Passenger cars come in wide variety of shapes and sizes.
But no vehicle has the presence and stately grace of a well-made sedan and the Audi A8 L Quattro certainly fits the bill with its extra-long wheel base, roomy cabin, quiet ride and an extensive complement of technology designed to make driving less stressful and even less eventful for the driver.
However, I also had a sneaking suspicion when I saw the spacious rear seat that this was actually a car where a chauffeur did the driving while the owner and his or her colleagues enjoy the comfortable ride and perhaps the view from large side windows.
Audi, with its austere styling, deft use of lighting technology and careful attention to the appearance of the vehicle’s corners, has had a major influence on the design of all kinds of automobiles during the past two decades. The success of Audi’s formula, however, gives the A8 an understated elegance that helps the car make an impression whether it’s standing at the curb or moving through traffic.
The layout of the lighting, both front and rear, and the bright work of the grille as well as its long graceful lines, which run along the sides of the car help set the A8 L Quattro apart from its competitors, which include a some very special rivals, such as the BMW 7 Series or the long-wheelbase version of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Sedan.
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Audi’s elegant but restrained design philosophy is maintained throughout the interior of the A8 L Quattro, with its long sweeping instrument panel and its long straight lines. But the cockpit can hardly be described as retro as Audi has included a sophisticated screen in the center stack that can be accessed by touch, knobs and a controller on the center console.
The luxurious blend of materials, design and craftsmanship is especially notable in places such as the inner-door pane where leather, wood and felt-like material are artfully melded together in one impressive piece.
The instrument cluster includes standard features such as a speedometer and tachometer but the screen between that sits in the center of the instrument cluster can be re-configured to the driver’s liking and also contains a three-dimensional map or navigation aid in color that helps insure that driver stays on course and doesn’t miss a turn. The size of the map can be controlled from the steering wheel and while any eye movement away from the road is a distraction the system does help minimize with its placement directly in front of the driver.
I also discovered that navigation aid can also help in getting back on course if you happen to miss a turn and is readable at night when the streets are dark and it easy to miss a turn or even a landmark. The ambient lighting used in the Audi A8 L Quattro also seems quite friendly without threatening to lull you to sleep on long drive at night.
The handling, especially tight maneuvers, is very good and the ride, while not quite like ride on sofa, does have the even temper traditionally associated with a luxury car and especially with a luxury sedan designed specifically for comfort and stability.
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The A8 L Quattro also comes with a long list of comfort a convenience features, including a head-up display, voice recognition, top-view 360-degree camera that’s especially helpful while driving in tight quarters and vehicle exit assist, which keeps the door shut if another vehicle is approaching as well as “theater-like” lighting that comes on when you approach the vehicle at night.
The driver assistance features include what is described as the first use on a production model of a “laser scanner” that can better look that can provide more accurate data for the sensors that can trigger automatic brakes or guide the vehicle back into its lane safely. I didn’t really get to give the system a true stress test to see how the system works under real world conditions.
However, I did get to try out the “Adaptive cruise assist” on the Audi A8 Quattro, the hands-on system that assists the driver with braking and acceleration in heavy traffic and it was impressive and easy to use.
The Audi A8 quattro is equipped with a V6 Turbo engine with a new 48-volt, mild-hybrid that uses a lithium ion battery and a new belt driven alternator starter. The system, which help power the A8’s suite of advance infotainment as well as luxury features like the 18-position driver’s seat, is neatly integrated into the powertrain with the 8-speed automatic transmission.
The shift on the A8’s stop-start system and extra power from the battery to the drive train was virtually invisible while driving. I also got to use the quattro all-wheel-drive system and it performed nicely on Michigan’s icy roads. The system produces 335 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque and has a combined fuel-economy number of 22 miles per gallon.
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The Audi A8 L quattro is expensive at $101,095, according to the Moroney that came with car I drove, and I am not sure the huge back seat is meant for American customers who drive themselves. But the car’s technology is impressive and offers a big hint about where the car business is headed.