When it comes to flagship German sedans, BMW has its 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz has its S Class. Audi has its A8, too, and the underdog German automaker has been making steady gains on its rivals with each generation.
An all-new Audi A8 was released in 2011, and it blends tasteful exterior styling with reasonable performance and supreme passenger comfort. We’ve previously commented that the A8 gives buyers one of the best interiors in the mainstream marketplace, and we’ll stand by that claim. If we had to get from New York to Los Angeles by car as quickly as possible, the Audi A8 would be either at or very close to the top of our list.
The A8 is a big car, even in conventional wheelbase form (an A8 L, with a wheelbase stretched by five inches for rear-seat legroom, is also available). Audi uses aluminum extensively in the A8, but the sedan still tips the scales at more than two tons. Despite the car’s bulk, its 4.2-liter, 378 horsepower V-8 is more than up to the task of generating impressive thrust, and the A8 can reel off a 0-60 time of less than 5.5 seconds. In case that’s not enough to keep you amused, Audi also offers the A8 with a 6.3-liter W12 engine, good for 500 horsepower and capable of a 0-60 dash in under 4.5 seconds.
On the road, the A8 offers up an impressive blend of handling and ride comfort, with our only complaint being a slight lack of steering feel. Audi’s Drive Select System lets drivers tailor the A8’s ride and handling to suit their preferences, and includes settings for Dynamic (what other brands would call “Sport”), Comfort and Auto, which adjusts handling based on driving conditions. There’s an Individual mode, too, which allows drivers to set the A8’s ride to their exact specifications.
As expected in a flagship sedan, technology and options abound. Rear seat passengers can be kept busy with a DVD entertainment system offering dual 10.2-inch screens, or passengers can enjoy the superb sound quality of a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen Advanced audio system. We’re fans of the 22-way adjustable power seats, too, primarily for their fatigue-reducing massage feature.
As for which version to buy, it comes down to this: if you regularly haul rear-seat passengers around, the A8 L makes entry and exit easier while giving rear seat passengers significantly more legroom. If rear passenger comfort isn’t a priority but driver amusement is, you may wish to consider the shorter-wheelbase A8 with the Sport package for enhanced handling. Either way, the 2012 Audi A8 represents a superb choice in a German luxury sedan.
For a complete review of the 2012 Audi A8, including details on features, specifications and pricing, see the full review on The Car Connection.