Chauffeur-ready A8L is a driver's car, too.
The Audi A8 is the quattro-driven, V8-powered flagship of one of Germany's most celebrated brands. It's priced in real-estate territory, designed for maximum high-tech comfort and speed, and has more cutting-edge gadgets than your favorite electronics store.
Most importantly, Jason Statham drives one in The Transporter, which is badass.
That was the last-generation A8, though. An impressive car in its own right -- though the latest incarnation of Audi's S-Class and BMW 7 Series fighter has been dialed up to all-new levels.
What a face
Now, retina-piercing LED headlights cap off the massive fascia, complete with a chrome-clad grille that clears the fast lane in a jiff. Elsewhere, styling is restrained and modest but altogether stately. Dual exhaust and LED taillamps cap off the rear end with a hint at the A8's performance capabilities, too. Other than the front end, the A8 instantly oozes status and prestige without being all in your face about it.
And it's all only a hint at the styling on board -- because it's inside where the A8 really nails it.
On board, endless contrasting colors, textures and materials combine with a decidedly techy and modern look that makes the cabins in some competing models look downright sleepy.
Simply, every inch of this cabin invites you to examine, touch and feel it. It's all colorful, rich and sumptuous to the eyes and fingertips, and trimmed like the business centre in a luxury hotel. And the meticulous assembly quality makes you feel like you're sitting in a car worth this sort of money.
Sharp LED lighting is employed in the instrument cluster, as well as within the optional $7,000 Alcantara suede headliner, for a more upscale look. A rear-seat entertainment console, privacy shades, cigar-ready ashtrays, and self-sealing doors that pull themselves closed further the effect. Mood-lighting can be set by color and vehicle zone, and there are two fully functional sunroofs as well.
Oh -- and since the A8 tester was the A8L, its lengthened compared to the standard A8, for more rear-seat legroom. It's fit for a rap star. Or pretending you're a rap star.
Like gizmos? There's a touch-pad for doodling your destination or phone number into the A8's computer, a drive-select interface to customize the A8's dynamics, a supercomputer in the instrument cluster, and full cellular phone connectivity. Driver assist systems monitor your blind-spots, following distance, rear-end collision risk, and front and rear clearance during parking. Cruise-control self adjusts its speed based on traffic, and there's even an alarm if you drift out of your lane.
Hell, it's practically self-aware.
End of the day, this is one of the all-time most beautiful, high-tech cabins on the road today. Its' a car you could be driven around in -- though enthusiasts will likely want to be up front in the driver's seat.
4.2 litres of V8 velvet
Displayed under the hood like a trophy is Audi's 4.2L, direct-injected V8. This is one of my all-time favorite engines, and it makes 372 horsepower for this application while achieving a redline just over 7,000 RPM.
It absolutely sings.
Not loudly or intrusively, mind you -- but with that subtly- uted, aggressive Hollywood car-chase sound. This blends with a delightful high-RPM zing as the tachometer sweeps for its upper limits.
A driver's yacht
This is a driver's car. It's not trying to isolate those on board from any and every sense of the outside world, or the workings of its engine or chassis. Driven hard, you can hear the engine, feel the crisp gear shifts, sense the steering loading up and click the paddle-shifters for fingertip control over the whole experience.
There's plenty more cornering grip than most A8L drivers will ever touch, and despite being the size of your local Canadian Tire, it's still a machine that encourages spirited driving and never feels intimidated by its weight or mass.
Brakes are powerful and fairly precise, and quattro AWD means fuss-free traction in virtually all situations. The lively driving feel is refreshing -- especially considering most luxury cars this large feel like their suspension and steering are made of melted cheese.
Notes and Gripes
Other notes from my test drive? The 8-speed automatic helps the A8L achieve surprisingly good mileage. I was delighted to burn through just 10.1L/100km of premium unleaded at speeds well above the posted limit.
Gripes included slightly higher than expected levels of wind and road noise, and an intimidating parking experience. The A8L is as long as a quad-cab pickup truck, and fitted with a radar warning system that beeps alarmingly should you get within four miles of any other object. Of course, if you own one of these, you're using the valet, anyway.
Shoppers with plenty of fundage after a gargantuan sedan with some of world's best design, technology and performance should consider this machine a priority test drive.
For the rest of us, the as-tested price of about 130 grand is a great reason to stay in school or say yes to Encore.
Auto journalist & Consumer Ratings
Editor's Review Highlights
2012 Audi A8 Specifications
Similar to 2012 Audi A8