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Both the A8 and CLS have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The A8 has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The CLS’ child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.
The A8 has a standard front seat center airbag, which deploys between the driver and front passenger, protecting them from injuries caused by striking each other in serious side impacts. The CLS doesn’t offer front seat center airbags.
The A8 has a standard Secondary Collision Brake Assist, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The CLS doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.
To provide maximum traction and stability on all roads, All-Wheel Drive is standard on the A8. But it costs extra on the CLS.
A passive infrared night vision system optional on the A8 helps the driver to more easily detect people, animals or other objects in front of the vehicle at night. Using an infrared camera to detect heat, the system then displays the image on a monitor in the dashboard and even aims one of the vehicle’s headlights in the direction of the person or object. The CLS doesn’t offer a night vision system.
To help make backing safer, the A8’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The CLS doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.
Both the A8 and the CLS have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and around view monitors.
The A8’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the CLS’ (12 vs. 5 years).
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Audi vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Audi 13th in reliability, above the industry average. With 6 more problems per 100 vehicles, Mercedes is ranked 15th.
From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Audi vehicles are more reliable than Mercedes vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Audi 10 places higher in reliability than Mercedes.
On the EPA test cycle the A8 gets better fuel mileage than the CLS 550 4MATIC (19 city/27 hwy vs. 17 city/25 hwy).
Regenerative brakes improve the A8’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The CLS doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.
To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Audi A8 uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended for maximum performance). The CLS requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.
For better stopping power the A8’s standard brake rotors are larger than those on the CLS:
For better traction, the A8’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the CLS (265/40R20 vs. 255/35R19).
For better ride, handling and brake cooling the A8 has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the CLS. The A8’s optional 20-inch wheels are larger than the 19-inch wheels optional on the CLS.
The A8 offers an available adjustable active suspension system, which counteracts cornering forces actively, limiting body roll and improving handling and stability. Mercedes doesn’t offer an active suspension on the CLS.
For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the A8’s wheelbase is 9.9 inches longer than on the CLS (123.1 inches vs. 113.2 inches).
For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the A8 is 1.3 inches wider in the front and .6 inches wider in the rear than the average track on the CLS.
The design of the Audi A8 amounts to more than styling. The A8 has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .28 Cd. That is lower than the CLS (.3) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the A8 get better fuel mileage.
The A8 has standard seating for 5 passengers; the CLS can only carry 4.
The A8 has 1.4 inches more front headroom, 2 inches more front shoulder room, 2.4 inches more rear headroom, 9.3 inches more rear legroom and 1.1 inches more rear shoulder room than the CLS.
For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the A8’s available rear seats recline. The CLS’ rear seats don’t recline.
To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the A8’s trunk can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The CLS doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its trunk, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.
The A8 has a 3500 lbs. towing capacity. The CLS has no towing capacity.
J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Audi service is better than Mercedes. J.D. Power ranks Audi third in service department satisfaction. With a 3% lower rating, Mercedes is ranked 6th.
The A8 offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The CLS doesn’t offer a heads-up display.
In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The A8 has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The CLS doesn’t offer headlight washers.
To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the A8 has standard extendable sun visors. The CLS doesn’t offer extendable visors.
Optional air conditioned front and rear seats keep the A8’s passengers comfortable and take the sting out of hot leather in summer. The CLS doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats in the rear.
The A8 offers an optional 115-volt a/c outlet on the center console, allowing you to recharge a laptop or run small household appliances without special adapters that can break or get misplaced. The CLS doesn’t offer a house-current electrical outlet.
The Audi A8/S8 outsold the Mercedes CLS by 32% during the 2018 model year.
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