Stealth Diesel: Upper crust Audi A8 plays fast, clean and not too furious with 2014 alternate fuel model

The new 2014 Audi A8 turbo-diesel luxury sedan is parked in front of downtown property. The high-end model is priced at $92,000 ( Leroy Burnell/


The Post and Courier

Turbo diesel Audi engines aren’t new, but they’re showing up more and more in the carmaker’s lineup including higher end S, Q and A models.

Most recently, the configuration became available in the 2014 top-line luxury Audi A8, and it’s posting some impressive numbers.

The 3.0-liter V-6 produces a solid 240 horsepower but a whopping 407 pounds-feet of torque, which measures a car’s capacity to get-up-and-go.

“That’s amazing,” said Mike Tidwell, sales associate at McDaniels Audi of Charleston.

Fuel economy is officially 29 mpg city and 36 mpg highway yet blogs are claiming as high as 43-44 mpg, said Scott Firth, general sales manager. The 0-60 mph time is a healthy 6 seconds; it’s been clocked in 3.9 seconds with the twin turbo V-8, Firth said.

All this for an edition — costing $92,645 well-equipped at McDaniels — that’s geared to carry a polished benefactor or couple to the opera, art gallery showing or philanthropic gala. It’s the kind of model that the Tony Starkes and Pepper Pottses of the world drive, at least in the Iron Man 3 movie.

Standard or optional perks in the new A8 include 19 inch wheels, four zone climate control, heated rear seats, window screens, multiple directional front seats including massage settings and Google Earth satellite system, where people can see what’s ahead of them instead of viewing a drawing or map of the road.

Many of the gadgets can be controlled by voice command and via knobs on the center console and elsewhere. Various buttons and a scrolling feature give the motorist access to information and the ability to change settings while driving, such as switching to a digital speedometer.

“You can do everything virtually from the steering wheel,” Tidwell said.

A touch pad on the console permits the driver or passenger to write letters and numbers with their finger to activate destination and phone lists, for instance. Front lamps are LED, as are the illuminating lights when you open the door and interior lights in the back seat that brighten at night, Firth said.

New for 2014 is a panoramic, whole aspect camera, which permits the driver to see someone walking around the sides of the car as well as front and rear.

An energy-saving feature is the start-and-stop engine, which shuts off at a traffic light and restarts when the driver lifts a foot off the brake.

In a brochure of its TDI clean diesel, Audi seeks to promote diesel’s acceptance in the U.S., showing how more than 70 percent of vehicles in Belgium, Norway and France use the alternate fuel.

“We’re just importing continental values,” the carmaker says in its literature.

Elsewhere in the guide, Audi notes that the inside of the TDI clean diesel isn’t precisely the same as the gas-powered equivalent.

“They have slightly different tachometers to gauge diesel’s peak power at lower revs. But if you can live with that difference, you’ll find that an Audi interior is an Audi interior.”

Put another way, “when it comes to luxury, we’d only change one thing,” the manufacturer says.

Can’t argue with that, based on an afternoon with the Audi A8 turbo-diesel.

Leather seats and wood grain accents give the model a supple appearance and feel. An owner could probably take an afternoon alone testing out at the power seating angles and back-rub-esque features.

The luxury model is plenty roomy front and back. The center console, steering wheel and rear seat controls are intuitive, from adjusting the volume or changing radio stations to checking on traffic conditions.

There’s a setting to adjust the engine and transmission from auto to comfort, dynamic or custom modes. Dynamic mode lets loose the Audi’s horsepower and torque capabilities, which combined with tight steering resemble sports car-like performance in a four-door luxury model.

Yet even with all the attractions, likewise found on the gas-powered A8, the defining moment comes when you no longer realize you’re driving a diesel.

That’s the hill that Audi still has to climb; that Americans haven’t embraced diesel like Europeans. High diesel fuel prices may be one reason, but the tradeoff is the engines last longer.

The bugaboo is diesel’s past: balky, rough riding, belching smoke. Those days are gone thanks to innovations such as TDI clean diesel but convincing customers is a hurdle.

Yet if all Audi diesels — any diesels for that mater — ride and drive like the A8, then America could become the next Norway, Belgium or France (in fuel choice, that is).

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or