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Audi A8 4.2 (D2) | Shed of the Week

Worried all the V8 uberbarges had disappeared from Shed territory? Fret no longer...

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, February 21, 2020

After so many long years of marriage to Mrs Shed, one thing Shed has learnt to do is hold his own. In order to take his mind off, well, things, he's taken to other pursuits, sometimes in cahoots with the village postmistress who also regularly finds herself at a loss since the mysterious death of her own husband. Their latest joint enterprise is furniture restoration. After appraising the postmistress's large chest, Shed scrapes the varnish and wax off next to her.

Shed has tried to interest Mrs Shed in the motoring version of this, which (he has been told) is called detailing. Unfortunately, she's never really got the point of spending hours polishing cars, especially when it comes to cheap modern motors. Today's SOTW, however, is a different matter. He reckons that even his Philistine of a wife will appreciate the deep lustre of the paint lovingly applied to the smooth aluminium flanks of an Audi A8.

It's hard to believe that 26 years have passed since A8s first arrived on the scene. In bringing the performance principles of light weight to traditionally heavy luxury cars they were truly pioneering. It's especially impressive when you realise that the Audi Space Frame A8 idea was cooked up forty or more years ago. The agreement between Ferdinand Piech and his chosen aluminium suppliers was signed in 1982, and Audi must have had the concept on the slate well before then.

The A8 was a trailblazer in more ways than its choice of construction material. In 4WD guise it was the first production car to offer an electronic stability programme. With the A6 it shared the honour of debuting side airbags front and rear. In the wider world of 2020, side bags still aren't mandatory.

Here's something about weight. The last time we had an A8 in this column, which was in 2016, the lightest new A8 you could buy was the 1,880kg 3.0 TDI quattro. Today, the lightest new A8 weighs 1,995kg. Our 2001 Shed of the Week weighs 1,750kg, with safety standards that would shame many a modern. That's progress for you.

The owner of this first-gen D2 4.2 quattro has owned it since the summer of 2018. He has now lucked into a Kia Stinger company motor, which means you've got the chance of lucking into a nicely sorted A8. Everyone's a winner - aren't they?

Well, of course that will depend on the state it's in. Any luxury motor can be a money pit, and the A8 is no exception. This one failed its MOT last May with a bundle of front suspension wear issues, all of them quite normal for an A8, with an advisory for a non-excessive oil leak. The beauty of this particular money pit though is that just about all the digging was done by the owner before his Stinger came along. All bar one of the various MOT suspension and braking issues have been addressed in the last few months. That's a huge weight off. Your only job is to get one aluminium arm, which Shed presumes is an equalising rather than an urgent requirement, and then you can look at restarting the service history.

The seller admits that he hasn't done any oily-bits work since he picked the car up 30,000 miles ago, so it would definitely be worth your while changing all the fluids at the very least. The transmission oil in particular needs to be carefully vetted. Even though Audi said the A8's ATF was lifetime stuff, wise old birds who have actually owned these cars recommend changing it every 25,000 miles at least. Squealing from the car could be cavitation from the oil pump, which is your personal preview of an impending - and very expensive - failure.

Predictably for a car of this electronic complexity - which, when combined with the degrading effects of age, is an accelerating downside of A8 ownership - there are a couple of warning lights. One of these (for the airbag) will be an MOT fail this May if it's not sorted. Based on its intermittency, Shed is betting on a loose plug under the seat.

If the engine is running okay, and we've no reason to assume it isn't, the check engine light could be one or more of many things. A VCDS diagnostic should throw up some codes and point you in the right direction, but for starters it could be a faulty oxygen sensor or maybe a problem with the EVAP system that was designed to reduce emissions by preventing unburnt fuel from getting out into the atmos. Just leaving an A8 petrol cap off for too long can trigger EVAP failure. Sometimes a purge valve will stick in a slightly open position.

A facelifted gen-one D2 like this one is a good bet in many ways. It has the 40-valve 4.2 V8, which was less leaky than the earlier 32-valve motors, and it has steel springing. It doesn't have the 2002-on D3's air suspension, Audi's MMI version of iDrive or the multiplex data networks required to work it. You might have a view on whether these things are good or not. You can probably guess which model Shed prefers. For a view on the A8's general allure, just read the ad.


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