Just as winter has arrived in Westeros, spring attempts to gain traction in Chicago, but winter won’t let go. A trip to Wisconsin during a mid-April snowstorm gave me more time to learn more about the 2019 Audi A8 L than when I drove it in Spain for our initial review. This time, I could drive it like I owned it, use the infotainment system to listen to George R.R. Martin’s “A Dance With Dragons,” and test it on horrible Midwestern pavement.
After 497 miles in the car, I was reassured that the A8 is a worthy competitor for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series. It’s packed with technology from the suspension to the cabin, and it all works quite well. How does it perform daily? Here are a few observations.
2019 Audi A8
2019 Audi A8 L
2019 Audi A8 L
The default settings are lazy
The A8 comes standard with Audi’s drive-mode selector with Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual settings to control the drivetrain, suspension, and steering. Leave the system in the default Comfort setting and the A8’s reactions are lazy, like Samwell Tarly in a sword fight. Specifically, the throttle response is lethargic and the air suspension allows wafting on the freeway and nose dive at stops.
Time to turn to the Individual mode. I set the A8’s powertrain to run in Sport mode (only Balanced and Sport are offered), and the suspension and steering to use the Balanced setting rather than Comfort or Sport. That brought the engine to life, stabilized the suspension without making it too firm, and added more heft to the light steering.
Most drivers will want to either play with the Individual settings or choose the pre-programmed setting that works best for them, but I wouldn’t suggest Comfort.
2019 Audi A8
The V-6 feels like a V-8
Audi uses its turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 in many vehicles, but nowhere does it feel as smooth as in the A8. The engine is teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission that provides almost imperceptible shifts. Power from the turbo V-6 flows in waves, and a heavy right foot makes those waves bigger. With its $101,000 sticker price, most buyers would expect a V-8 in a flagship sedan like the A8, but this car really doesn’t need it.
Outward vision is good, except…
Audi offers the A8 in standard and extended wheelbase body styles, but U.S. buyers get only the long-wheelbase A8 L, which is 5.1 inches longer than the standard wheelbase car. This body style uses an especially large B-pillar that can block the view out the passenger side of the car at stop signs, especially when intersections cross at an angle. Otherwise, it’s easy to see out of the A8.
2019 Audi A8
I like the dual touchscreens
Audi is all-in on touchscreens to control its MMI infotainment system in its new cars. The cars have dual touchscreens, one set up high for audio, phone, and other entertainment options, and the other set low for climate controls and handwritten inputs.
This is the first time I’ve lived with the system for an extended period of time. While I’ve been back and forth on the value of touchscreens, I found the haptic feedback of this system to be particularly satisfying. It almost felt like I was pushing a button when I touched the screen because it requires a purposeful press of the screen and it sounds a click through the audio system.
The system also includes wireless Apple CarPlay compatibility, which is much more convenient than the wired version in most new cars. However, when driving in an area with spotty cell phone coverage, that meant I kept losing access to CarPlay audio streaming and the system switched to the radio. It became particularly frustrating after about the sixth time it interrupted the tale of Ser Barristan Selmy arresting Hizdahr zo Loraq for attempting to poison Daenerys Targaryen with sweet and sour locusts.
HBO has done a great job with “Game of Thrones,” but the show has strayed far from the books. I’d like spring and summer to finally come to Chicago and George R.R. Martin to finish the final two books of his epic story of ice and fire so I can listen to them in a great car like the 2019 Audi A8.
2019 Audi A8 L quattro
Base price: $83,800
Price as tested: $101,095
EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 27 highway, 22 combined
The good: Smooth, quiet, comfortable, powerful, bristling with useful technology
The bad: Comfort settings make for a lazy drive, thick B-pillars block view to the sides