2011 Audi A8 Road Test Review

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Published on February 26, 2011

For 2011 the A8 is all-new and more appealing than ever. (Photo: Audi)

Published on February 26, 2011

Rich, sumptuous materials, beautiful detailing, and brilliant tech. The A8 has it all. (Photo: Audi)

Published on February 26, 2011

This regular wheelbase A8 has ample room for most, but the stretched A8 L delivers a lot more. (Photo: A8)

Published on February 26, 2011

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Published on February 26, 2011

Within the ranks of German luxury sedans there is an irony. Each of the major players, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche has established a unique personality-a certain quality that immediately comes to mind when you think of them. For Mercedes-Benz it's luxury, for BMW it's driving pleasure, for Porsche it's all-out performance, and when it comes to Audi, it's now technology.

But here's the ironic part, all of them offer outstanding driving experiences, amazing technology and hedonistic levels of luxury. Yet, they've each managed to carve out a specific niche by emphasizing one of those aspects over the others in their positioning.

When it comes to tech though, Audi does make it more accessible than all the others. Audi's Multimedia Interface (MMI) has long been lauded as the most intuitive of the new generation of dial-and-monitor systems used to actuate comfort and convenience features. With this new A8 MMI is even farther ahead of the competition, thanks to MMI touch.

Placed to the left of the MMI dial on the A8's centre console is a touchpad that can be used to input a destination into the navigation system, call up contacts for the communications system and access the presets for the radio. Speaking of contacts, you can program the A8's system to remember certain numbers, even if a different phone is paired. Maps for the nav system are downloaded over a 3G connection from Google Earth, which means you never have to worry about updating your navigation system ever again.

Regarding audio, the 1,400-watt, 19-speaker Bang and Olufsen system fitted to the Audi wows passengers with tweeters that emerge from the dash when the system is activated-in addition to some of the best sound quality we've ever experienced in an automobile. As for source material, if it exists today, the A8 is equipped to handle it. These days dedicated iPod connectivity is a given, so the A8 also features a USB port, an Aux input port, Bluetooth audio streaming, two SD card ports, a six-disc DVD/CD changer, and a 20-gig hard drive.

Another audio source is the 4.2-litre, 372-horsepower V8. Capable of quietly purring around town in deference to its position as the flagship model of a luxury brand, and bleating powerfully under hard acceleration when called upon to propel the flagship model of a performance-oriented luxury brand, the engine has been updated for duty in the 2011 A8 to produce 22 additional horsepower and 3 more ft-lbs of torque. Its power flows through an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission to be routed to all four wheels.

Renowned for its outstanding traction and contribution to road-holding, Audi's all-wheel drive (quattro) system has been updated for this application as well. In normal mode, output has been biased to transmit sixty percent of the torque to the rear wheels. This endows the sedan with all the benefits of all-wheel drive, while retaining that crucial rear-drive feel true driving enthusiasts covet.

Underway, the big Audi is quick off the line, swift on the highway, and delightfully agile in the twisties. Audi's Drive Select system enables the pilot to calibrate the car specifically to the task at hand by adjusting throttle and steering response, as well as the compliance of the suspension system. If you chose to, you could easily rip along in the A8 as if it were an S4. And frankly, that's what cars in this category are supposed to do, cosset when you want to chill and dance when the music gets funky.

And frankly, as tech-oriented as the 2011 A8 is, it retains an organic feel that enables it to convey an endearing sense of warmth as well. The interior appointments are all of authentic materials, supple leather, highly polished exotic woods and genuine aluminum lace the interior in a gloriously palatial manner. Every seat in the car features outstanding adjustability in addition to heating and cooling, separate climate control zones, and massage functions. To cap it all off, LED ambient lighting gives the car the feel of an exclusive lounge after dark.

With this new A8, Audi has done us all a favor, regardless of whether your preference is BMW, Mercedes or Porsche. The level of tech combined with the luxury and performance with which Audi has infused the new A8 means all the others are going to have to step up their games to match.

All boats float in a rising tide, and thanks to this new A8, the tide is now really high.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Luxury Sedan, Audi, 2011, A8, $75,000 - $99,999,

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