In the late 1980s, as the automotive landscape was evolving towards generally more refined and comfortable vehicles, Audi made its first bold steps into the luxury segment with the introduction of the Audi V8. Launched in 1988, this four-door masterpiece not only marked the brand’s foray into the world of high-end automobiles but the new tech within also left an indelible mark on automotive history.
Welcome to Timeless European Treasures, our weekly look back at cars from the European market that defined a motoring generation.
Why Do We Love It?
We cherish the Audi V8 because of its pioneering spirit. It wasn't just a flagship model for the Ingolstadt-based company but also a trailblazer that combined a V8 engine with Audi's renowned Quattro all-wheel-drive system and an automatic transmission – the first time Audi offered such a combination. This amalgamation set the stage for the evolution of high-performance luxury sedans from Audi, which later launched the A8 as its replacement and as a rival for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series.
The V8 was by far the most luxurious car Audi had ever made at the time. Standard equipment included leather seats, automatic climate control, cruise control, power windows all around, an eight-speaker audio system by Bose, power front seats, and others. While most (if not all) of those features can be found in much more affordable and mainstream cars these days, they were mostly new to the marque at the time.
When Was The Car Launched?
The Audi V8 made its grand entrance in October 1988. It was launched as the company's flagship model and, as mentioned above, predeceased the A8, which is still available today.
What Engines Did It Have?
Early iterations of the Audi V8 were powered by a robust 3.6-liter V8 engine. However, as the model evolved, later versions had a larger 4.2-liter V8 engine with 276 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The combination of a V8 engine with the Quattro all-wheel-drive system delivered a potent and exhilarating driving experience, solidifying the Audi V8's place among Germany’s finest luxury sedans. Depending on the engine and model year, five- and six-speed manual transmissions were sold, as well as an optional four-speed automatic.
Did It Sell Well?
The Audi V8 was available between 1989 and 1993, but the automaker only managed to sell about 4,000 units. That said, the luxury sedan market wasn’t as large as it is now and the V8 was Audi’s first attempt at creating a truly premium vehicle.
Fun Facts About the Audi V8
One interesting aspect of the Audi V8 lies in its galvanized steel body, featuring a 10-year anti-perforation warranty against corrosion. This commitment to durability and quality showcased Audi's dedication to delivering not only a high-performance vehicle but also one built to last.
The Audi V8 was an enlarged and redesigned version of the Audi 100 and 200, which in turn were based on Volkswagen's C3 platform (also known as the D1 or D11). The luxury limo had a longer wheelbase and a wider track and used a different hood, bumpers, headlights, taillights, and fenders compared to the smaller 100/200. The alloy wheels ranged from 15 to 17 inches.
Audi also built a one-off station wagon version of the large sedan. It was commissioned by former Audi CEO Ferdinand Piech for his wife and was later displayed at the Audi Forum in Ingolstadt.