With each successive generation, Audi’s large sedan has come leaps and bounds forward in innovation and appeal. The C3 chassis brought Audi to a larger market with its modern aerodynamics and the introduction of all-wheel drive. That was capped with the evolutionary D11 model – the V8 quattro. Based on a Type 44 chassis, the V8 brought the dreaded automatic transmission to its large executive sedan – but while enthusiasts will decry that change, the reality is that for the people who bought the car original that proved to be a popular option and opened the all-wheel drive market to an entirely new clientele. Audi didn’t rest on its laurels, though, for even as the V8 quattro was still in production its replacement hinted at an entirely new design language for the company in the ASF concept. Not only were the looks decidedly more rounded and futuristic, but the aluminum space frame was in many ways ahead of its time. The result was a great looking, innovative all-wheel drive option for executives in the D2 chassis, which proved to be wildly popular, and it’s still a great looking sedan today, some 23 years after the original concept was penned. Although the height of D2 production was around 2000, by then the design was already showing its age and Audi was once again back at the drawing board. The result was that in 2002 the D3 chassis was launched to replace the D2 chassis.
Much of what had been pioneered in the D2 was carried over into the D3. The design was evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Under the skin, an updated choice of V8 and W12 motors (along with some TDis for European customers) mimicked the D2. But a new adaptive air suspension brought the A8 in line with premium products from its competition. Inside, Audi also reacted to the market with a new and advanced multi-media interface and thoroughly revised cockpit design that would once again lead the company in a new design direction. While the layout was more isolating for the driver, it’s hard to argue that the fit and finish of Audi’s interior was taken a few notches up with the D3 versus earlier models. As with the D2, the D3 was a very popular option – especially visually, where it continued the trend of Audi offering the best looking of the big three sedans. But, as with every chassis, the D3 became dated as the calendar got closer to 2010, and Audi introduced the current D4 with again a host of upgrades in 2009. As with every successive chassis shift, the outgoing model devalues and if you love the big German sedans, that leaves buyers with literally and figuratively a lot of car for their money: