Monday, October 20, 2014

Super Luxury: Audi A8L

     There are varying degrees of luxury in this crazy world of ours. On one side of the coin, you have the gilded palaces of the well-off like say, Oprah. On the other side, there is a tasteful luxury, the kind that whispers I am special. The 2013 Audi A8L is certainly aimed at those who prefer the latter.

     Appearently downsizing has now become upscale, at least in the U.S. Both long and short wheelbase versions of Audi's flagship sedan have historically been powered by V8 or W12 powerplants, but the base A8 is powered by a V6, and the results should surprise you.

     The natural assumption would lead you to think that a V6 wouldn't be up to the task of handling this big sedan's size and weight, at least not nearly as well as the V8 that was equipped in this A8L tester. Generating 333 horsepower, the new supercharged V6 is down 39 hp and 3 lb.-ft of torque compared to the old 4.2 liter V8. One would expect the V6 to be slower on paper, but it is reportedly quicker than the heavier equipped V8 sedan. Even more, the V6 economy is virtually the same compared to the air-breathing V8.

     For those reasons, I doubt someone would miss the old V8, especially since Audi has added the 4.0 liter twin-turbocharged V8 to the mix. Later this year, a diesel V6 will become an option. Meanwhile, the 6.3 liter W12 remains the same, the perfect option for those who think that too much is really just perfect.

     Putting engines aside, the 2013 Audi A8 maintains its place in the top tier of luxury sedans. It delivers an almost unbelievable level of old-world luxury and comfort, along with a healthy dose of high tech gadgets that should delight most technophobes. This big Audi also managers to balance performance and luxury in a way that should appeal to drivers of any type. Alas, for those who desire even more performance, there is also an S8, that might be covered in a future review, the higher ups at Audi willing, of course.

     The 2013 A8 Quattro is an all-wheel drive luxury sedan that is offered in regular, and long-wheelbase versions, the test unit for this review being the long-wheelbase L, which adds about 5 extra inches of rear legroom.

     Standard features for the base 3.0T include the new supercharged V6 engine, 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, LED running lights, headlight washers, a sunroof, adaptive air suspension, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming and power-folding mirrors, heated 12-way adjustable front seats with driver memory, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, aluminum and wood interior trim and a power rear sunshade. Electronic features include a navigation system, Audi's MMI electronics interface with voice control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a Bose surround-sound system with a CD player and an iPod interface. Also included is Audi Connect (enhanced Web-based navigation, information and WiFi access).

     While the A8 3.0T is well equipped, there are a number of available options. Buyers can add the Convenience package, which includes a power trunk lid, keyless ignition/entry, parking sensors with rear- and top-view cameras, and soft-close power doors. An Extended Leather package wraps the armrests, center console and steering wheel airbag cap in leather. The Warm Weather package adds four-zone automatic climate control and power rear window sunshades.

     Opting for the long-wheelbase L 3.0T version includes the above three packages in addition to piano-black interior inlays.

     To either wheelbase, 3.0T buyers may choose to add a Cold Weather package consisting of a heated steering wheel, a ski bag for the rear seat pass-through and heated rear seats. A Comfort package includes 22-way multicontour comfort front seats with ventilation and pneumatic massage, plus wood inlays on the front seatbacks. The Sport Design package includes the Comfort package items but adds 20-inch wheels and upgraded leather upholstery. For a sportier A8, the Sport Plus package applies summer tires, a sport-tuned suspension, adaptive steering and a sport differential. Finally, the Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control with automatic pre-braking and stop-and-go functionality, a blind-spot monitor and a lane-departure warning system.

     Stand-alone options include full LED headlights/turn signals, a panoramic sunroof (L 3.0T), a solar sunroof (powers a ventilation fan to keep the car cool), dual-pane acoustic windows, a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system, a night vision camera (an infrared camera to detect animals and pedestrians up to 1,000 feet away), a rear-seat entertainment system (with two 10-inch headrest-mounted screens) and a choice of several headliners and interior trim elements.

     The 4.0T and L 4.0T models are pretty much offered with the same optional equipment as the 3.0T models.

     Previously available only on the top-shelf L W12 but now available on the L 4.0T is the Executive Rear Seat Comfort package. It includes powered control of the front passenger seat from the rear seat (and reduces the front seat to 10-way power adjustment without massage), the Rear Seat Entertainment package plus heated and ventilated rear seats, a fixed rear center console with its own MMI controller, a reclining rear passenger seat with power footrest, multi-program massage with remote and a small refrigerator in the rear center pass-through. Twenty-inch wheels are a stand-alone option.

     The prestige-level L W12 is essentially a fully loaded four-seat long-wheelbase model that is powered by a 12-cylinder engine and includes almost all of the above listed features and many of the options, rolling on 20-inch wheels. Still optional, however, are the Driver Assistance package, W12 Sport package, Executive Rear Seat package, Audi Design Selection package, Bang & Olufsen sound system, night vision camera and solar sunroof.

     Powering the base model A8 is a 3.0 liter supercharged V6 that pumps out 333 horsepower and 325 lb.-ft of torque. All of the power is routed through an 8-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive. Standard on the V6 is an automatic stop start feature that shuts the engine off when you come to a stop. Its purpose is to help improve fuel economy, which is quite good for its class at an EPA estimated 18 city/28 highway.

     The new turbo V8 produces a thunderous 420 hp and 444 lb.-ft of torque. Stop-start, an 8-speed auto transmission and all-wheel drive are also standard. In testing, the 4.0 twin-turbo V8 A8L made the jaunt to 60 mph in just over 4 seconds. The A8L with the 4.0 is only slightly more thrsty at 16 city/26 highway mpg.

     Standard safety equipment for every 2013 Audi A8 includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, full-length side curtain airbags, front- and rear-seat side airbags and active front headrests. The optional Driver Assistance package also includes a blind spot monitor and lane-departure warning system, as well as Audi Pre-Sense Plus, which monitors traffic and alerts the driver if a potential collision is detected, even applying the brakes (to a standstill below 20 mph).
In brake testing, the A8L came to a stop from 60 mph in about 113 feet.

     As Audi's flagship sedan, the 2013 A8 represents the best that the company has to offer in a sedan. With the best materials combined with impeccable craftsmanship, sans a tacky looking piece on the center console directly above the gear lever, the interior is one of the best interiors in any flagship sedan.

     You would expect that comfort is a priority, and the A8 delivers it in heaping portions. The upgraded seats found in the comfort package adjust in ways that Audi had to invent a more advanced means ofcontrolling them, and they ensure that drivers of any size or shape will find a setting that is most comfortable to them to drive away the miles. Rear-seat comfort is also noteworthy, and this is even moreso in the L version, which offers an impressive 43, yes 43 inches of rear legroom.

     For technophiles, Audi's MMI provides a long list of functions through a crystal-clear display. There is a learning curve to it, but with a little time, using the system becomes almost second nature. The unique remote touchpad, which you can write numbers and letters with the tip of your fingers, also doubles as a radio preset panel. It might seem a little silly at first, but it turns out to be rather useful, as well as cool.

     If there is one complaint to make, it is about the lack of trunk space. At a smallish 13.2 cubic feet, cargo capacity is below that of the competition and not quite adequate to accompany the stuff of 4 adults.

     Power is plentiful, wether under acceleration or cruising down the highway. Passing slower cars is virtually effortless and the brakes are equally up to the large task of bringing the big car to a stop. The new 4.0T powerplant is certainly impressive. While earning nearly the same fuel economy as the supercharged V6, the turbo V8 delivers what you could describe as a tidal wave of effortless torque. If you are inclined, it will also hang with almost any muscle car in a drag race.

     chasis and engine calibration, which provide a much greater degree of customization than say, BMW.
With its all-wheel drive, air suspension and crisp steering response, the A8, in either wheelbase configuration, handles like a much smaller car. Yet, over broken pavement, the Audi flagship delivers a compliant, composed ride fully in keeping with its luxury car status. I like the electronically adjustable settings for the

     All things considered, the 2013 A8 is certainly a worthy competitor among world-class luxury cars. While the gap between rivals is narrow, the Audi does distinguish itself by being more of a driver's car, rather than an isolation chamber.

     Like its rivals, the A8 features an artful blend of understated styling, excellent craftsmanship, and exemplary interior materials. Picking a winner among them isn't easy, but then again, there's not a loser in the bunch. The BMW 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class mostly place an emphasis on luxury, while the Jaguar XJ and Porsche Panamera have more sporting demeanors. Those looking for a middle ground would do well to try out the 2013 Audi A8.

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