‘Doctor on the Road’
Independent Practitioner Today motoring correspondent Dr Tony Rimmer finds Audi’s largest saloon akin to a hotel on wheels
It was the invitation to my medical school re-union that did it. A graduate of Liverpool, but living near London, meant I had a weekend of travelling.
Taking the train may have been an option, but I was going to pick up an old friend along the way and he lives in the picturesque town of Stamford. So it made sense to go by car.
The mostly motorway trip needed a vehicle that was going to transport us in comfort and could deal with everything our crowded road system would throw at us.
Having recently tested a couple of excellent 4×4 sports utility vehicles (SUVs) that work well for luxury travel, I got to wondering what a normal four-door saloon would be like, given that I would not be needing highly technical and sophisticated engineering to go off-road.
Like many things in our medical practice, keeping things simple and well suited to the job in hand is not only efficient but satisfying too.
An S-Class Mercedes would do the job and they have only just released the latest version, but it is somehow too obvious.
The S-Class is the default chauffeur-driven limousine in London and I preferred something that would appeal more to a private medical practitioner driver/owner. Something a little more subtle. This is where the Audi A8 comes in.
Although the largest current Audi saloon, it is instantly recognisable of the marque looking like a bigger version of the A4 and A6 models.
The conservative looks suit it well and the A8 does not attract unwanted attention; a bonus in this modern world. Stepping inside is like settling into the executive lounge of a luxury hotel. The materials used for the seats, dashboard and door trims are all top-notch and the build quality is impeccable.
Passenger space is suitably generous. As one would expect with a car like this, rear passengers are spoilt.
There is plenty of leg room and you could quite easily sit back and get on with some work if someone was driving for you. However, that doesn’t mean that the driver suffers; far from it.
The steering wheel, driver’s seat and pedals are perfectly placed for comfort and efficiency. The boot is huge and can easily accept three large suitcases with room to spare.
The available engines for the A8 stretches all the way from a 3.0litre turbo-diesel with 258bhp up to the stonking 520bhp 4.0litre V8 in the S8. All come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and Quattro four-wheel drive as standard.
There is a 2.0litre petrol hybrid version available, but this is front-wheel drive only. My test car was the appropriate base 3.0litre diesel model and I was interested by the claimed fuel consumption of 47.9mpg overall. Could it equal this on my trip to Liverpool?
Well, the first thing that struck me about the car was the smoothness of the ride. Audis used to be renowned as having firm suspension, but this couldn’t be further from the truth with this A8.
Impressively, this is achieved with excellent chassis control. Make no mistake, this is no sports car, but it flows along with great control and steers accurately.
The next thing that struck me was the subdued road noise and near absence of wind noise. Why can’t they do this in all cars?
It reduces the tiredness after long journeys significantly and my ophthalmic surgeon friend and I arrived at our North-west destination in a relaxed and rested state despite the traffic.
Certainly, one of the extras that helped was the active cruise control that uses radar to keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead and then speeds up automatically when the lane is clear.
Also helpful and very impressive were the optional Matrix LED headlights. Using sensors and an inbuilt camera, they detect what lighting is required and adapt accordingly.
They also use the A8’s satnav to provide best lighting as you negotiate corners, urban and country roads. Clever stuff and great use of new technology.
The six-cylinder 3.0litre turbo diesel engine remained a subdued companion and the balance of torque and power suits the car perfectly.
So did the fuel economy come anywhere close to Audi’s claims? Well, the A8 averaged 43.7mpg, which is really very good for such a big, powerful car.
Even more extraordinary was that, because the fuel-tank is so generous, I covered over 730 miles without filling up.
As a new purchase for a successful independent practitioner, the Audi A8 is well worth a look, but it may be worth searching out a year-old car or an ex-demonstrator.
You would then get round the A8’s only disadvantage: higher-than-average depreciation.
So my friend and I arrived in Liverpool, had a really enjoyable weekend catching up with all our medic friends and colleagues and then cruised back down South.
The journeys had flown by and it is a measure of the A8 that I would have been happy to do the journey again the following weekend. That says it all.
Dr Tony Rimmer (right) is a GP practising in Guildford, Surrey