The giants of comfort, luxury and speed are at the top of any chauffeur’s list.
The last thing you would expect is to have a German brand encroaching into this market, but Audi has managed to re-write the ‘David and Goliath’ story with the Audi A8 L.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking; maybe comparing the Audi A8 L to the likes of the Bentley Mulsanne, or the Rolls-Royce Phantom is a bit of a far stretch. However, comparing the A8 L to its ‘more suitable’ competitors, such as the BMW 7-Series or the Mercedes S-Class, is like putting a heavy-weight boxing world champion to spa with the under 18’s at the local gym.
The Audi A8 L 55 TFSI Quattro Tiptronic is currently one of the most pleasurable drives on the market. Despite weighing just under 2-tonnes, the it feels effortless to drive, partly due to it’s electromechanical steering with speed-dependent power assistance and it’s 15.8:1 steering ratio, but also the way it eats up the road.
The suspension is like falling onto a brand new mattress, whilst being wrapped in bubble-wrap. This is what is expected from this type of car, so what Audi have done to improve the ride further was introduce Ai Active Suspension. This clever gizmo can raise the body up to 11cm in less than half a second. The system works by monitoring the road ahead, then raising and lowering the body of the vehicle to fully absorb any dips or rise in the road just when it’s needed.
Another benefit of the active suspension is the safety aspect, where the vehicle monitors each side and will raise the side of the vehicle 7cm when it detects an imminent collision. This means the object approaching will hit the sill and not the door. Clever.
The 335bhp 3.0 litre V6 is quiet and pretty much vibration free, but don’t think that means it won’t move when asked to.
The A8 L 55 TFSI Quattro boasts a respectable 5.7 seconds 0-62mph, and a limited top speed of 155mph.
The true talent, though, is its ability to make the driver completely unaware of how quickly it gets there through its 8-speed gearbox with electric assistance to the petrol engine (above). The changes are completely unnoticeable and mixed with how undeniably comfortable the ride is, makes you look down in shock that you’re doing 70mph.
Speaking of 70mph, the cruise-control is like something from the future. If you’re sat on the motorway and you flick on the cruise control, it almost becomes a self-driving car. With the head-up display showing not only the speed you are travelling at, but also the speed limit of the road you are driving on, it becomes super easy to maintain within the law.
Perfect for those with a heavy foot on the motorway who can’t afford any more points on their licence.
By far my favourite feature on the A8 L is the HD Matrix LED Headlights. A somewhat simple idea that I didn’t think we would be seeing on cars for the next 10/15 years has become a reality. I would love to explain to you exactly how it works, but we would be here for days, so let’s just simply explain it with one word: magic. Like most automatic full-beams, they raise and dip when it detects oncoming traffic at night. But it’s not as simple as that.
They only dip in the exact location of the approaching vehicle in your full-beams, and furthermore, they follow the vehicle by dipping the other sections of the headlight all the way until it has passed your headlights and is safe from being blinded. Impressive stuff. If the £1900 price tag for this optional extra seems steep, you’re not wrong. But it will completely change your driving life and expectations from any other car you drive.
These sorts of cars are bought more for being driven around in than to drive in. Which is why Audi has made sure the A8 L has a super comfortable, spacious and inviting back seat. The fully reclining, massaging and heating seats are exceptionally homely, with probably the only car to have comfortable rear headrests.
The Rear Comfort Pack is a £2195 option, but it is a necessity if you are using the car to drive around any VIP’s. The rear comes with a tablet with which you can control the audio, the temperature including the front, the blinds and even down to what colour you want the interior contours to be.
So it doesn’t matter if you’re chauffeur to Michelle Obama or Rita Ora, your passengers will always find something they like. It is a smart, comfortable and effortless drive, with a strong v6 heart and embracing suspension.
The interior is exquisite, with some futuristic-feeling tech. The modern touch-screens with feedback make for a truly Star Wars experience ride. Basically, Audi has managed to break into the super-luxury car bracket without the super luxury price-tag, but don’t be fooled into thinking it doesn’t still have a way to go to match those British titans.
If only the exterior matched the grade of the interior, in my opinion; the A8 needs to evolve its own look, rather than just copying its younger siblings, the A4 and A6.
- The headlights – super smart tech, inch perfect dipping beams makes for easy, visible, crystal-clear night driving.
- The cruise-control – self monitoring, self adjusting speed setting with no harsh acceleration or deceleration.
- The feel – it makes you feel like a true VIP.
- The voice control system – leaves a lot to be desired, struggling with instructions it even suggests, but with a bit of work, this will be great.
- The centre console – having two touch screens means more time with your eyes off the road. It takes time to get used to, and even then it can become very tedious to do simple tasks.
- Turning circle – 12.9m is a MASSIVE turning circle. Wow.
|Fast facts||Audi A8 L 55 TFSI Quattro|
|Price: £73,410 (starting and as tested £83,650 see text)||Engine: 335bhp 3.0V6 petrol hybrid, 8 speed quattro drive|
|Top Speed: 155mph (governed)||0-62 mph: 5.7s|
|Fuel Consumption: 37.7mpg (combined) & 28mpg on test||CO2: 171g/km|
|Insurance Group: 45E||Kerb weight: 1945kg|
|Size: L 5.31m, W 2.13m, H1.49m||Bootspace: 505 litres|
|BIK: 35%, £830FY, £140SR||Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles|