Considering the target market it comes as no surprise that the A8 comes with a pretty good communications package. Obviously you get Bluetooth support to connect your phone up, while there's also an option to have a SIM card resident in the car. The latter brings some extra functionality like text messaging, but the test car wasn't suitably equipped explore these features. That said, most people will be looking to simply hook up the phone in their pocket when they step into the car.
Pairing your phone with the A8 is as simple as it should be, and even the most hardcore technophobe should be able to get connected without needing to look at the handbook. Once paired, you'll have access to your entire phone book via the MMI. You can scroll through your phone book, recent call lists or missed call lists, while pressing the button at the centre of the MMI dial will call the highlighted contact/number.
I spent quite some time trying to figure out how to record voice tags for my contacts so that I could dial them without having to scroll through my phone book. When I was finally ready to give up I just hit to voice command button and said "Dial Hugo Jobling" and sure enough it called Hugo - impressive.
So, the system is smart enough to be able to reconcile your voice dial commands with the contacts list in your phone. It's worth noting that the system isn't perfect though, because you'll have to learn how the MMI thinks that each name should be pronounced, which isn't always the way it should be pronounced. For example, I tried in vain to dial my wife's number, but to no avail. I then decided to wrongly pronounce her name and the system had her phone ringing in seconds.
If you need to dial a number from memory, the voice recognition will do an even better job. I was able to rattle off several 11 digit numbers without so much as pausing for breath, and the A8 managed to recognise every one of them correctly.
With such an excellent performance when it came to voice recognition, I was therefore somewhat surprised that the quality of telephone audio from within the car was not similarly impressive. Having made and received several calls from different locations, everyone commented that I sounded as if I was some distance from the microphone, even when the car was stationary.
Once your phone is connected you get a visual indication of signal strength both in the main 7in screen, and the in-dash display. Unfortunately though, there's no indication of battery life.