Can I afford to reveal the big climax? Yes, I can. This isn’t the hibernating Harry Potter reboot everyone’s been waiting for, and besides, the economic and health conditions prevailing all around us mean life and work, both are short. So without wasting your precious quaran-time, I’m just going to say that the Audi A8L is one of the most impressive cars I’ve been in.
I have no doubt you’ll resonate with my findings if you have the chance to explore it too. Now, since we have to delve deeper into the how’s and why’s, get yourself a Dalgona and an avocado on toast first. This car is as up to date as technology allows and you should be with the times while reading about it too…
Hey, good lookin’
As a captain of an industry, what drives you? The usual tropes would be progress, success and leadership values. In the automotive world, the answer to that question would be simply an S-Class. Truth be told, the big Merc is what most CEOs park in their garage more often than not and the flagship Audi has a big climb ahead of it to dethrone it. Thankfully, this all-new A8L has what it takes, and if social media is the new measure of desire, the A8L secured a 50% vote in the ring with the S-Class, surprisingly! Does that mean the modern CEO is ready to break the status quo? Perhaps, and if he/she did so with the A8L, there wouldn’t be much room for disappointment, unless you want that hood ornament aiming you towards the herd.
Like with most Audi’s, careful evolution has made way for a design that looks perfected by time. The A8 in India will only be available in the long-wheelbase variant and that gives it a silhouette that is regal and futuristic at the same time. Its suit is sharper than ever, with a face that is bolder and assertive without resorting to a Bane-like mouthpiece, the sides are more sinewy than ever with muscled wheel arches and strong character lines, while the back is beautifully neat with an OLED strip running across the entire width and merging the tail lights together. It’s modern art in metal and a design that will not age. For a very, very long time, at least!
Tech me up, please
But, of course, we aren’t Art Review, so let’s step inside and snuggle up in our comfort space. Around tech, that is. There are more toys in here than a Hamleys, but it has to be the most elegant presentation of tech this side of a Bentley. Using touchscreens everywhere, the A8L personifies the Audi Virtual Cockpit concept and amps it up to 11. A giant 10.1in screen on the top of the dash is where all the action is, and it’s clear, crisp and intuitive. With large, square icons, it’s always harder to miss while driving on our roads. It’s a smartphone-inspired interface so you’ll never ever feel the need to refer to the owner’s manual. The amount of control it offers, though, is staggering and coupled with a slightly smaller touchscreen mounted under it – all the car/infotainment and climate controls are split between the two. Even the ambient lighting can be controlled individually for different surfaces, ultimately turning it into your own private club. It creates the ambience alright, with two fragrances of perfume and an air ioniser onboard too, making this the perfect apocalypse grocery run vehicle, as I discovered during this lockdown period.
Since this is the ‘L’ version, there is more attention lavished on the rear occupants, but that doesn’t mean those in the front don’t get their share of opulence. The ventilated front seats are fully powered with memory function and massage. A wireless phone charging pad and a phone box that uses the built-in antenna ensure you’re always in touch and always intelligible to your callers. Using not one but two NVIDIA K1 processors to handle the HD resolution and graphics for the dual MMI and the digital instrument cluster, the A8L is fast to respond to any command or input. While the voice recognition is purely a check list item, thankfully, support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto eliminates the need for it. Regardless of what you use, entertainment is almost guaranteed, thanks to a 23-speaker, 1920-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system that gives you control over the degree of sound “spread” and the amount of 3D effect you like. It’s not as cohesive as Volvo’s Bowers & Wilkins system nor as surreal sounding as the S-Class’ Burmester option, but it is an easy-sounding system that forsakes accuracy for high drama. I wish the low end was tauter and punchier though.
One of the most impressive bits of kit in the front is the 360-degree surround view live camera which stitches up all the different images from cameras around the car to actually give you a rolling view from any angle of the car! It’s almost like watching yourself drive from the outside and the best implementation of surround view cam tech I’ve seen on any car. The resolution itself needs improvement, though, and that’s been an old Audi ailment. Elsewhere, little touches like motion-sensing ambient lighting in door pockets lights up when you fumble around for your wallet at night, voice prompt that reminds you that you’ve forgotten your phone in the car when you exit and matrix reading lights that let you precisely focus the illumination where you desire. Ahem.
The King’s throne
Moving to the back seat and the executive seating immediately sets the tone for luxury. A central control unit conceals cup holders, phone box and a nifty removable touchscreen remote that controls all the blinds, panoramic sunroof, massage functions and rear climate control. It’s a responsive little unit and very handy to be shared amongst the rear occupants. Even in its resting pod, it’s angled upwards and housed in the highest quality of matt finish aluminium. The individual rear seats also get their own recline controls as physical buttons on the central console. The biggest party trick, of course, is the left rear seat that gets the royal treatment with a single touch orchestra that folds the front seat, reveals the foot rest, sets the rear seat in full recline position and starts the foot massage actuators, all with a single press of a button, or a tap on the remote. If this is what opulence feels like, I’d like to apply for that CEO position now, if anyone’s listening.
Once settled in, the creamy V6 only makes its presence felt when the driver stomps on the accelerator. The quietness inside the cabin is eerie and the pace, rapid. The 340bhp/500Nm petrol motor in this 55TFSI variant isn’t the sportiest in Audi’s arsenal, but it does well to keep all four wheels driven. The ride is supple without being too soft, even on the massive 19in wheels. It even sounds sporty when you do give it the beans and can even be fun behind the wheel in Dynamic mode. There’s dynamic damper control and the Audi Drive Select options will let you dial in just the amount of steering effort, suspension firmness and transmission responsiveness you like, or you could just leave it all in Auto mode and let the A8L’s big brains do all the work. It’s a car you’ll forget the chore of driving in, especially within the city and in traffic. Sure, you’ll be wary at first but the plethora of cams and it’s low ride height (which can be raised) always makes you feel like you’re in control. You could very well be sipping on a glass of bubbly taken from the fridge that resides between the rear seats and be watching Ozark on Netflix on your private 10in screen that resides on the back of the front seat and take three hours to get to your destination and still not care!
The eternal comparison with the 7 series and the S-Class is getting old. This new A8L deserves its own pedestal. The way all its technologies work harmoniously, regardless of where you’re seated in the car is incredible. It has enough toys and tricks to keep you entertained for hours, even without driving. Things like the motorised AC vents that roll up when you fire up the ignition, along with the rising B&O tweeters from the front of the dash. Things like the delicious haptic feedback from all the virtual buttons – even the AC vent flow is a touchpad! And then there is the quality of every surface with a design that is bound to be timeless, inside and out.
The Audi A8L deserves recognition as a masterful piece of engineering, one that befits even the mightiest of castles and their oligarchs. To drive that point home, quite literally, select Audi showrooms also have a complete VR kit that will enable potential buyers to view their desired options in complete detail, right down to the colour of the stitching on the leather seats! Audi is indeed making up for lost time and lead, and the A8L is a superb weapon of choice to get back to the top of the uber luxury game.