- The Audi A8 is in its fourth generation as the carmaker’s flagship luxury sedan.
- Our test car, an extended-wheelbase “L” version, came with many thousands of dollars’ worth of premium and high-tech extras.
- There’s no doubt that this $US100,000-plus private jet for the road is a niche vehicle. But we adored it.
It’s been four years since I last sampled the A8, Audi’s flagship sedan. Back then, I took an A8 L TDI diesel on a long road trip, with all three of my kids ensconced in the back seat.
My revisitation of this stylish Audi limo once again found me in an A8 L – the “L” signifies an extended-length frame – but this time the fuel was premium-grade petrol.
This is the fourth generation of the A8. It landed on US shores in 2018. Our test car was a 2019 model year example, well equipped and priced at almost $US119,000. Before many thousands of dollars’ worth of extras, the car was $US83,800.
No road trip this time – just some driving in New York and New Jersey. As far as the business case for this ride goes, sales of the big sedan have been declining for years, as the four-door-vehicle market in the US has cooled. But the A8 remains a critical vehicle for Audi, in the sense that it’s a classic luxury platform. If you want a limo, this is your car.
As it turns out, large sedans can also be excellent conveyors of advanced auto technology. On this front, the A8 is jam-packed with goodies. They cost a lot. Most of them are worth it.
Read on to find out whether everything else about this pricey saloon is worth the cost.
Photos by Hollis Johnson.
Welcome to the mean streets of New York City, 2019 Audi A8 L Quattro!
I’m not sure the Audi design language finds its best expression on the A8 L’s stretched wheelbase. However, there’s no denying the A8 L is a handsome set of wheels, with substantial road presence.
To my eye, the A8L is back-heavy, with the extended rear seat and trunk area out of proportion with the hood. But the flow from front to back for a car this big is still elegant.
Despite my complaint about the proportions, the fastback design of the backlight and the coast-to-coast tail light create an appealing rear end.
The dual chromed exhaust pipes are also a nice touch.
As is typical with Audi, the model badging is low-key.
The famous four-ring badge refers to the four independent companies that joined to create the Audi brand. Here it is on the trunk lid.
And here it is on the snazzy front grille, framed by a pair of aggressive LED headlights.
You might think a big sedan such as this would have a big trunk.
But you would be wrong. The A8 L’s cargo capacity checks in at just over 14 cubic feet. That’s merely adequate for luggage.
The bottom line is that the A8 L Quattro is an attractive — if slightly flawed, in my judgment — set of wheels. In “Florett Silver Metallic,” it’s quite sharp. The 20-inch wheels definitely helped.
Under the hood we find a 3.0-litre TFSI V6 engine, coupled to a lightweight hybrid-electric system that assists with fuel economy.
This turbocharged powerplant makes 335 horsepower and can send enough oomph to the A8 L’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, through an eight-speed automatic transmission, to propel the big sled from 0 to 60 mph in about six seconds.
There’s a learning curve with the shifter, but it isn’t steep. And the A8 offers a manual mode, if that’s your thing, using paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
Audi does technology pretty well. In the A8 L, there’s a central touchscreen running Audi’s superb MMI system. There’s also a secondary screen to control climate, as well as the heated and cooled seats.
It’s visually striking, but in practice it’s a bit difficult to use.
The MMI infotainment system is state of the art. The touchscreen is responsive, and though MMI makes use of an at times complicated decision-tree structure, it doesn’t take long to warm up to.
Mapping resolution is stunning. And navigation, in my testing, was flawless.
The screen responds briskly to touch inputs.
Bluetooth device pairing is a snap. There are USB/AUX inputs, wireless device charging, and a SiriusXM satellite radio subscription.
You can also make numerous adjustments to the vehicle, from setting up drive modes to tweaking the interior lighting.
This is cool! Apple CarPlay is available — and it’s wireless!
The real showstopper with MMI is “Virtual Cockpit.”
This feature modifies the digital instrument cluster …
… so that the navigation map can take over. Combined with the head-up display, this makes for the most high-tech driving experience on the road. Switch on night vision and the A8 L will blow your mind as it picks out pedestrian heat signatures.
In the A8 L, tech shares space with luxury. But it isn’t heavy-duty. Audi’s interior-design philosophy is suavely minimalist, and for our tester a $US3,900 “First Edition” package upped the level.
My test car had a “Sarder Brown” interior, with gorgeous grey-brown eucalyptus wood trim and subtle brushed-metal highlights, with just enough gloss to keep things interesting.
The A8 L was born to cruise — over long distances, on highways. That means the seats need to be plush. And they are. The front seats are adjustable in 22 ways.
Because the A8 L is on an extended wheelbase, the rear seats have abundant legroom.
There’s storage in the fold-down armrest.
I was happy to sit back there are pretend I was enjoying the ride. The “Rear Seat Comfort” package added $US3,500 to the price.
Rear passengers can gaze at a pair of screens …
… that can do double duty as tablets.
This is a limo after all. There will be times when the back seat takes control.
A smaller controller resides in a special console between the rear seats.
It can also be removed and used as a handheld remote control.
The Bang & Olufsen 3D advanced audio system is stunning. For nearly $US6,000 extra, it should be.
These tweeters extend and retract from the dash, which is a cool effect.
So what’s the verdict?
The A8 L Quattro is a rather niche car. Do you need it to drive a family around? Nope. Audi’s SUVs have that covered. And if family-hauling in SUVs isn’t your preference, the company will sell you a sedan that isn’t designed to be a private jet for the road.
As a private jet for the road, however, the A8 L is exquisite. On paper, the 335-horsepower V6 is underwhelming for a car this large. (A V8 could be on the way.) In practice, once the machine is moving, it’s got the goods. Does it have a vast well of power in reserve? No. Does it merge and pass and cruise with aplomb? Most certainly. Is that power applied smoothly and quietly? For sure.
The fuel economy with this drivetrain setup – turbo V6 yoked to 48-volt mild hybrid and eight-speed transmission – is commendable: 19 mpg city/22 highway/27 combined.
This is a car that, once you get past the payments, lowers your blood pressure. Yes, in “dynamic” mode and with its dynamic all-wheel-drive steering engaged it can come to life and be driven with purpose, though fans of Audi’s S and RS cars shouldn’t choose the A8. The suspension, steering, and throttle are all optimised for long, straight stretches of highway and slow, easy curves.
Those distances, covered at the upper end of legal speed limits, are where the thousands of dollars’ worth of extras our A8 test car came with shine. Want a massage in the rear seats? You got it. Feel like firing up adaptive cruise control with lane-keep assist and low-speed traffic-jam assist? Go for it. Wish to run your hands across Valcona leather and ponder and Alcantara headliner? Have at it.
The 2019 Audi A8 L Quattro tries to drown you in luxury – and succeeds. But it’s a good way to go.
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