I have driven the Audi A8, courtesy of Euromobil Sdn Bhd, the local importers and distributors of the Audi brand in Malaysia, and it was a good drive. Powered by a 3.0 litre V6 direct injection (read as fuel efficient), supercharged engine, it felt good every time I put my foot down, and the permanent four-wheel drive system which provides superior traction and grip on the road put it above every other luxury saloon in its class. Such was my impression that I said I would pick the Audi A8 over any other luxury saloon in this category, that is, if I ever got to a position wherein I would be buying such a car.
This time, I was first on the list to give the recently launched new 2014 Audi A8 L, and the first order of the day was to check out the performance to see if it was any better. On paper, there is a 30 horsepower difference, from 290 hp in the previous model to 310 hp in the new A8 L, plus a 20 Nm increase in maximum torque from 420Nm to 440Nm. Transmission remains the same, being an 8-speed Tiptronic with paddle shifters. Acceleration from zero t o100 km/h has improved from 6.2 seconds on the outgoing model to 5.9 seconds. The 0.3 seconds may not seem to be a lot and on the go, you may not even be able to feel the difference, but it is an improvement just the same. Theoretically, if you put the two to a drag test, and providing that both drivers have the exact reaction time at the drop of the flag, then the new model would end up a few feet in front of the old model when the first one hits 100 km/h.
The drive train which i liked in the outgoing A8, in particular the permanent four –wheel drive system is retained, and that, coupled with the 8-speed transmission and the paddle shifters, accounts for a great deal towards the superb driving agility of the A8, despite its size. The comprehensive set of electronic driving aids helps to keep the car on the road even if the driver lacks skill. On top of the ESC (Electronic Stability Control) system, the new Audi A8 L offers an optional Audi Night Vision Assistant that uses a thermal imaging camera to highlight pedestrians and large animals in front of the car at night. There is also an option of a heads-up display which projects key information onto the windscreen.
There are several improvements to the exterior and interior, and I am told that certain items that were options on the previous model are now standard equipment on the new model, and there are fresh optional items that the discerning buyer can now opt for.
The exterior differences are mainly in the headlights and the tail lights, which now are LED units, and subtle changes in the front bumper and grille design, and a new set of wheels.
One thing I do appreciate about the A8 L is that almost all of the vehicle body is made of aluminium. There is obvious weight saving here, and the A8 L is amongst the lightest in its category, weighing in with a kerb weight of 1,880 kg. Weight means more fuel is required to move it around. Besides, reducing weight on the body means the designers have greater flexibility to put in heavier and stronger components where they are needed. The secondary benefit of an aluminium body is that it will not suffer from rust.
Night driving is made easier by the new Matrix Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology. The high beam function utilizes 25 individual LEDs per unit, and these can be individually switched off or dimmed, depending on the road situation. An on-board camera detects other vehicles ahead, and masks relevant sections by dimming or switching off individual LEDs, whilst bright illumination is retained for the remaining zones. The turn signals are a sight to behold – instead of flashing lights, 18 LEDs arranged in a strip sweep from the centre to the side, very nice to look at.
Also available as an option is adaptive cruise control assistance system that helps to maintain a constant distance away from the vehicle in front, up to 200 km/h.
For convenience, the A8 features a parking aid for the front, and a reverse camera, with the option of park assist with 360 degree display which uses 12 ultrasonic sensors to provide an overview of one’s surroundings. A navigation system is included.
The interior of the A8 L is very well appointed – it is top class all the way, with wood trims tastefully placed amidst brushed aluminium silver inlays. Luxurious leather trim pampers driver and passengers alike, and the ambient lighting of the A8 allows the driver to select various options as he or she fancies. Air-conditioning is 4-zone, meaning that each occupant can select and set the temperature and fan speed for each zone. Glass sunroof and electric sunshades for the rear side windows and rear windows are standard equipment. In addition, the rear seats are ventilated, and offer power adjustment and lumbar support. Rear seat entertainment is included for the ‘towkay’, with two independently controlled 10.2 inch high resolution displays and two wireless bluetooth headsets. The front passenger seat can be controlled by the rear passenger.
The audio system is a top of the range BOSE surround system with 600 watts and 14 speakers including a sub-woofer. An optional Bang & Olufsun Advanced Sound System is also offered for the more discerning audiophiles.
The suffix ‘L’ tells us that this is a long wheelbase vehicle, with legroom made to pamper, and the new model provides an additional 130mm. The new A8 L is longer at 5,265mm, with a wheelbase of 3,122mm. It is wider at 1,949mm, and stands low, at 1,471mm. Luggage capacity is 520 litres, and has been reconfigured to take four golf bags.
On the road, the A8 L is a car that I enjoyed driving – acceleration is superb, and you can do a zero to 100km/h sprint is just 5.9 seconds. The quattro drive puts the power through the wheels onto the road without any fuss or spin, through an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, and if you want to have more fun every once in a while, there is a pair of paddle shifters.
The A8 can be driven elegantly and graciously (as it should be), or can be driven, and driven hard. I enjoy both types of driving, and this is one of the main reasons I like this particular car. Fuel consumption is mooted at 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres; however, based on my experience, under ‘real world’ conditions, 10 to 11 litres per 100 kilometres would be more realistic. I don’t think any sane man would be ‘pussy-footing’ around when the 310 horses are just waiting to be unleashed, although I did achieve 8.3 litres per 100 km consumption for a while on a stretch of highway driving.
In conclusion, I dare say the new Audi A8 is even better than the one it replaces. It continues to provide that safe and secure feeling whether you are behind the steering wheel or in the passenger seat. It is a good feeling when you know that you can corner faster than most other cars on the road, and when it gets wet and slippery, that is when you will appreciate the sure-footedness that comes with quattro technology.