Today you will find the original limousine from Ingolstadt most often in the hands of the worldly, but it was once a showcase of technology for the real cream of the crop.
If we exclude the really old products of some of the brands from which Audi was created (Auto Union, DKW, Horch and Wanderer), the car company first cautiously peeked into the world of luxury cars only at the end of 1988, when it started production of the V8 model. It was a flamboyant sedan, sold in two lengths – 4861 mm for the standard and 5190 mm for the extended version.
As the name suggests, it was powered by eight-cylinder engines with a volume of 3.6 or 4.2 liters, and the automaker gave it the best it could. Standard equipment included quattro all-wheel drive, driver’s front airbag, automatic climate control, cruise control, electric mirrors, Bose audio system, alarm, walnut trim and metallics.
Interestingly, the base price for the short 3.6 was 98,700 marks, the long 4.2 cost from 155,000 marks – in general, the car cost roughly 30 percent more than the comparable contemporary Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7 Series. Spare parts were also not free – the new engine cost roughly 20,000 marks, i.e. like the entire VW Golf, an automatic 13,000 marks and a set of front discs and pads 1,500 marks.
Audi verified with the V8 model that “it works” and therefore prepared the successor in style. At the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1993, the Audi Space Frame concept showed off the practically definitive form of the new A8 model. The study had a body made of shiny aluminum – the production version received a self-supporting structure made of the same material and the fairing was also aluminum.
But the story began much earlier – in 1982, when Ferdinand Piech signed a collaboration with the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa) to develop significantly lighter cars. The design comes from Dirk van Braeckel and Chris Bird, its definitive form was approved already in 1990.
The production A8 appeared at the Geneva Motor Show in 1994, and full-scale production began not long after. Thanks to the aluminum monocoque with elements of the space frame (officially the D2 platform), the car with quattro all-wheel drive was slightly lighter than the rear wheels from BMW and Mercedes. Corrosion resistance was also supposed to be an advantage, although even the V8 model with a galvanized steel construction had no problem with it.
At its base, the car was offered with a six-cylinder engine with a volume of 2.8 liters, front-wheel drive and a five-speed automatic transmission, and then with a V8 with a volume of 3.7 or 4.2 liters. For connoisseurs, Audi had a sharp version of the S8 from 1996, which had 250 and later up to 265 kW. Maximalists could then reach for the six-liter twelve-cylinder in the W with an output of 309 kW – it was produced only from January 2001 until the end of the production of the first A8 in September 2002. Fans of diesel got their chance in 1997, when they could get the six-cylinder 2.5 TDI with 110 kW (later 132 kW) or the 3.3-liter eight-cylinder TDI with 165 kW.