The longer version of Audi's A8 luxury saloon has its own charm. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
The limousine has got itself a bit of a bad name in the UK. What once stood for the last word in luxury transport is more commonly seen homing in on a suburban nightspot with a cocktail-wielding hen party hanging out the windows. The Audi A8 L is an infinitely more refined proposition than the stretched American monstrosities that ply town centres on a Saturday night. It's a seriously stylish conveyance for those with important places to go and influential people to see.
Ten Second Review
The main selling point of the A8 L is that it's 130mm longer than the standard A8, space that owners who like to recline in the rear while Jeeves does the driving will appreciate. It comes with the A8's best technology as standard but the flagship W12 model is a class apart with extra features to compete with the world's finest limousines.
Previous A8 models have carved out an enduring reputation for engineering innovation, quality and style. The people behind today's car set out to build on that platform and have made improvements across the board without drifting too far from the core values behind the ultimate Audi. We're faced with a quattro all-wheel-drive luxury saloon of advanced aluminium construction furnished with a formidable arsenal of technology. In long wheel-base L guise, the luxury level is ratcheted up a few notches and there's extra space in the back for captains of industry to unwind.
This is a big car with a range of suitably big engines but even at this lofty end of the car market, the entry-level unit is certain to prove popular. It's a 262PS 3.0-litre diesel engine that will feel far from weak thanks to prodigious torque that courses forth from minimal revs. More compelling is the 4.2-litre V8 TDI with its 385PS and huge 850Nm torque output. With this unit, the A8 becomes a certified executive express covering the 0-62mph sprint in 4.7s and hitting the 155mph speed limiter with plenty to spare. The petrol options start with the clever 2.0 TFSI petrol/electric hybrid variant but the flagship unit is Audi's W12 engine, two V6 units jammed together to make one 6.3-litre 500PS monster. Its peak torque of 625Nm arrives at 3,250rpm and 0-62mph takes only 4.9s. All of the A8 models get Audi's latest quattro all-wheel-drive technology to ensure the surest of footings on the road surface and optimum distribution of power. The gearbox is an 8-speed tiptronic with Drive or Sport shift programmes that can be operated manually through the wheel-mounted paddles. Cosseting the occupants is the Audi Drive Select system. With Comfort, Auto and Dynamic modes, it adjusts damper settings and other parameters to deliver the optimum ride/handling compromise. It works in conjunction with the A8's air-suspension system to comfort of limousine proportions.
Design and Build
So why would one want an A8 L? The standard A8 is hardly stingy with its rear passenger accommodation but this extended version makes full use of the extra 130mm Audi has tacked onto its wheelbase. The rear doors are longer so it's easier to make a paparazzi-friendly exit at those film premieres and they have electric motors to help them close. The legroom is huge and the climate control system has two rear zones to accommodate the preferences of both rear seat occupants. In the W12 model, a pair of sculpted chairs replaces the rear bench and these are heated and ventilated. A range of adjustments lets them recline into the perfect position for perusing the Financial Times. The flagship model also has double glazing and electric window blinds for greater privacy. Audi vehicle interiors rightly remain the envy of the world and the A8 just finesses the details up another couple of notches. There's a wide choice of different leathers, trim inlays in wood and metal, seats and technology features but the basic layout conforms to Audi's usual policy of clean design and the highest quality.
Market and Model
The A8 L serves as a showcase for Audi's latest in-car technology and comes with all of the luxurious features you'd expect plus a few surprises. The navigation system is state of the art, governed by the excellent MMI control interface via a colour display screen that glides out from the dash. There's also a touch pad on which drivers can trace letters with a finger to input destinations. Cleverer still is the way that the sat nav makes its mapping data available to other systems such as the gearbox, headlights, adaptive cruise control and the Stop&Go function. It allows them to predict difficult road conditions ahead and offer the right driver assistance in plenty of time.
Cost of Ownership
Even in a car this opulent, heed must be paid to issues of efficiency and running costs. All A8 models have Audi's Recuperation system which recaptures kinetic energy to charge the battery when the car is coasting or braking. There's Stop&Go to turn the engine off when the car is stationary and increased use of lightweight aluminium construction also helps by shaving weight. These measures and many others help the V8 diesel to manage 39.2mpg and 189g/km while the W12 gets 23.5mpg and 278g/km.
When Audi's vast A8 luxury saloon is a little bijou for your requirements, the A8 L is on hand to help. With 130mm of extra length, it's the same car just a little bit bigger and that makes all the difference to owners planning on frequenting the back seat while an employee does the driving. While the more affordable models offer luxury transport on a reasonable budget, the W12 range-topper is a bona fide limousine with a thoroughly opulent specification and a formidable powerplant at its heart. At that top end of the market, the finest saloon cars in the world come into the equation but Audi's finest should be able to compete with the best of them with its tasteful and comparatively low key approach.