Audi A8L W12 Review

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
audi a8l w12 review

The Audi A8L W12 goes like Hell. Kick the gearbox in the sides a couple of times, mash the gas and the long-wheelbase leviathan transforms itself into a car-sized guided missile, punching through the air with terrifying resolve. And so it should. The W12 in question– two V6 powerplants connected at the crankshaft in a 'W' formation– generates 450hp. That's enough power to propel Audi's flagship from zero to sixty in five seconds dead, or accelerate from any speed to its 130mph V-max with stupendous, seamless, seductive shove.

Ah, you noticed that did you? One-three-oh is plenty fast compared to say, a Toyota Corolla, but we're talking about a top-of-the-line limo from the makers of the S4 and RS6, two cars that clearly believe that life begins at 140. You'd be forgiven for assuming Audi built the W12 to mix it with big-engined Mercs and Bimmers tear-assing up and down Germany's unrestricted Autobahns, knocking on the door of the double ton. At the very least, the W12 should top-out at 155mph, in accordance with the Fatherland's so-called "gentleman's agreement".

But no, safety restrictions on the sedan's all-weather tires (and Audi's understandable desire to avoid another brand-crippling recall scandal) confine the W12 to twice the standard US speed limit. In fact, the same electronic limitation applies to the W12's lesser-engined siblings. Hang on; if you take top-end bragging rights out of the equation, what's the point?

Exclusivity certainly plays a part. Audi US estimates/hopes they'll sell 150 W12's this year. The chances of seeing another W12 heading your way are about the same as bumping into a previously unknown identical twin. Of course, the joys of owning a rare Audi must be balanced against the underlying suspicion that there's a good reason why the $120k sedan isn't flying off the forecourt. Did I hear anyone say "residuals"…?

The W12's exterior offers few external clues that you're perched atop the A8 tree. The foremost of these would be the W12's humongous snout or, in Audi speak, its "single frame grill". I say "would be" because the nose job will eventually appear on all Audis. Which leaves incorrigible car spotters with trapezoidal exhaust pipes, trunk and side badges and optional dub-clad nine-spokes. Clearly, the W12 takes nothing away from– nor adds anything to– Audi's penchant for elegant minimalism. Aside from the new corporate mug, the W12 embodies and extends the A8's stealth wealth appeal.

Inside, well, someone went nuts with the option list. The W12 comes with every conceivable comfort and toy– from sat nav to Bluetooth to seats that do everything but check you for prostate cancer (thank God). And then there are optional goodies only W12 customers can purchase: headrest-mounted DVD system, rear reclining seats, a bit more leather here and there and a 'fridge that will chill two bottles of wine down to -35F. Oh, did I forget to mention the paddleshifts?

The levers flanking the back of the W12's steering wheel are the usual pseudo-F1 jobs, offering nothing more than manual control over the six-speed Tiptronic autobox. But here, they work perfectly. The W12's maximum torque arrives at 4000rpm. Max power clocks in at redline (6200 rpm). So it's well worth paddling up and down, holding the gears for as long as possible. The paddle-actuated shifts aren't racecar quick, but they're luxuriously smooth. So that's alright then.

Yes it is. I want to be clear about this: the W12 performs magnificently in both a straight line and around curves. The air suspension eliminates the nose-heavy nature of most 12-cylinder sedans. The aluminum space frame construction helps keep the overall weight down. Nineteen inch tires provide masses of grip and Audi's Quattro system makes the most of it. Put it all together, throw the A8L W12 into a bend, and it responds like a car half its weight and two-thirds its [considerable] length.

Unfortunately, once again, a fast Audi is let down by its steering. This time, there's plenty of feel, even at the straight ahead. But the variable power assistance is too supportive at slow speeds. While you wouldn't want to try to maneuver this XXXX-sized sedan around town without SOME hydraulic help, the W12's helium-infused helm is too frothy for quick turn-in and rapid mid-course corrections. The big Audi is more of a cruiser than a corner carver.

Never mind. Bottom line: the 6.0-liter W12 A8L beats the 4.2-liter V8 A8L in every major category, including mission critical imperious wafting. The W12, like the A8L it's based on, is a fine limo by any standard. If you're not bothered about paying an extra 40 large for the privilege, if you're not concerned by killer depreciation, more power to you. Literally.

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  • Sid SB Not seen a Core without the performance pack yet. Prefer the more understated look of the Core vs the Circuit, but both are great fun to drive.
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