Audi’s luxury flagship is a CEO’s hi-tech sanctuary of peace.
Gone are the days when luxury in a car’s cabin meant yards of switches and a dash full of dials. Today, according to Audi, true luxury is about creating a haven of calm where the driver and passengers have access to all the technology they need, but only when they need.
Two engines are available, both based on a 3.0-litre V6 layout; the petrol 55 TSFI develops 340 metric horsepower and 500Nm of torque, for a 0-62mph of 5.7 seconds. Alternatively, the diesel 50 TDI produces 286hp and 600Nm of torque and is more fuel-efficient while only 0.2s slower to 62mph. The A8’s fourth-generation mild hybrid system can switch off the engine and coast in the speed range between 34 and 99 mph, travelling with zero emissions for up to 40 seconds. Both engines send their power to all four wheels via an 8-Speed Tiptronic transmission. Adaptive air suspension is standard, dynamic four-wheel steering (which makes the long A8L feel much shorter and wieldier on the open road) is an option.
The A8L is Level 3 Autonomous where permissible, and packs an array of sensors to enable Audi AI traffic jam pilot, remote parking pilot and remote garage pilot, which enables the A8L to squeeze into tight parking spots with no driver on board, saving the awkward squeeze as you try to get out without scratching the door.
As befits a luxury flagship the A8L features Audi’s top-ranking MMI Navigation Plus and MMI Touch system. All instrumentation is via the Audi Virtual Cockpit, replacing analogue dials with crisp, clear and full configurable displays behind smooth glass panels. Optional features include heated rear seats with rear seat remote, electric sun blinds for rear windows, parking system plus and rear-view camera. HD Matrix LED headlights with Audi laser light and OLED rear lights are among other options, as are goodies like a rear compartment cool box or cooling and massage function seats. The optional Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound System brings 3D sound with 23 speakers, four of which are installed in the ceiling area.
Audi’s A8L shares the Audi family’s design cues writ large. As a long-wheelbase version of the A8, it’s designed as much for rear-seat passengers as for the driver, with an extra 13cm (5.1 in) in the wheelbase for a total length of 5.3metres. From the outside the bold singleframe grille is flanked by LED headlights, while the rear features dynamic rear indicators. The exterior design is notable for its restraint; surfaces are smooth and sleek without ostentatious creases or styling lines. The A8L rides as standard on 18” 5 V-spoke wheels, though if you opt for the S line model these are upgraded to 19” 15-spoke designs.
Inside, soft and tactile materials are beautifully integrated into an interior of sumptuous but contemporary luxury. Opt for the S line upgrade and you’ll enjoy front sport seats with 'S' embossed logo in Valcona leather, operating buttons in black, black cloth headlining and privacy glass.
Verdict: the A8L is a traditional luxury saloon of the kind you’ll see gliding around city business districts, normally with chauffeurs behind the wheel and a CEO studying the latest FTSE news in the rear compartment. Beneath that understated exterior, however, there’s some ground-breaking Audi AI technology that makes driving safer, less stressful and more efficient. It’s also a rewarding car to drive when the chauffeur has the weekend off.