The Audi A8 is Audi's luxury car flagship designed to appeal to wealthy consumers who are into space and luxury. It's a four-door, full-size, luxury sedan made to compete with other premium German and Japanese brands. Although its competitors sell in greater numbers, the Audi A8 Quattro was able to stand out because of its distinct features.
First generation (1994-2002)
The first Audi A8 came out in Europe in 1994. It was developed by combining two Volkswagen Golf GTI engines and was built on the existing Volkswagen Group D2 steel platform. The platform was an all-aluminium monocoque lighter than a traditional steel frame. It was marketed as the "Audi Space Frame" (ASF) because it helps offset the bulk, reduce weight, and preserve the structure's rigidity.
In 1997, the A8 became available in North America. That same year, six interior airbags were added which made it the first car in the world to ever offer six interior airbags. In 1999, new colors and reconstructing options were added to Audi's flagship. For the North American "warm weather package", a solar sunroof that allows the interior ventilation fans to run was added to keep the interior cool while the car is parked and the engine is off.
In 2001, the Audi A8 was introduced to its new W12 engine, a compact 6.0-litre unit developed by effectively mating two VR6 engines together at the crankshaft. By 2002, all A8 variants were updated with a trunk/boot interior release lever that will facilitate escape in cases of emergency. September of the same year, factory production for this generation has officially ended.
Second generation (2002-2009)
While the Audi A8 used Audi's D2 platform for its first generation, the second-generation A8 came out in 2004 using Audi's D3 platform. It was introduced in November 2002 in Europe followed by the US launch in 2003. The second generation model came in two body variants and was longer than the previous generation.
New internal combustion engines were added for the 2005 Audi A8 and the top-of-the-line W12 engine also debuted that year. With the W12 engine's compact packaging, Audi was able to build a 12-cylinder sedan with an all-wheel drive. Aside from the added powertrains and a wider trapezoidal single-frame grille, Audi also made all variants look taller. This generation of A8 also introduced the 235 kW (315 hp) 4.2-litre Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) V8 engine.
In 2007, the A8 went through another upgrade which included a new electronic safety system that detects other vehicles in the A8's blind spots. It also featured the "Audi Side Assist" which helps the driver when changing lanes.
Third generation (2009-present)
Based on the Volkswagen Group MLB platform, the third-generation Audi A8 came out in Miami on November 2009. It has retained the previous A8's Audi Space Frame aluminium construction giving it best-in-class fuel economy and making it the lightest all-wheel-drive car in the full-size luxury market.
In 2010, Audi paired all engines to the new eight-speed ZF 8HP automatic transmission. However, the Audi A8 in North America retained a higher-output 4.2L V8 as the base engine for 2011 and 2012.