Audi A8 D3, the wide-necked-narrow-forehead car with aspirations. The official mobster charriot at the time when the SUV was not fashionable because we have to wait a few more years until then. At the moment we only have one contraption that can carry around only 5 thugs. Fast, and in a lot of luxury.
The first Audi A8 was rather a curiosity and didn’t necessarily catch the attention and money of the people, so the Germans from Wolfsburg put in another effort and entered the big and luxury sedan market with their Audi A8 D3, but this time knee deep. And unfortunately with about the same issues as the previous generation.
If you sit and watch while scrubbing your ass with your finger, you will see that the Audi A8 D3 is the cheapest of the triad of S Class W221 and BMW 7 Series E65 and that says something about the reliability and quality of the A8. But at least it still has an aluminum chassis, which doesn’t rust, and Audi still pushed the madness forward and pulled out engines that were really on the war with the 7 Series as far as raw power goes, while the S Class remained quiet in the comfort zone. Yes, and the Audi A8 D3 had a 6.0 W12 and its compact construction could cram an AWD system and so for a long time the Audi A8 D3 was the only premium sedan in its class that offered a 6.0 petrol and all-wheel drive, the rest being obliged to deal only with rear-wheel drive.
I would write more but I have to leave room for the general issues. So I take a deep breath and here we go.
Audi A8 D3 Engines
- 2.8 FSI V6 of 210 horsepower – Introduced in 2008 just 5 minutes before retirement, this 2.8 FSI is more likely to be found on the Audi A6. Lacking turbos and issues in general, this is the most reliable petrol engine on the Audi A8 D3. The only real downside is that it doesn’t get along very well with an LPG installation, but when you can afford the A8, you shouldn’t be interested in LPG. In theory atleast.
- 3.0 V6 of 220 horsepower – At the opposite end of the 2.8 FSI, this antique was among the first engines to be mounted on the A8 D3 but also smaller things like the Audi A4 B6. Aside from the appetite for spark plugs, you shouldn’t get too excited or worried about this mastodon.
- 3.2 FSI of 256 horsepower – Tenderly known for the towing work this engine does under the hood of the Touareg and occasionally the Cayenne, this engine is as old as it is rugged. Sure, O2 sensors sometimes fall, but that’s about it.
- 3.7 V8 of 280 horsepower – This is not the 3.7 V8 of the previous generation, namely that here is the transition from timing belt to timing chain. Bad decision Audi, bad decision.
- 4.2 V8 of 334 and 350 horsepower – The 334 horsepower is with classic injection and the 350 horsepower is with stratified injection, the famous FSI. Possibly one of the worst engines in terms of reliability in the VW / Audi asylum.
- 5.2 V10 of 450 horsepower – As I said, the Audi A8 D3 is the manifesto of the repressed madness of Audi. One day the engineers thought that a 4.2 V8 was not enough for the Audi S8 so they took the engine from the Lamborghini Gallardo and bolted it to the Audi A8. Surprisingly, the engine is very reliable and has no specific problems BUT having so much power it will go through tires and brakes just as Jeremy Clarkson’s fists went through Piers Morgan’s and Oisin Tymon’s faces in the 2000s. And being a sports model, tires and brakes are very, very expensive.
- 6.0 W12 of 450 horsepower – Is the Gallardo engine too small and weak for you? Then you can opt for a Bentley engine, the famous 6.0 W12 that was mounted on the VW Phaeton, Audi Q7, Bentley Continental and a Golf V. As issues you have an appetite for spark plugs but also the fact that in this level of trim you have ceramic brakes. The idea is that they should be for life, but once they have cracked and need to be changed, you should expect a 5-digit quote. In Euros. Or 9-digit quote. In Rubles.
- 3.0 TDI of 233 and 250 horsepower – Probably the most common and usual Audi A8 D3 engine you see on the streets, the Audi A8 3.0 TDI. A relatively reliable engine, which has occasional issues with injectors and that’s about it.
- 4.0 V8 TDI of 275 horsepower – The idea is that this engine is only here, only on the Audi A8 D3. This means that it is very rare to find, and parts will be rare, expensive, difficult to come by or all 3 together. Good thing it was retired by the 4.2 TDI.
- 4.2 TDI 326 horsepower – Very good engine and reliable until it breaks down, after which you can throw the car in the bin or for breaking, or in a scrapyard that buys ferrous and non-ferrous materials at 200 euros / ton.
Audi A8 D3 General Issues
- The aluminum construction of the body returns to the spotlight, which is a good thing because it doesn’t rust. The big downside, though, is that if something has been bent and needs to be repaired, you’re in for some fun.
- Being an Audi A8, now it comes standard with air suspension and any vehicle with air suspension will inevitably have issues, even if we’re talking about the compressors or airbags themselves.
- Let’s move on to one of the two big issues that can render the Audi A8 D3 a disposable car but also so cheap on the used market – the CVT Multi-Tronic automatic transmission, affectionately called “multitrauma”. Like the previous generation, the automatic gearboxes are essentially disposable and require replacement every 100-150,000 km.
- Then comes the second big reason why the Audi A8 D3 is so cheap. V8 engines made the transition from timing belts to timing chains, but they also moved the timing behind the engine. And these engines have the famous issues with the chain tensioners, the general plague throughout the VW group from this period. And that means that in addition to the parts, you will cry when you see the cost of labor because the engines have to be taken out. Kind of like the 3 Series E90, only a few times more expensive.
- All V8 engines have problems with the mass air flow meter, engine liners and suffer from oily incontinence and issues with the petrol pumps on the left bank.
- The Audi A8 D3 comes with enough electronics to operate the USS Enterprise so you will always have a function or a sensor that will break down. Bonus points also for the MMI infotainment system, which is the abbreviation for “More Mechanical Indigestions”.
- The facelift versions come standard with LED headlights, which is very nice. Until they break down.
Audi A8 D3 Verdict
Audi A8 D3 is the car equivalent of the quintessential expression – cheap to buy, very expensive to maintain. That’s why you don’t even see them on the streets anymore. Very good to buy cheap, to have some fun with it and when it breaks you either patch them up and resell them or take it straight to ferrous and non-ferrous scrapyards for 200 euros / ton. But at least with this car, Audi has set foot on the door and forced its way into the world of high-end premium sedans, being a genuine rival for the S Class and the 7 Series. And somewhere in the corner there is the Lexus LS stalking, but that’s another story.
Which engines do I recommend? If you want civilized costs and you want petrol power, clearly the 2.8 V6 FSI 210 horsepower is the one, but if you don’t care about the money, clearly 5.2 V10 S8 of 450 horsepower is the one. And in terms of diesel, clearly the 3.0 TDI 233 horsepower unit aka the VW village bicycle.