Rare Rides has featured the predecessor of today’s sedan previously, in a very pearly 1990 V8 Quattro. After Audi spent a few years unsuccessfully trying to sell its first-ever attempt at a flagship full-size sedan, it took the lessons learned from the D1 and developed the D2 A8 and S8.
Today we’ll focus primarily on the A8 foundations that made the S8 possible. Work on the D2 platform began in 1982 when Ferdinand Piech signed a development contract with Aluminum Company of America (you’d probably call it Alcoa). The goal of the agreement was the use of aluminum technology to design a sedan that was lighter than other cars of a similar size class.
The weight saving via lighter metals would make up for the heavy Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which was a given in any flagship Audi. Not eager to repeat the same platform sharing mistake as with the V8 Quattro, the D2 was not an evolution of the steel D1, but rather an entirely new aluminum monocoque platform. Audi dubbed it the ASF, or Audi Space Frame. The Space Frame’s logo was proudly displayed on the lower b-pillars of every A8.
The new A8 was presented at the 1994 Geneva Auto Show and went into production later that year. At the start Audi’s new offering wasn’t quite ready for North American duty: A8 did not arrive in the US until the 1997 model year, and when it did it was more limited in scope than other markets. North American bound A8s were all equipped with Quattro all-wheel drive and (for obvious reasons) a five-speed automatic transmission. While markets outside of North America were offered V6 engines of gasoline and diesel persuasion, all North American A8s were equipped with Audi’s 4.2-liter V8. All North American examples were standard-wheelbase through 1999, but the long-wheelbase arrived for 2000. The L offered five additional inches of rear legroom and meant the lineup was more competitive with offerings from BMW and Mercedes-Benz that came with length. An ultimate version with a 6.0-liter W12 engine was offered from 2001 and was very expensive.
We’ve got the foundations covered, so in Part II we’ll talk about Audi’s transformation of the A8 into a high-performance sports sedan. And I’ll show you the S8 for sale that’s hardly been used.