The Truth About Cars » A8 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:52:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » A8 Audi to Go After S Klasse and 7 Series More Directly With Next A8 Mon, 05 Aug 2013 14:49:41 +0000 bmw-7-series-mercedes-benz-s-class-audi-a8-comparison

Bloomberg is reporting that Audi will reveal the next A8 sedan at the upcoming Frankfurt auto show in September and that Ingolstadt’s flagship will more get upgrades so it can more effectively compete with the next generation S Class from Mercedes-Benz, which is currently being launched.

While Mercedes-Benz may be the target of the new A8, it is BMW that Audi has set its overall sights upon, seeking to supplant the Bavarian luxury car maker as the #1 marque in that segment. Audi says that it will sell more than 1.5 million vehicles globally in 2013, a benchmark the company originally expected to reach two years from now.

Though Audi has seemingly gone from strength to strength and is in second place among luxury brands, it’s still lagging behind M-B and BMW at the top of the luxury sedan segment, selling 38,600 A8s last year while BMW sold over 59,000 7-Series cars and Mercedes sold a bit over 80,000 of its S Class.

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Review: 2011 Audi A8 (Short Wheelbase) Mon, 11 Apr 2011 19:57:49 +0000

The Audi A8’s fifteen minutes of fame in Super Bowl XLV showed that Audi did not intend for its flagship to fall into the luxury sedan trap of courting mainstream aspirational lust with a stodgy, obviously “upscale” demeanor. And since America’s economic recovery is too halting to inspire over-the-top indulgence, and Mercedes owns the “bulk-and-bling” approach to luxury anyway, Audi’s attempt at a more subtle, sophisticated brand of luxury flagship makes good marketing sense on paper. But does Audi’s cleaner, leaner design aesthetic strike the right tone for a “new era of luxury,” or does it doom this A8 to the over-subtlety that kept its predecessors from breakinginto the mainstream of full-sized luxury? More to the point, does Audi’s sophisticated marketing message reflect a car that really does offer a different approach to luxury? Let’s find out…

Starting with that nose. Between the lovable tailfins on a Caddy and the Bangle-butt of a 7-series lies the polarizing grin of the A8’s drop-jaw grille. Our tester didn’t wear a front license plate, which is both a blessing and a curse: the need for the Auto Union logo sitting front and center eventually grates on the inner ADHD designer. Yet it looks like no BMW or Merc: white marker lights change to yellow when you signal a turn. The avant-garde LED headlight squares have, in the words of lighting guru Daniel Stern, “a richer spectral content in a particular range of wavelengths that facilitate visual acuity at night.” That’s true. Please believe that HID’s days are numbered.

Too bad love wanes past the A8’s fenders. It’s a plus sized A4, with more elegant swage lines. Much like a 30+ foot yacht from the manufacturer of smaller/similar vessels, the A8 looks sharp in its high beltline, with an oversized hull demanding respect. But the rear is downmarket enough to clamor for more chrome, more bustle…more of anything. As Simply Red once said, “She was so beautiful, but oh-so boring.” Ostentatious exterior design isn’t for everyone, but Audi seems to have again erred a bit too far on the side of subtlety.

But inside the A8 does scream posh, with a TV-binnacle free dashboard timelessly, effortlessly sweeps the length of the cabin. Only the console’s undefined meeting point with the dash and a DVD/Media door slapped in the center of prime real estate would make a Camry giggle with delight. Luckily, the A8’s mass quantities of woodgrain and brushed aluminum capture the heart faster than mercury-laced bread finds Huckleberry Finn. Not to mix metaphors, but the cabin’s LED accent lighting ups the ante with a TRON homage, bringing the front end’s goodwill indoors.
And from the driver’s seat, surrounded by well-chosen, well-crafted materials as well as the latest in technology, the A8′s sophisticated design brief finally begins to make sense. Sit back in a 22-way adjustable massaging throne–strong enough to pinch a nerve–and start the show. Tap the ignition button and Audi’s MMI screen elegantly pops out, along with two masterfully rendered Bang & Olufsen tweeters. The $6300 audio upgrade has best-in-class highs and imaging, but like B&O products sold in shopping malls, runs flat on mid/low bass back at home (paging Dr. Mark Levinson!).

The meaty tiller sports metal-like chrome bits, with a thumbwheel to control some of Audi’s MMI features. Not necessary, because the console’s rotary knob and fairly logical buttonage are a quick study. MMI’s unique Etch-A-Sketch-alike pad for entering addresses is cool, but stupid: a touch screen from Kenwood’s finest beats scraping a fingernail to write a street address. Still, a level of technology overload that would just seem pointless and geeky somehow feels proper when it’s located with ergonomic precision amid top-notch materials. Like the rest of the car, the technology is easy to overlook or dismiss, and yet just works with unobtrusive ease.

While the tee-bar gear lever never warmed my soul, the 8 speeds are a necessary part of the fun, if only in sport mode. It’s a close ratio box, leaving the 4.2L V8 (372hp @ 6800rpm) no chance to fall out of its powerband. Very necessary, since twin-turbo V8s are available at this price elsewhere. Even worse, Mercedes adds AWD as a relatively cheap ($3000) option.

Then again, Audi has the Kenny G commercial. And the all-aluminum A8 is far lighter on its feet than the big Benz, cornering with precision and idiot-proof poise: I couldn’t get the tires to chirp on a dry urban road. Flash the torque convertor, hammer the throttle and the A8 leaps forward, much to the fear of its occupants. Throw in a corner, hit the apex at full-tilt and still nothing: understeer creeps up and the active handling nanny taps the brakes, even with the system disengaged.

So it’s not an M5, but the A8 is a joy to drive on a twisty road, with linear steering, quick tip-in and acres of grip. It’s good enough to make A8 briefly lose power steering boost in a fast U-turn: a minor quibble, an easy fix for any chassis engineer.
So let’s chill. With the boulevardier in mind, the A8’s air-sprung ride goes flat over sharp bumps or pavement joints: no matter how beautiful, twanky-inch wheels are for children. The A8 has enough wheelbase/heft to dull impact harshness, but the endless banging from the front end on my commute to work got old in a hurry. Larger rubber might well help, but can the exterior really afford even more subtlety?
No car is perfect, not even a luxo-sedan that kisses a 6-figure asking price. And the A8 is the best in class for cornering, plus it’s a charming and timeless work of art, inside and out. If it had a pair of turbochargers and less worrisome depreciation rates, the A8 would hands down rule the competition. If, on the other hand, you can’t commit to an Audi A8 over a BMW or Merc, consider leasing one as a company car instead. Audi’s approach to luxury takes a little more time to appreciate than the competition, and even if you decide it’s not for you, it can be well worth experiencing.

Audi provided the test vehicle, insurance and a tank of gas.

Not a fan of our Facebook page? Too bad about that. For our Facebook peeps, here are your answers: Nick Roshon, not an old man’s car, MMI is easier than I expected to learn. Darren Williams: maybe the aluminum doors are why it feels cheap, so it’s a price worth paying. Adam Blank, I assume it tops out at 155mph like most German cars, you must promise to bail me out of jail before I find that out in the real world. John Walker: the lighting, MMI touch pad and massaging seats are pretty outstanding, and no, don’t tow with it. Ken Morton: every S-class I’ve been in rides better, road crushing weight perhaps? Stephen Schwarz: like so many new cars, the rear visibility is terrible, front is acceptable.

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Review: 2011 Audi A8 L 4.2 FSI Wed, 08 Dec 2010 21:20:30 +0000

“Didn’t he say they had only one of the new A8s?”

“That’s an A4, Dad.”

Some people will walk away at this point, refusing to even consider spending $85,000+ on a car that can be so easily confused with one costing less than half as much. A similar problem killed GM’s luxury car sales back in the second half of the 1980s. But, by walking away, are these buyers missing out on the best large luxury sedan on the market?

Personally, I’ve long been okay with the “same sausage, different lengths” design philosophy. I don’t expect a size 12 shoe to be styled differently than a size 8, at least not if I like the design. Prefer the agility of a compact? Get the A4. Need the XXL, because you and all of your buddies must duck when walking through standard doorways? The A8 L could well be the car for you.

The problem, for me: the new Audi A8 doesn’t look enough like the A4. With the latest iterations of the A3, A4, A5, and Q5, Audi seemed to have finally figured out how to attractively incorporate a supersized grille into the face of a car. With these models, the outer thirds of the front fascia extend a little lower than the center section, and a bumper bar splits the grille horizontally, keeping it from appearing too tall. Well, with the new A8 a vastly oversized, unsegmented grille extends all the way to the fascia’s flat bottom edge. And, to make sure no one somehow misses it, Audi affixed eight pairs of chrome strips. Harley Earl would have loved it. Ditto the $1,400 all-LED headlamps. A“because we can” affectation, the hockey stick pattern formed by the LEDs has no relation to the rest of the car’s design.

Then there’s the side view. With the new A4 and A5, Audi located the front differential immediately behind the engine so that the front axle could be shifted forward a half-foot, vastly improving the car’s proportions. They’ve performed no such trickery with the new A8. Combining Audi’s traditional powertrain layout with a hood high enough to meet the latest European pedestrian safety standards yields an unsightly amount of front overhang.

Lastly, the lower bodysides of latest A4 have an upsweeping character line to lend visual interest. In contrast, the bodysides of the new A8 are relatively boring. A pair of character lines do subtly curve towards each other, but this only makes the rear of the car appear undersized and underdeveloped. Only through its sheer sheer size—207.4 inches long, 76.7 inches wide—and that of its glitzy grille does the A8 possibly command the “road presence” expected of this class of sedan. The previous A8 was considerably more attractive.

The 2011 Audi A8s interior design is an evolution of the previous car’s; not a bad thing, since the previous car’s interior was Germany’s most attractive. The Alcantara that now graces the door panels looks better in richer shades than the “as-tested” light beige. The sportily sloping center stack has been further reclined to create space for the MMI (Audi for iDrive) controls ahead of the shifter (they used to be behind it). To avoid obstructing these controls, the new all-electronic shifter is a much lower, fighter jet-inspired T. Knobs continue to be employed for the most basic HVAC and audio system functions.

When not in use, the display screen retracts into the instrument panel. This cleans up the IP—but the display is almost constantly in use. Even the seat adjustments are displayed, which is actually a good thing because they are so numerous. In general, so many adjustments are available for so many things that the average owner will probably never be aware of, much less be able to figure out how to use, 90 percent of them. It’s a high-end cell phone disguised as a large luxury sedan.

Option the new A8 to the hilt and even rear seat passengers can suffer from control overload. But the tested car included a mere $8,400 in options and so lacked power rear seats, dual-zone rear HVAC, and the dual-display entertainment system. Even so, each rear door included four switches and a button to operate four sunshades (overhead, each side window, and the rear window), both power windows, and a venting rear panel in the optional panoramic sunroof.

Oddly, given this car’s mission, seat comfort front and rear is just okay. In the traditional Audi fashion the seats are firm and lacking in contour. Those seeking lateral support should kick in another $2,000 for the Premium Package, which includes power-adjustable bolsters. Roominess, on the other hand, is outstanding. In the extended length L, nearly all of the lengthier wheelbase goes to the rear seat, yielding 42.9 inches of legroom—more than in the front seat. In the Hyundai Equus I complained about the lack of toe space beneath the front seats. In the A8 L my toes couldn’t reach the front seats. Perceived roominess is even better than the specs suggest, partly because Audi hasn’t run with the crowd to adopt ridiculously high beltlines—the windows remain relatively large. Unless you and your buds all play center, or you want to feel like a child again while riding in the back seat, there could even be too much room.

Most luxury car makers have been steadily enlarging the size of their engines. BMW went from a 4.0 to a 4.4 to a 4.8, Mercedes to a 5.5. Both are now downsizing their V8s, but are adding turbos to simultaneously boost power output. Even Hyundai plans to bump its 4.6-liter V8 to a full 5.0 next year. In contrast, Audi has been offering a smallest-in-class unblown 4.2-liter V8 for nearly two decades. The engine has received various tweaks, some of them substantial, along the way. The latest revision yields 372 horsepower, up 22 from last year and nearly 100 from the original. Wringing 372 horsepower from 4.2 liters—Mercedes gets only ten more out of its 5.5—necessarily requires lots of revs, 6,800 in this case. Put another way, there’s less power at low-to-moderate RPM with a smaller engine, and the 4.2’s torque output of 328 pound-feet at 3,500 trails the Mercedes’ 391 at 2,800, much less the turbocharged V8 in the BMW 7.

Personally, I don’t miss the missing torque in the Audi. The relatively small V8 revs so smoothly, and makes such luscious mechanical noises when doing so, that the need to work it harder might well be the opposite of a problem. The A8 might not launch quite as hard as the others, but once moving feels very quick. The new smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic does its part, always seeming to select the proper gear without delay. But if you do want to shift for yourself, paddles are located on the steering wheel.

Working an engine harder often harms fuel economy, and the Audi engine has been a bit of a guzzler in the past. But the EPA rates the 2011 at 17 city, 27 highway—up from 16/23 last year and impressive numbers for such a large, powerful, all-wheel-drive car. The BMW 750Li xDrive and Mercedes-Benz S500 4Matic do far worse: 14/20 and 14/21, respectively.

Shifting the front axle forward in the A4 and A5 also improved their weight distribution. Even without this change, though, the new A8 plows much less in hard turns than the old one did, and generally feels more agile. Which is not to say agile. The A8 drives a half-size smaller than it actually is, but this is a half-size smaller than XXL. Typical of all-wheel-drive Audi’s, the A8 can feel inflexible on dry pavement. Get on the throttle, get off the throttle, it doesn’t matter: the attitude of the chassis doesn’t change. To dial the handling up another notch or two, lend some rear-drive feel to the quattro drivetrain, and perhaps all but eliminate understeer, spend another $2,300 for “Audi drive select plus,” which includes active steering and an active, torque-vectoring rear differential.

“Audi drive select” (without the “plus”) is standard, so the throttle, steering, suspension (air springs and adaptive struts), and seat belt tensioners (go figure) can each be independently set to Comfort, “Dynamic” (sport), or Auto. With most such systems the differences between settings can be difficult to discern. Not so with Audi’s. Set the steering and suspension to “comfort,” and the car floats and wallows. “Auto” and “Dynamic” should be the only options. Dial both up to “dynamic,” and the steering becomes –if anything– overly firm, while the suspension becomes much tighter. No one else in the segment offers steering nearly this firm—the difference is easily detectable even while driving straight down the freeway. Move the wheel even a fraction of an inch and the car responds immediately. But all is not perfect: like the ultra-firm steering in a 1980s Detroit-issue Audi-fighter, though certainly not to the same extent, the steering’s weightiness feels artificial and doesn’t build progressively as the wheel is turned.

Ride quality suffers a bit in “Dynamic,” but remains very comfortable. A rock-solid, quiver-free body structure helps. Especially on concrete, road noise is more of an issue in any setting. There’s not a lot of it, but some competitors are nearly silent. The tested car did have the optional 20-inch high-performance tires; the standard 19s might be quieter.

Pack a large aluminum body chock full of technology, and the price isn’t going to be low. The 2011 Audi A8 starts at $78,925. The long, with some additional standard equipment: $84,875. Even lightly optioned, as in the case of the tested car, the price tops $94k. Load it up and you’re over $110k. This might seem pricey, but based on TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool a similarly-equipped BMW 750Li costs about $10,000 more.

The new Audi A8 is easily the sportiest car in the segment. Even BMW has gone soft in comparison, and the new 7 is also considerably more expensive. Not that the new A8 is perfect. The car’s exterior could be both more distinctive (aft of the grille) and more attractive (including the grille). The relatively small V8 doesn’t churn out pavement-rippling torque; with all wheels driven, the chassis could handle far more. Even the car’s technical excellence can seem a little cold—some competitors feel more “natural.” But then no car is perfect. If you’re a driving enthusiast ISO a very large car, the A8 wins by just about any objective measure, and by many subjective measures as well.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive reliability and pricing data.

Lee “Pete” Canupp of Checkered Flag Audi in Virginia Beach, VA, provided the car. Pete can be reached at 757-490-1111.
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What’s Wrong With This Picture: If It Ain’t Broke Edition Tue, 01 Dec 2009 15:13:52 +0000 Audi A8

I won’t lie, I was expecting something a little more… dramatic from the new Audi A8. On the other hand, if it weren’t a fundamentally understated car, it wouldn’t be an A8.

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