Sporty and comfortable dynamics
The A8 L 60 TFSI I’m driving is equipped with the Dynamic All-Wheel Steering, the rear differential, and a prototype version of the Audi AI active suspension without the predictive function enabled by the camera.
Among the many reasons my dozing companion is able to stay that way while I pitch the car through roundabouts and accelerate hard into the straights are the AI active suspension and the exacting measures Audi took to quell noise in the cabin. The air springs and electromechanical actuators work hard to counteract lean in corners, making the A8 a sportier proposition than a Mercedes-Benz S-Class and putting it on par with a BMW 7-Series. In fact, that aggressive rear steering makes the A8 drive smaller than its considerable size, giving this car the feel of a mid-size sport sedan when you put the drive mode selector in Dynamic mode. Despite the vast range of steering ratios, the variable ratio steering is predictable. It's light in Comfort mode and stiffens up at speed in Dynamic mode.
The suspension also provides a buttery smooth ride that is aided by Spain’s often pristine roads. The V-8 makes a refined howl, but never really intrudes on conversation or slumber.
The V-8 and 8-speed automatic is a wonderfully smooth combination as well. That Dynamic mode holds gears longer, but the 8-speed still shifts smoothly, and the V-8 has waves of refined thrust. The V-6 I drove earlier is smooth and fast as well; it just doesn’t sound as good when pushed and isn’t quite as fast.
Another reason Mr. Sleepy remains undisturbed is the incredible quality of the A8’s cabin. Audi has been at the forefront of interior quality for a decade or so, but the cossetting cabin of the fourth-generation A8 is clearly a marked advancement.
The cabin is thoroughly modern, blending high tech and luxury in a horizontal layout with carefully chosen materials. Real metal and open pore wood trims the cabin, complementing the leather on the seats, dash, and doors quite well. The leather has a soft, natural feel, and the front buckets offer more than enough adjustments and range of motion to tailor a comfortable seating position. While I'm enjoying the driver's seat's Stretch massage function, he's enjoying the supportive comfort of the passenger seat. We both benefit from the 1.3 inches of extra space of this generation's cabin, as well as the larger door openings that ease entry and exit.
While the front seats are roomy and comfortable, my exhausted passenger is missing out on an opportunity. Our car has the Rear Seat Relaxation package featuring rear bucket seats with footrests, an extended rear center console, four-zone automatic climate control, rear seat entertainment, LED matrix reading lights, a folding table for the right rear seat, and a massage function for all four seating positions. As good as his slumber is up front, he would be even more comfortable in the back. Plus, he could have used the new rear seat remote to control the climate and infotainment functions.
Audi paid attention to the details, too. Accent lighting is used throughout the cabin. Press a button on an air vent, watch it retract, and a panel covers its position in an impressive dance. The doors are electrically activated, and they even use the blind-spot cameras to make sure they won’t open if a bike or car is coming; the doors also have soft-closing mechanisms.
The tech is a step forward, too. No screen juts up from the dash, as is the trend nowadays. Instead, Audi integrates one 10.1-inch screen into the panel, and another just below it into the center console. The top screen handles infotainment commands, while the lower screen controls climate functions and recognizes handwriting, which used to require a separate pad. When entering commands such as navigation destinations or point of interest names, users can now write the whole name at once with a fingertip instead of scrawling one letter at a time and pausing between letters.