The 2012 Audi A8 gives nothing away to its rivals in terms of performance, comfort, technological wizardry or build quality. As such, this driver-focused luxury sedan should be on the consideration list of anybody shopping this segment.
For 2012, the Audi A8 lineup is topped by a new 500-horsepower, 12-cylinder flagship -- the A8 6.3 L.
Audi A8 Video Review
Not being the most popular choice doesn't necessarily equate to not being a good choice. As proof, consider the 2012 Audi A8. With its lightweight aluminum construction, standard all-wheel drive and impeccably trimmed cabin, the A8 has plenty going for it and stands as our favorite alternative pick in the premium large luxury sedan segment. Completely redesigned last year and bolstered by this year's introduction of the A8L W12 with its 12-cylinder engine, the A8 might well become the Underdog of the class.
In its long-wheelbase ("L") form, the A8 measures bigger than its German and Asian rivals, yet still weighs less than most of them. When you factor this in with an automatic transmission with eight gears, the Audi A8 can make the most of its 372-hp V8 (or 500-hp W12) while also returning excellent fuel mileage. To provide the sporty feel of a rear-drive performance sedan, the A8's all-wheel-drive system has a decidedly rear-biased power split. Although normally the power is split 40 percent front/60 percent rear, up to 80 percent can be sent rearward when needed. For even more athletic road manners, an optional torque-vectoring limited-slip differential is available.
In addition to its performance chops, the 2012 Audi A8 is liberal with the high-tech luxury and safety features. There's the available Dynamic steering system that automatically countersteers should the car start to slide, and also performs such prosaic low-speed trickery as cutting the steering ratio in half to reduce the number of turns that you have to put on the steering wheel while parking. The available, adaptive cruise control boasts stop-and-go capability, and there are also automatic emergency braking and available night vision assist (with thermal imaging and pedestrian detection). Audi's MMI electronics interface features an additional touchpad that reads fingertip gestures as letters and commands, while Google Earth mapping for the navigation system is another A8 exclusive.
There's no denying that the A8's rivals like the BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Porsche Panamera are typically more popular. But if you're willing to consider something more left of center, you'll find the multitalented 2012 Audi A8 fully competitive.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Audi A8 comes in three trims: standard 4.2, long-wheelbase 4.2 L and long-wheelbase 6.3 L. The numbers indicate whether a V8 (4.2) or W12 (6.3) powers the car. As expected, the L versions provide more room for rear seat passengers.
Both A8 4.2 models come standard with 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension, Audi Drive Select (allows adjustment of suspension, steering and engine/transmission response), xenon headlights, a sunroof, Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) system (with a touchpad that can interpret fingertip gestures), a navigation system, cruise control, a power-adjustable steering wheel, leather upholstery, 12-way power front seats, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power rear sunshade, Bluetooth and a Bose surround-sound audio system (with HD and satellite radio, iPod connectivity, a 20GB music server and a CD changer).
The 4.2 L adds park assist (with rearview camera), keyless ignition/entry, power-closing doors, power rear side sunshades and a power-operated trunk.
The 6.3 L includes all the 4.2 L features along with a more powerful engine, 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, dual-pane acoustic windows, Dynamic steering, 22-way power front seats, upgraded leather upholstery, four-seat configuration (with rear center console), ventilation and massage functions for all seats, four-zone automatic climate control, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel (with shift paddles), a faux suede headliner, rear seat entertainment and Audi Connect with Wi-Fi capability and Google Earth.
Option highlights (depending on trim) include 20-inch wheels, keyless ignition/entry, a night vision camera (an infrared camera to detect animals and pedestrians up to 1,000 feet away), a solar-powered venting sunroof, faux-suede interior trim, various wood accents, four-zone climate control and a premium 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system.
There are also several packages available. The Premium package includes 22-way power front seats (with ventilation and massaging functions). The Cold Weather package includes heated steering wheel/rear seats and a rear-seat pass-through (with ski sack). The Rear Seat Comfort package adds power lumbar/recline and ventilation, rear vanity mirrors and four-zone climate control. The Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot monitor, a lane-departure warning system and a pre-braking system. The Sport package (regular A8 only) includes 20-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a torque-vectoring rear differential, upgraded leather upholstery and the 22-way power front seats.
The L versions can also be fitted with the Executive Rear Seating package, which includes the individual rear seats/console already seen in the 6.3 L along with footrests, upgraded leather upholstery, a refrigerator and a dual-screen DVD entertainment system. The entertainment system is also offered on the regular A8.
Powertrains and Performance
Both the 4.2 and 4.2 L models come with a 4.2-liter V8 that makes 372 hp and 328 pound-feet of torque. The 6.3 L comes with a 6.3-liter W12 making 500 hp and 463 lb-ft. Both engines are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission that drives all four wheels.
Despite its substantial size, this is a quick luxury sedan. In Edmunds testing, a standard A8 4.2 did the 0-60-mph sprint in 5.2 seconds. Audi estimates the 6.3 L at just 4.4 seconds to 60.
Fuel economy numbers are impressive for the V8 versions, which rate 17 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. The W12's ratings stand at a more typical 14/21/16.
Standard equipment for every 2012 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.
In Edmunds brake testing, an A8 equipped with the optional 20-inch wheels and summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 106 feet, an impressively short distance for a large luxury sedan. Go with regular tires, however, and that lengthens to an average distance of 121.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the A8 provides first-class comfort, especially in the L versions, which boast a limolike 42.9 inches of rear legroom. In typical Audi fashion, the fit and finish is superb, with generous amounts of wood, faux suede and aluminum accents lending a luxurious ambience.
With the available 22-way power-adjustable front seats (including upper seatback angle) and standard power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, finding a comfortable driving position is easy for folks of all body types. Trunk space is a bit small, though, at just 13.2 cubic feet.
The dash is dominated by the buttons associated with Audi's Multi Media Interface or MMI, which handles everything from the navigation and audio systems to the adjustment of the driver-selectable air suspension. There's a bit of a learning curve involved, but it works well and we welcome the radio preset touch "buttons" Audi has added to its latest MMI generation. Those "buttons" are actually located on a touch-sensitive pad that allows you to enter in letters or numbers for the navigation system by drawing them with your finger.
Whether taking off from a stoplight or jetting up to cruising speed on the freeway, the 2012 Audi A8 always keeps a solid rush of power on tap. Moreover, the powerful and easily modulated brakes have no problem reining in this luxury liner.
With its rearward-biased all-wheel drive, automatic air suspension and crisp steering response, the A8 handles like a smaller, lighter sport sedan. Yet over broken pavement the Audi flagship delivers a compliant, composed ride fully in keeping with its luxury sedan status. We also like its adjustable drive settings, which provide a much greater degree of driver customization than BMW's similar system.
Even though its rated power is a bit down compared to other V8s in competing flagship sedans, the A8's 4.2-liter V8 is an excellent match for the car. Acceleration times are on par, and its smooth-revving and sweet-sounding nature is an ideal match for the upscale A8. We've yet to drive an A8 with the new W12 engine.
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