2012 Audi A8L: I Like this Car, But ...
December 08, 2011
I volunteered to pick our A8 up from the body shop yesterday. I wasn't terribly busy and I could think of worse things to do than spend an hour driving back from Burbank in the A8.
I'll cut right to the chase, I like this car. I like this car a lot, and not just because it's $100,000 and has all the bells and whistles. I'll begin listing things now.
The interior is just spectacular. You can't really appreciate in pictures the attention to detail and the quality that goes into this cabin. Whereas Audi is credited with improving Bentley, I think the A8 shows that interior development goes both ways. It may not be as elegant and overtly luxurious as a Mercedes S-Class or a Jaguar XJ in appearance, but when you really look closely at the craftsmanship, the A8 is second to none in its class.
And that's just the cabin. It drives brilliantly. Audi has really nailed its driver-selected drive settings in a way that BMW can really learn from. The A8 (and other Audis) allows you to individually set the umpteen different dynamic settings so that if you want meaty steering in sport (far better than the hyper quick darty set-up of the A4's "Sport" setting) and the more comfortable suspension you can do it. Even with full sport on, it doesn't transmit that artificial sense of aggressiveness It also maintains your preferred settings when you turn the car back on. Regardless of settings, you really feel connected to the A8 compared to the isolation I felt in our old 7 Series. The way the A8 remains composed over the most pockmarked and undulating strips of pavement is truly impressive. You really need to remember that there's 20 feet of German limousine behind you since it drives much smaller than it is.
I could go on, but there's a whole year for that. I really like the A8, but ... and you know it was coming. I mean, I put it in the headline. I really like the A8, but I wouldn't buy it. It looks like an A4, and I don't even particularly like the A4. Seriously, from the rear, they are completely indistinguishable. The A8 has a bolder face, but the entire car is so conservative it makes Sean Hannity look like a mohawked Occupy New York tattoo enthusiast.
If you could somehow get the craftsmanship and engineering of the A8 with the the flair of the Jaguar XJ, you'd probably have the perfect car. Maybe the Mercedes CLS comes closest to that, but I can only hope that in the future Audi can apply some of the visual interest of its coupes to its sedans.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor