2012 Audi A8L 4.2 FSI Quattro: Where Am I? - 2012 Audi A8 Long-Term Road Test

2012 Audi A8 Long Term Road Test

2012 Audi A8L 4.2 FSI Quattro: Where Am I?

November 09, 2011

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When most people use a navigation system, they want to know where they're going. Right, left, right, over the bridge and then to the address. But personally I've long since given up on knowing where I'm going.

I just want to know where I am.

And at this, the navigation system of the Audi A8 seems pretty good.

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What I want from a navigation system is more than just an address finder. What I want is also a kind of adventure map when I'm driving cross-country. Probably I'm the only person who thinks about what's outside the map screen. I want to know what the nearby towns are, and the main geographic features, and the points of interest that are not McDonald's.

The Audi's navi seems to work out for me because it's pretty good at finding those little squiggly roads in the middle of nowhere, the back roads along the creek that I'm always looking to drive. The Audi system's bird's-eye view combines these roads with a geographic perspective in a way that's more than just the abstraction you typically get from other map systems with this view.

The trouble is, the Audi's map logic also seems reluctant to name all the side streets in a town like Monterey unless you actually have a destination plugged in, and this keeps you from knowing where you are when you look at the map display. This is trouble for me because either I don't know where I'm going because I'm wandering around, or I do pretty much know where I'm going in a general way and am just route-finding on the fly, and in both cases there's no destination programmed into the system.

At least that's what I think is happening.  A complete navigation system is singularly complex and I need to use this one more and read the owner's manual more carefully.

But at least it knew where I was when I parked in front of Brown's Cycles, which is in an old gas station on the north side of Paso Robles. Since the 1940s, three generations of flat-track racers have run this shop and there's always an interesting bike in the window. I saw this 1970s Yamaha-powered dirt-tracker as I passed by on U.S. Highway 101 and wanted to let photographer Kurt Niebuhr know, since he would be running the same route the next day.

Like me, Niebuhr likes a certain kind of motorcycle, something very extreme and yet very basic. Maybe this is why we both like our long-term 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera. After all, it's just a motorcycle with a roof.

We'll see where else the A8's navigation system leads me. But as to the exact destination, there's no telling. As the saying goes, I might not know where I'm going, but at least I'm making good time in getting there.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

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