In the corporate sector, where becoming the currency by which a person is measured is a vital component of success, Audi is hitting the right notes. It was recently voted one of the coolest brands in Britain and the firm has worked hard at attracting younger, more discerning buyers. You can’t shape the mood of the moment but you can be sure you’re in the right place with the right products to take advantage of it, and that is what Audi has done.
It has been doing so since the TT and not much has gone wrong since, with record sales in the UK. Confidence is on the up. This is while Mercedes-Benz is appealing to an older audience, BMW is attempting some overly sculptural designs (and we all know how appearing to try hard is so uncool) and Jaguar is still gnashing its teeth over how to put a 21st century spin on its Britishness.
At the top of its increasingly sleek, confident range of cars, Audi has the A8. With none of the baroque ostentation of the S-class or the modernist oddities of the 7-series, it is solid, handsome and well-proportioned.
And to fit in with current thinking, it now has a small-ish diesel-powered version. But don’t think of it as a cheap end, higher volume model full of compromises. This is full-on luxury.
The 3.0-litre TDI common rail engine in the A8 is also in the new A6, although it is mildly less powerful at 225bhp, as opposed to the A8’s 233bhp. In terms of performance, there is nothing in it, as the aluminium spaceframe makes the A8 a seriously light car for its size at 1,830kg.
The A6 is only 65kg lighter and marginally smaller, but at £15,000 cheaper and with less noise at idle, it makes you wonder whether it’s worth going for the biggest model. In the A8, the quattro system negates some of the advantages of its light weight when it comes to emissions and fuel economy and it’s no better than many other cars in the class. But it does have other advantages.
With those three litres snorting out hefty torque and the four-wheel drive grinding the tyres into the road, the A8 feels surprisingly nimble. It’s not just a big cruiser for sweeping up and down motorways.
Inside, everything is trimmed beautifully and you really get a sense of where your money is being spent. But would you be better spending that money with a competitor? We pitch it against three key rivals.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £47,177
CO2 emissions (g/km): 231
BIK % of P11D in 2004: 32%
Graduated VED rate: £165
Insurance group: 17
Combined mpg: 32.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £17,875/38%
Depreciation (49.58 pence per mile x 60,000): £29,748
Maintenance (4.70 pence per mile x 60,000): £2,820
Fuel (12.54 pence per mile x 60,000): £7,524
Wholelife cost (66.82 pence per mile x 60,000): £40,092
Typical contract hire rate: £898
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
NOT surprisingly, around the £50,000 mark you get a lot of car for the money and, when it comes to specification, all these cars have the equipment drivers really care about, including electrically-adjusted leather seats, top-notch CD players and parking sensors. The S-class and 7-series have sat-nav as well, but it costs £1,000 to add it to the A8 and a whopping £2,400 in the Range Rover.
Range Rover £49,292
THE BMW is the best car for service, maintenance and repair, and would be even better if you add its Service Inclusive package, which costs £1,250. Its variable servicing means it could go 25,000 miles without a service. The Audi and Range Rover come second. The A8 could go 22,000 miles without a service, while the Range Rover has to make a visit every 12,000 miles. Concerns about repairing the aluminium spaceframe push up ppm predictions for the A8.
Range Rover 4.70ppm
THE Range Rover is miles out of touch here. Its combined figure is 25mpg, which means it costs just under £10,000 if a driver manages to coax that figure out of it over 60,000 miles. The S-class, with a figure of 35.8mpg comes out best and would cost £6,600, while the Audi and BMW are equally matched and would be about £500 more than the Merc. Despite the A8’s light weight, the four-wheel drive system negates this advantage and mpg is comparable to the others.
Range Rover 16.45ppm
THE Range Rover proves the best for depreciation, thanks to a CAP prediction of 44% when the other three are in the high 30s, but it’s only catching up ground lost on fuel costs. The S-class, with its high front-end price and relative old age, can’t keep up with the newer cars. Its long-held crown as the best luxury car has slipped. Again, the Audi and BMW are closely matched, although they would lose about £29,000 to the Range Rover’s £28,000.
Range Rover 47.02ppm
WHILE the Range Rover depreciates least, its astronomical fuel bill is its biggest weakness. The Mercedes-Benz struggles in all the cost categories, but still has an image the others aspire to. The BMW and Audi are very closely matched, although the 730d costs £800 less, thanks to marginally better servicing, fuel and depreciation figures, but this isn’t much after a £50,000 price tag and £40,000 wholelife costs.
Range Rover 68.17ppm
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
THE A8 and S320 CDI are at an immediate advantage as they’re both Euro IV-compliant, forgoing the extra 3% BIK surcharge. It makes the S-class easily the best on tax, should running this through the company books be the way you choose to do it. It would cost a 40% taxpayer £457 a month. The Audi is next best at £503, the BMW £543 and the Range Rover £575. A monthly contract hire rate would be £900-plus a month so opting out is a bad idea, as long as you can get it funded through the company without corporate revolution.
Mercedes-Benz 209g/km/27% Audi 231g/km/32% BMW 227g/km/34% Range Rover 299g/km/35%
THE S-class is too expensive to win this comparison and is starting to show its age at this rarified end of the market. The Range Rover is excellent on residuals but expensive on fuel and a little cumbersome and slow for day-to-day use. The BMW and Audi are very evenly matched, so it comes down to pure driver preference and with four-wheel drive, a better interior and bags of style, we’d pick the Audi. WINNER: Audi A8 3.0 TDI quattro tip auto
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