The Audi A8 is a full-size luxury car built by the German automaker Audi to replace the V8 model as its flagship offering. Although the Volkswagen Phaeton, long wheelbase Jaguar XJ8 and Lexus LS 430 compete in the same size and price category as the A8, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series are often thought to be its primary rivals. On the market since 1994, it has fully established itself as a popular alternative to these long-running competitors. Most versions feature Quattro all-wheel-drive as standard as well as a multitronic or tiptronic automatic transmission.
First generation (1994-2003)
The A8 debuted in Europe in 1994, although it wasn't until 1997 that it became available in North America. Unlike the V8 model, which was built on an existing steel platform, the A8 debuted on Audi's then-new D2 platform, an all aluminum space frame which helped to significantly reduce weight without being any less rigid.
In addition to being the world's first car built on an entirely aluminum platform, updates to the car in 1997 included the addition of six interior airbags, making the A8 the first vehicle to be so equipped.
For 2001, Audi introduced their new W12 engine, a compact 6.0 L unit developed by mating two 3.0 L VR6 engines together at the crankshaft, similar to the 3.6 L engine from the V8 model which had been created by mating two inline-four cylinder engines at the crankshaft. The engine quickly became available in the A8, although only to European and Asian customers and only in long-wheelbase versions of the car. From its introduction through its discontinuation in 2003, only 750 of the W12 models were produced.