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New Car Review

1998 AUDI A8 4.2

by Matt/Bob Hagin


SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 65,000
Price As Tested                                    $ 68,200
Engine Type                             4.2 Liter V8 w/MFI*
Engine Size                                 255 cid/4172 cc
Horsepower                                   300 @ 6000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               295 @ 3300 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                      113"/74"/198.2"
Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3902 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  23.7 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      225/60R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.29


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            17/25/22
0-60 MPH                                          7 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       15 seconds @ 93.5 mph
Top speed                                           130 mph
     * Multi-point fuel injection

(According to Matt Hagin, the new A8 4.2 Quattro is Audi's bid for entry into the luxury car Big Leagues. Bob Hagin says that if innovation is the criteria, the A8 is already there.)

MATT - The Audi A8 is a challenger for the hearts, souls and checkbooks of luxury car buyers who occasionally give in to that "sporting" urge, Dad. It's 4.2 liter V8 engine puts out 300 horses and the five-speed Tiptronic transmission can be driven like an automatic transmission, or shifted like a stick shift without a clutch. It also uses the Quattro all-wheel-drive system that Audi has been refining since '83. With all this performance gadgetry, the A8 4.2 can be driven to the edge in almost any kind of weather without the driver having to worry too much until the snow gets hubcap deep.

BOB - It's pretty innovative elsewhere too, Matt, and in this case the sheet metal is aluminum. In fact, except for some screws, nuts, bolts and assorted hinges and hardware, the whole thing is made of alloy. The entire engine is aluminum, except for the crankshaft, cams and other high-stress parts, as are the driveline parts and wheels. The body unit is actually a space frame built from assorted pressed, extruded and cast aluminum pieces. In fact, the frame/body unit is so unusual that it's put together in a facility separate from where Audi assembles its other models. The design of the new A8 is so unique that if one of them gets hit in the U.S., it has to be taken to one of several A8 repair facilities that Audi set up around the country. Audi facilitates the transportation for the damaged car and provides another Audi as a "loaner" while the repair job is being done.

MATT - There's lots of "trick stuff" on the luxury side, too. Both the front seats are 14-way adjustable and all the seats - front and rear - are heated. The sound system is a 200-watt Bose unit with 10 speakers and even the rear head rests are power-operated. There's a warm-weather package that features an automatic rear window screen, and manually- operated rear side window shades when things get too hot. The steering wheel is heated and so are the outside mirrors. The headlights have washer systems and the washer fluid is heated. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes and swings up when the car is shut down to make getting in and out easier. But there's an alternative, less-expensive A8 available, too. The engine is still a V8, but it's only 3.7 liters and puts out 230 horsepower. It's front-wheel-drive only, so it lacks the hot Quattro feature. But like all Audis, both A8s use that fancy four-link front suspension that eliminates the torque steer that sometimes makes driving high-powered, front-drive cars tricky. Audi is really making a splash in the market with four, six and eight cylinder models, with and without turbochargers and it's even brought out a station wagon version of its A6 and made it as a Quattro all-wheel-drive car.

BOB - Audi has been around a long time and the first car to bear the name was built in 1909 by August Horsh in Germany. He couldn't use the Horsh name since he'd sold it and his engineering rights to Daimler-Benz, so he call it the Audi. The four rings on the front of all modern Audis represents the four brands that made up the pre-war Auto Union. They were Horsh, Wanderer, DKW and Adler, none of which are made now.

MATT - This new A8 brought to mind that old '78 5000 that we used to own. It was innovative too in that it packed a longitudinal five-cylinder engine under the hood and was front-wheel drive. What brought it to mind was the fact that the battery in the A8 is located under the rear seat. It was always a pain when we boys had to borrow your 5000 to jump-start our old junkers.

BOB - I remember those occasions, too, especially since there were always dirty fingerprints you guys always had dirty hands when you pulled up the seat and you never got it back in place quite right. Hopefully the owner of this new Audi won't have a houseful of sons who are always messing around with unreliable cars.