2011 Audi A8 Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Audi has cleaned up the 2011 A8's design with particularly elegant rear end styling. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

The A8 delivers superb handling in the dry. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Gorgeous interior is second to none. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Navigation screen pops up out of the dash. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Rear seats are wonderfully comfortable. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Rear armrest is a techies dream. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

TV anyone? The A8 doesn't leave much off the menu. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Published on May 30, 2011

Could they make the grille any bigger? Broad, deep, dark and decidedly handsome, it makes a Bentley look bashful, a Mercedes seem meek, and a BMW the automotive equivalent of showing up to a black tie soirée in a turtleneck, jeans and loafers with no socks. Road presence? In spades!

You'd think the new 2011 A8's gaping maw would result in the antithesis of aerodynamics, but rather the car's 0.26 coefficient of drag makes it the poster child of four-wheel efficiency. Its surprisingly slippery shape benefits interior quietness, of course, something Audi's flagship four-door flaunts with the kind of subtle grace, composure and all-round class previously only available from its more traditional luxury rivals. No, it's not the sport sedan it once was. While extremely capable in the right conditions, the A8 is 4,200 pounds of pure luxury, made much lighter than it would have otherwise been thanks to extensive use of aluminum in the body structure, panels, undercarriage and mechanicals, but it's a weighty car just the same.

I say "the right conditions" because the A8's tendency to understeer in the rain might throw you off track if you attack a corner too aggressively. In the dry, however, it's another story. The A8's cornering prowess seems unlimited. The ride is cushioned via a driver-controlled air suspension system that can be varied between comfort and sport settings, automatically lowering at higher speeds and also automatically adjusting to reduce roll and pitch. It's a lot of gadgetry designed to overcome the car's aforementioned girth, and for the most part it does an admirable job.

For a relatively small displacement engine the 4.2-litre V8 is wonderfully energetic and the numbers back up the "seat of the pants" experience at 372-horsepower and 328 lb-ft of torque. OK, the latter spec isn't earth shattering in today's market, but the ultra-smooth 8-speed automatic transmission that connects engine to all four wheels optimizes maximum torque to deliver spirited acceleration accompanied by just the right amount of throaty V8 growl to induce adrenaline.

Yes, the A8 still appeals to the well-heeled enthusiast, albeit an all-new and even more lavish cabin makes it clear such enthusiasm needs to be shared with equal amounts unadulterated decadence. The materials are still some of the most impressive in the industry, with every non-wood or -metal surface soft to the touch, of course, in either supple leather or high quality plastic. If you're a tech-geek you'll love the way each stereo tweeter gravitates upward out of the dash top, looking like tiny UFOs slowly elevating in their loading bays prior to takeoff. The Multi-Media Interface (MMI) display simultaneously rises up out of the dash, and for all points and purposes is easier to use than a number of competitive systems, yet still requires a little getting used to. One thing that I couldn't get used to was driving without Bluetooth. Oh, don't get me wrong, it comes standard with the A8, it's just that Bluetooth never found my very popular LG cell phone and likewise my phone could never find the A8's Bluetooth signal, forcing me to drive all week with a headset stuck in my ear. Despite stating on the Audi.ca website that my phone is compatible with the 2011 A8, this appears to be VW/Audi issue, as the Volkswagen currently in my garage won't recognize my device either. Incidentally, I've never experienced this problem with any other automaker.

That is my only complaint with the A8, by the way, the rest of the car performing flawlessly. Even fuel economy was surprisingly good at about 13.5 in the city and 9 on the highway during my test, which is pretty close to the estimated 12.9 L/100km in the city and 8.1 L/100km on the highway Audi claims.

Practicalities in mind the A8's trunk is huge at 510 litres (18.0 cubic feet), mirroring the spaciousness of the rear seats. Yes, it's comfortable back there, and the folding centre armrest in my tester offered rear seating for three when tucked up out of the way or alternatively one of the most impressive arrays of armrest technology I've ever seen when lowered, quickly vaulting the particular model into favourite car status with my 10-year old son. My 7-year old daughter quickly joined the fan club when catching sight of the twin front seatback-mounted external flat screen monitors, which just so happened, after a little fiddling by her brother, to be screening some highly entertaining animations previously stored on the hard drive, no doubt by one of my colleagues.

Of course, the twin TVs and over the top digital armrest isn't standard A8 fare, although that list is nevertheless quite impressive. A set of 18-way powered and heated leather seats with memory first caught my attention, not to mention heated rear seats, standard navigation, not to a standard iPod interface. Of course, most that haven't bought into the premium sector before would expect as much and more for $99,200, plus $1,995 for destination charges, but it's not always the case. Of course, the standard features list is much, much longer than the few items mentioned, but I'll leave the details out as there's nothing else that really stands out when compared to its rivals.

Audi will let you up the content list further to include four-zone automatic climate control, leather door and centre console armrests, a 6-CD/DVD changer, and 19-inch 5-spoke alloy rims, all standard with the $103,700 A8 Premium package. Or alternatively if you're guests are feeling cramped (or you're the guest) you can ante up to an A8L for $106,200 plus destination, which adds 130 mm (5.1 inches) to the wheelbase and overall length, plus power-assisted soft-closing doors and rear window sunshades. The A8L Premium, at $111,700, adds a panoramic sunroof to the same list of features offered on the A8 Premium.

Other A8 options include 22-way comfort seats, a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen premium audio system with those cool tweeters that power up out of the dash I mentioned earlier, a night vision system, LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, a sport air suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels, Audi Side Assist, plus exclusive to the A8L, a 3-passenger rear seat, massaging rear seats, and a rear bar fridge.

I think the availability of a bar fridge says it all. Compared to a 2000 A8 I once drove, which was as lithe a full-size sedan as I've ever driven, and subsequent models that while heavier and therefore less sporting were still biased toward performance, the new A8 borders on limousine level luxury, and with that is more purposely focused on pampering rear seat passengers than it is on titillating its driver. Just the same, it's one fabulous luxury car with serious sporting pretensions, and certainly deserving of Audi's revered four rings along with your attention… while it's eyeball-pulling road presence commands everyone else's.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

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

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