The fourth-generation Audi is pretty bloody impressive as soon as you sit your derrière in it. When it comes to these full-size executive sedans most go looking for a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class. But has Audi’s new flagship pushed aside its traditional foes? Chris Bowen spent a week in the Audi A8 L 55 TFSI.
The letter ‘L’ basically means long, the car I tested was the extended wheelbase variant that’s 150mm longer than your normal run of the mill $192,000 A8. When you slide into a vehicle of this calibire it’s very hard to remain objective. Simply put, at face value, this appears more Learjet than car. The interior is remarkably well built, the materials clinically chosen and applied while there’s an air of futuristic superiority that you just can’t ignore.
It won the title of ‘World Luxury Car of the Year 2018’ at the New York Motor Show this year, so it must be mind blowing right? Well yes, but I’m going to try and stay objective here.
You’ll Need to Wait for The Future.
The headline for the new A8 is “the first production model in the world with future Level 3 autonomous driving capability.” Future, as in not now, but when the laws allow for it. In fact, there’s a fair bit not activated just yet, such as AI air suspension that can read the road surface ahead using lasers. There’s also a safety feature on the way that will jack up ride height by 80mm if it detects you’re about to be t-boned, bringing stronger sections of the frame into the line of fire.
In fact, there are up to 40 safety systems potentially at play on the A8, it’s like being surrounded by an impenetrable force field. It actually starts to sound like a warship when you delve deep into the technology. There’s a laser scanner, long range radar, front camera, four mid-range radars, 360-degree cameras and up to 12 ultrasound sensors.
But as a drive, what does all this mean? Well to be honest unless you’re faced with a calamity, not much. But I can say the experience is simply sublime. The A8 L 55 is ridiculously quiet, double glazed glass and swathes of sound deadening material cocoon you in a bubble of true elitism.
For a car of this size the ride is as expected, beautifully plush. Adaptive air suspension irons out just about everything that falls under its 20-inch wheels. Comfort mode has you on Cloud 9, while Dynamic mode has you on the same cloud but sharpens the edge ever so slightly for what still remains a dreamy drive. Our test car was fitted with dynamic-all-wheel steering, a must have for the long-wheel base model. It allows for a much more manoeuvrable limousine, especially in tight spots such as the roundabout around your fountain.
With Audi’s quattro system there’s further surety when it comes to keeping this hulking piece of aluminium, magnesium and steel, planted to the road. I’d never claim the car is nimble but it’s surprisingly capable of fun, although I can’t imagine any owner or customer having that mindset.
The exterior is hardly shock and awe, but why would it be in this segment? It’s clean, tidy but still has an authoritarian presence. A hexagonal singleframe grille no doubt dominates the front end. But a full length light beam at the rear and OLED enhanced brake lights further ram home the tech heavy theme.
Ins and Outs.
The model on display here is the top of the range A8 L 55 TFSI quattro tiptonic. A petrol 3.0-litre turbo V6 is hitched up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. 250kW is on tap between 5,000 – 6,400rpm with 500Nm at 1,370 – 4,500rpm. It will hit 100km/h in 5.6 seconds while sipping 8.2L/100km. I averaged 9.1L/100km which is pretty astonishing for a car this size. This is, in part, due to a mild hybrid system that will allow the car to coast along with the engine off for short periods.
The hybrid side of things uses a belt alternator starter and small lithium-ion battery that allows the A8 to switch off between 55 and 160km/h. The 48-volt system also found on the SQ7 powers the A8’s main electrical system.
Audi’s MMI infotainment system has morphed from a rotary dial controller setup to an exclusively 10.1 and 8.6-inch dual touchscreen affair. A top screen provides access to media and car settings while a bottom screen is reserved for climate control. The surface is flat yet provides haptic feedback with a physical and acoustic click. That click is actually the screen moving the length of a human hair to provide the sensation of pushing an actual button.
But it’s the rear seat where many an owner will spend most of their time. Our car was fitted with the $18,500 Executive package. This grants you two individual thrones with 4-way lumbar support. The passenger side seat scores the most luxurious if not borderline excessive luxury. It can massage your body and feet while also warming them. There’s also footrests and folding tables, this is first class everywhere you turn. As you’d expect there’s also twin backseat monitors, so you watch crystal clear HD TV as you’re whisked around.
This car also features the most amazing ambient interior lighting package I’ve seen. Contour lighting and fibre optic strips streak around the cabin with multiple colour choices on offer. So dramatic is the effect it had other drivers gawking into the cabin at just about every set of traffic light at night.
The Audi A8 L 55 TFSI quattro tiptronic starts at $210,000, our test car blew out to $281,150. Options included a $11,000 Premium plus package, $13,200 HD Matrix LED headlights with Audi laser light and OLED rear lights, $6,650 Entertainment package, $18,500 Executive package, $4,500 for Dynamic all-wheel steering, $5,200 for Night vision assistant and an epic $12,100 for a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system.
This is a car for a teeny, tiny segment of society, or elite hire car companies. The A8 is probably the most advanced full-scale production car getting around right now. Build quality is bullet proof and it sits at the very pinnacle of luxury. But much of the technology is hovering in a weird legislative holding pattern. This could be its downfall, for now. It’s 8.5 / 10 on The EFTM Scoreboard for me.