When long-distance low-level travel is required, there’s really no better option than an imperious German sedan. SUVs and crossovers are too tippy, bouncy and thirsty, and the Japanese and Korean offerings just don’t quite have the charisma.
Audi’s A8 has been around for quite a while now, but despite its age, the company’s flagship sedan doesn’t feel old. In fact, it’s still a better drive than BMW’s new 750i, which has become disconnected and tech-loaded in its latest form.
|1. The A8 comes as a standard wheelbase or extended wheelbase model, priced at $74,550 and $78,400 ($95,000 and $100,000 CAD) respectively.
2. All A8s get a 4.2-liter V8 with 250hp and 325 ft-lbs of torque.
3. The S8 model with a 450-hp V10 and the A8 W12 with a 450-hp 12-cylinder engine have both been dropped for 2010.
The A8 is available in two wheelbase lengths, the regular at $74,500 ($95,000 CAD); the longer one (which gives immense rear seat room) starting at $78,400 ($100,000 CAD). All models are built on a similar chassis to the Bentley Continental series, but using lighter aluminum with a full air suspension and 18-inch wheels.
The styling is aging compared with Audi’s more recent curvier offerings, like the S5, but there’s still plenty of character there. The front grille and headlights are immediately recognizable, but the rest is three-box anonymous. In dark colors, the A8 L is a true sleeper, not attracting unwanted attention. Most take one glance and assume it’s just another of the kazillion A4’s on the road, only a bit bigger.
V8 ENGINE DELIVERS PASSABLE PERFORMANCE
The only issue comes with the 4.2-liter FSI V8 that produces 350-hp at 6800 rpm and 325 ft-lbs of torque at 3500 rpm. Compared to the other cars in this class, that’s decidedly average, and while it makes a great noise when revved, the extra power from either the 5.2-liter V10 in the S8 or the once-optional 6.0-liter W12 would be greatly appreciated. Still, the A8 L will run from 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, with top speed limited to 130 mph in North America.
Being an Audi, power is split to all four wheels through the company’s quattro all-wheel drive, with a six-speed Tiptronic transmission. The usual battery of safety features, like ABS with EBD and ESP makes this big saloon very easy to drive quickly.
An optional Sport Package ($4,300) includes gorgeous 20-inch wheels, a three-spoke steering wheel and sportier defaults for the air suspension’s Dynamic, Comfort and Automatic settings.
You’d be amazed at how responsive a car longer than some pickups can handle. Ultimately its 4,400-plus lb. curb weight impedes its abilities, although that’s about average when compared to its rivals. Mileage is decent at 16/23 mpg (city/highway).
PLENTY STANDARD, EVEN MORE OPTIONAL
Toys? Tons. Standard equipment includes adaptive bi-xenon headlights, a parking system with rear-view camera, power glass sunroof, tinted windows, and power-assisted trunk and door closers. For the gadget-o-philiac, there’s the Audi MMI system, Navigation with DVD, BOSE premium audio, Bluetooth and Sirius satellite radio are all part of that price as well.
Our tester featured dual-pane laminated security glass ($600) which improved road noise, the Technology Package with adaptive cruise control ($1,500), and the biggest toy of them all, the Bang & Olufsen advanced sound system, with the tweeters that rise majestically from the dash ($6.300). Along with the Sport Package, that’s a solid $13,000 in upgrades.
Things start to get ridiculous when you play with the ‘Exclusive’ options. You can have the headliner covered in Alcantara for $1,500. Or you can have most of the dash and every other surface coated in leather for an added $6,400.
Amenities aside, the A8 L is remarkable in its abilities as a long-distance cruiser. Its 14.6 cubic feet of trunk space is enough for a week away with four friends, and the rear-seat space is stretched-limo large. The front seats do come under some criticism for tall people, as they just don’t seem built for six-footers.
The Audi’s immediate rivals include the BMW 750Li xDrive ($87,355), the Lexus LS 460 L AWD ($77,260) and the Mercedes-Benz S550 4MATIC ($93,600). The Audi gets trumped in power by all of them, but only the Lexus is less expensive.
All of these halo models offer their own suite of must-have technology, so at this price point, it’s hard to recommend one over another. The Benz is opulent, the new BMW too compromised, and the Lexus too Camry-ish. Despite its age, the A8 makes a compelling case for your shopping dollar, if your shopping dollar is pointed at a six-figure luxury car in this economy…