When the all new 2011 Audi A8 was delivered to my care for an entire weekend, I couldn’t wait to take it for a spin, but wait I did. It took the delivery guy about 45 minutes to go over all of the features of the car, and I didn’t even test drive the model with all the features offered.
At first glance, the most notable difference is the new body style. The tail lights more closely resemble the A4 and A6, while the front grill, simply put, just looks mean. The LED lights on the front lamps only add to the car’s imposing stare. Several people actually got out of my way on the road when they saw the grill in their rearview mirror.
While the outside was a gorgeous site to behold, the interior is what really knocked me out. Everything in the interior was carefully thought out, placed, and constructed by Audi. For example, Audi is not a fan of fingerprints, therefore, the material on the steering wheel, gear shift and center console does not show fingerprints. The central onboard system does not have a touch screen, but rather a central knob that controls everything. They even designed the arm rest to push forward, allowing the driver to perfectly rest his or her wrist on the gear shift and comfortably navigate through the car’s computer with ease while driving.
The seats come equipped with a heater and air conditioner that senses when the seat has been sufficiently heated or cooled, a rolling massager, and seat adjustment that enables the driver to contour the seat to their specific body. Dual temperature controls ensure both driver and passenger are comfortable.
The engine also does not disappoint. With a 4.2 L, 372 HP DOHC V-8 engine, this car is sure to get you where you want to go in rapid fashion. The new model is more economical in the fuel department, getting around 18mpg around town and 25mpg on the highway. There are three transmission options available to the driver, the standard automatic, the sport drive automatic, which allows the rpms to rev slightly higher, giving it more power, and the manual paddle shifting option.
Another source of enjoyment was the media capabilities of the car. It comes with an actual hard drive, which can save around 3,000 songs, rendering your digital music accessory unnecessary. The car can also download your cell phone’s contact list and store it on the hard drive. No more fumbling for numbers. The phone book is also voice activated through the bluetooth system. The navigation system not only appears on the center screen, but on the drivers console as well, making it easy to follow directions without having to look away from the road or listen to an annoying voice.
After sufficiently oohing and ahhing over the car and it’s features, the real test began. I took to the road. I took the car on side streets, freeways, through construction zones, over potholes, and railroad tracks. You name it, I did it. What I noticed was, no matter how smooth or rough the road, I never felt a bump while driving. It was like driving on glass.
I took the car up to Mulholland Drive and took turns with a speed limit of 35mph at about 60mph. The car hugged the road and cornered on rails. The acceleration was amazing, considering the size of the car. It responded immediately when I touched the gas peddle. The braking system was equally impressive.
One feature I desperately wanted to test, but didn’t have the nerve to was the cruise control setting. The car has a feature that allows it to track the car in front of it. If the cruise control is set at 75mph, if the car in front of it were to slow down, the car would sense it and slow down to match the speed of the vehicle being followed. If the car in front of it were to come to a complete stop, without assistance from the driver, the A8 would also come to a complete stop. While the guy from Audi swore the feature worked, I decided to take his word, just in case.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the car and was loathe to hand over the keys. There were a few things I was not keen on. While I loved the sport drive option, I found the manual paddle shifters to be quite tedious. As a dedicated manual transmission enthusiast, I found it a less than thrilling substitute for the magic of a clutch and gear shift. The placement of the paddles made it impossible to manually shift through the hair pin turns on Mulholland Dr. I also found the Navigation system less user friendly than I would have liked. I’m sure with practice, usage comes with ease, however, trying to figure it out on the fly took me a solid 15 minutes.
Overall I was quite impressed with the new A8. Audi will very surely be giving BMW and Mercedes a run for their money in the luxury car market. At around $78,000 sticker price, the model I drove had me thinking people who say money can’t buy happiness, never drove the 2011 A8. Even when I ran into the typical Los Angeles traffic, instead of the usual road rage, I simply turned on my seat heater and massager, cranked up the splendid Bose speakers, and patiently sat in traffic, a satisfied smile on my face.