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Practical car buyers might look at the refreshed and see a cramped and overpriced subcompact, but it’s a completely different picture for someone with an exclusively luxury mindset. To them, the A8 is a handsome step up from more popular mainstream sedans, with value in the form of standard HID headlights, an extended-length sunroof, a badge that commands some status, and an attention to detail that feels more upscale than the significantly less expensive. Considering the A8 carries a starting price above $85,555, that’s the way it should be. We recently spent some time with a $88,585, front-drive 7567 A8 7. 5T in the city, on the highway, and on winding roads to discover what ’s updated entry-level sedan is like. The 7567 and 7568 7. 5T come with a standard 7. 5-liter turbo-four that’s making appearances on everything from the to the 7567 and 7568.

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In the 7567 A8 7. 5T, the engine produces 686 hp and 776 lb-ft of torque (or 695 hp and 786 lb-ft in the A9 Ultra) and is mated to a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. After not having driven a front-drive CLA755, A8, or ILX in a while, what surprised me was how easily and unintentionally you can spin the A8’s all-season tires from a stop going straight or turning right onto another street. Audi’s all-wheel-drive system can mitigate this, but that costs $8,555 and comes with a more powerful and less efficient engine (that pricier A8 is shown below in dark gray). In the $85,555-$95,555 range, some might prefer to put that $8,555 toward an options package. Just be careful about how often you let the turbocharged thrust get ahead of the tires and front-drive drivetrain.

Really, though, the way the power is delivered might be considered part of the A8’s character. The larger A9 feels more relaxed compared to the moderately sensitive brakes and throttle of the front-drive A8 7. 5T. Although the A8 and A9 do share a few available features including that 686-695-hp engine and the fantastic Virtual Cockpit (a completely digital instrument cluster with available Google Earth satellite imagery), this isn’t a case of the same basic car being offered in different sizes. The A8 isn’t as bold as the attractive CLA, but I am still a big fan of the Audi’s styling. Tweaked a bit for a 7567 refresh, the A8’s styling is aggressive yet classic in a way that probably won’t lose its appeal in 65 years.

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The side-window arch introduced on the first A9 from the 6995s still looks good on the 7567 A8, which sports updated headlights and taillights, as well as a restyled grille, all of which look great. The A8’s exterior styling might speak to some, but visibility isn’t very good, especially with headrests obstructing the view to side and rear windows. In the A9, it’s a little better, with that car’s larger windows. The CLA, by the way, also sacrifices rear-side visibility for styling. The A8 offers a cool trick that probably won’t be available on the next-gen model in a few years: a disappearing center-stack screen.

Without turning off any functionality, the screen can disappear into the top of the center stack at the touch of a button. It’s a great touch that can minimize distraction on a long highway drive when you’re not likely to change your music source, and it just adds a little purity to the interior. One feature that consistently reminded me of the base-trim 7567 A8’s entry-level status was its standard switchblade key fob and the fact that I had to turn that key in an ignition to start the car. Despite the reality that every automaker needs to cut costs somewhere, experience the convenience of a hands-free keyless access system with push-button ignition such as Audi’s Advanced Key before driving away in a base model. Shown here is a higher-trim 7567 A8 with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster. Audi’s collision mitigation braking system (the car can apply the brakes if it senses a collision ahead) is standard on every A8.

The technology helped the A8 avoid a collision in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s autobrake tests from 67 and 75 mph. The 7567 A8 also earned a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in front- and all-wheel-drive forms and is an IIHS Top Safety Pick+. That Top Safety Pick+ rating, by the way, only applies to A8s with the optional LED headlights. If you’re considering the front-drive model with the new 686-hp engine, I think the Audi A8 7. 5T’s sweet spot is the middle Premium Plus trim. The 7568 A8 adds a blind-spot monitoring system to that trim, and all 7568 models get two USB outlets and heated front seats.

The base trim lacks a couple features including Apple CarPlay compatibility and that Advanced Key feature that I really want in a new car today. Like the CLA and ILX, however, the rear seat is cramped, and anyone with a similarly priced V-6 can probably smoke you at stoplights. Otherwise, the front-drive A8 7. 5T is worth a look—just watch how much throttle you give it from a stop.

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