer than its rivals.
Would we buy it?
The A8 is undoubtedly one of our favourite all-round luxury cars out there. While it’s unable to match the BMW 7 Series for sporting appeal, nor the Mercedes S-Class for outright comfort, it sits in the middle ground between them. Add in its smart styling, beautiful interior and powerful, frugal engines and it makes a strong case for itself. Impressive as the new 3.2-litre V6 FSI is though we’d pay a bit more and opt for the 3.0-litre TDi instead. It’s got even better consumption figures, a conventional automatic transmission and the availability of quattro four-wheel-drive, which would make it our choice here. That’s assuming that is that we didn’t have the near £60k required to get behind the wheel of the phenomenal 4.2-litre TDI quattro diesel flagship.
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