Audi attains a weight savings of 50 percent by crafting the body of its A8L W12 from aluminum instead of steel. Then it adds a 450-hp V12 engine, which further complicates the auto’s anatomy. This high-line version of the A8 has all-wheel drive, and its adaptive air suspension system places sophisticated mechanisms at the sedan’s four corners to change its height and spring stiffness according to road conditions and driving style. Adaptive cruise control, a $2,100 option, relies on expensive sensors mounted in the car’s front end. Replacing them even after a minor head-on collision can cost a bundle.
Of all the cars here, Audi’s aluminum A8L is palpably the most sporting interpretation. From its flat ride to its meaty steering feel to its blipped-throttle downshifts in manumatic mode, the Audi is infused with a boldness that belies its stretched-limo appearance. Yet if you were picked up by your driver one evening, from the moment you ducked inside the leather-lined, wood-trimmed compartment and settled into one of the supportive seats, the experience would feel first-class.
We scored the Audi’s rear-seat comfort the same as that of the Lexus, which is only surprising until you notice that the Audi is almost an inch wider and 1.6 inches longer. It simply doesn’t look like the larger of the two. Nor does it drive like a particularly large car. For the gearheads at this magazine, the integration of size and maneuverability was seductive, and the A8L trailed the Benz by just one point when the votes were tallied.
Indeed, the Audi needs the more powerful engine that it got for 2007. Although the 4.2-liter V-8 pulls steadily with a linear increase in urgency and a mellifluous exhaust note, it can’t match the accelerative prowess of its rivals. This may matter on the straights, but the Audi is another animal altogether when the road gets all wrinkly.
Despite its damped responses in the lane-change test, where even large inputs fail to upset the chassis, the A8L takes to the twisties with an agile precision, cleaving to the driver’s lines and resisting spurious body motions. The controls feel right in tune with what the driver is doing, and the paddle switches for the manumatic produce fast, crisp shifts, with rousing throttle blips during downshifts to synchronize all rotating components.
It’s a heady combination, helped quite a bit by tasteful interior design and good ergonomics. Audi’s Multi Media Interface is easier to use than BMW’s iDrive or Mercedes-Benz’s new knob-controlled COMAND device, even though MMI operates on the same principle. The charm of the car lies mainly in its engaging persona.
The clean, classic design of the car’s interior was designed to not only offer its occupants the very best in luxury, but also to guarantee its passengers the highest level of comfort. The superb craftsmanship of the A8’s interior is apparent at first glance. From its genuine real wood inlays to its beautiful Valcona leather seats and high center console, the interior design is the perfect combination of luxury and sportiness.
All five passengers enjoy unequaled seating comfort (or for more exclusive comfort, the A8 L W12 is designed to accommodate four in supreme luxury) Driver and front passenger are enveloped in ergonomic power seats that can be adjusted 16-ways and were designed for superior body contouring. Front seat heating, cooling, electrically adjusting lumbar support and front massage functions are optional. The rear seats can be optioned with electrically adjusting lumbar support as well.
An automatic four-zone heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system offering a separate control for all four outboard passengers is optional. The HVAC system incorporates indirect ventilation that provides a continuous exchange of cabin air yet prevents drafts. To be certain all this climate-controlled comfort is delivered efficiently and unobtrusively, the HVAC operating system itself has been engineered with refined acoustic properties.
Between the front seats is the first of two main components of the Audi Multi Media Interface, the MMI.TM The Audi MMI is an intuitive electronics control system that consists of a turn-and-push control knob surrounded by eight function keys, as well as an seven-inch retractable color screen. Audi MMI provides operation, adjustment, and control of onboard electronics — everything from the sound system, and driver-selected suspension set up to the navigation system.
The MMI command center is set in the center console behind the shift selector and forward of the center armrest within easy, comfortable reach. Atop the center console near the dash is a seven-inch retractable color monitor for easy reference of MMI operations. A three-inch monitor in the center of the instrument panel displays basic operating information.
All 2006 Audi A8 models are equipped with the Bluetooth® interface for mobile telephones, which can be operated through the multifunction steering wheel or the MMI system. The standard voice recognition system can also control the Bluetooth interface, as well as, the CD player, radio and navigation system.
Riding on Air
Audi engineers have given the 2006 A8 a suspension system that resolves the classic conflict between luxury and sport suspensions — luxury being too soft for sport, and sport too stiff for luxury. A fully pneumatic suspension system gives the A8 an unrivaled combination of ride and handling performance.
The Audi Adaptive Air Suspension system starts with an aluminum four-link front axle layout and a trapezoidal-link rear axle for responsive handling and precise steering. Air spring struts at all four wheels, with sensors to continually monitor and infinitely adjust the air strut damping, instantly and perfectly match the suspension response to ever- changing road and driving conditions.
The Audi Adaptive Air Suspension system also affords driver selection of varying ground clearance and damping rate to match the suspension set-up to road conditions and driving style. Self-leveling helps keep the A8 in steady equilibrium regardless of load.
The unique design of the W12 engine is the result of joining two narrow-angle V6 engines at the crankshaft with a 72-degree angle between the banks. Advantages of this engine design are three-fold; stronger rigidity, shorter length, and shorter height as compared to conventional V12 engines. The smaller dimensions of this engine allowed designers enough room for Audi’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive system. The principle is simple: in the same way that four brakes ensure better deceleration, four driven wheels enable better acceleration and cornering stability. Audi quattro all-wheel drive is the systematic application of this basic physical principle. The results of all this engineering are a staggering 450 horsepower at 6200 revolutions per minute and 428 lbs. ft of torque between 4000-4700 rpm. More than 95% of the engine’s peak torque is available between 2300 and 5300 rpm. All of this power – along with a six-speed Tiptronic? automatic transmission, quattro all-wheel drive, and the car’s lightweight aluminum construction – allows the A8 L W12 to accelerate to 60 miles per hour in a mere 5.0 seconds.
The six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission found in every A8 offers a choice of operating and driving styles. For fully automatic convenience, simply place the gear selector in Drive (“D”). For added performance, a Sport mode (“S”) delays the automatic up-shifts for higher revs and a more spirited acceleration, while automatic downshifts occur faster during deceleration for added control with engine-brake and low-end torque. Whichever shift mode is selected, a Direct Shift Program (DSP) monitors and “learns” the primary operator’s driving style and then automatically selects from among 200 programmed shift patterns to optimize the gear changes for any given driving behavior, resulting in a nearly personalized transmission mode.
For drivers who prefer to manually select gears, the shift selector can be moved to the Tiptronic shift gate to the right of “D.” In this position, the driver can move the gear selector forward for up shifts and backward for downshifts. For an even sportier feel, the 2006 A8 can be equipped with shift paddles on the steering wheel when the optional four- spoke segmented wood/ leather steering wheel is selected.
Adding to the stability, traction and performance of the 2006 A8 is the legendary Audi quattro® permanent all-wheel drive system and rack-and-pinion steering with Servotronic®. The quattro system uses a Torsen® center differential and transfers power front-to-back and side-to-side to maintain the best traction, while Servotronic vehicle speed-sensitive power steering assist delivers a consistent feel and excellent driving control.
Dual front airbags incorporate two-stage, dual threshold activation for greater safety with reduced force. Three-point front and rear seat belts with automatic pretensioning take up slack just before a collision to ensure proper belt positioning and optimum restraint. Front seat belt force limiters ease off the restraining pressure as forward momentum is slowed. Active front head restraints pivot forward to reduce the risk of head and neck injury in a rear collision.
In the event of a side collision, front and rear seat mounted side-impact airbag supplemental restraints provide additional protection for outboard occupants. The Audi SideguardTM airbag curtain supplemental restraint covers the side windows from front to back to provide additional protection for outboard passenger head and chest areas and to reduce the chance of shattered glass flying into the cabin and injuring passengers. Additional protection for front seat riders is provided by knee airbags.
Six crash sensors — two each in front, on each side and in the rear of the car — improve airbag deployment rate and timing. Additionally, these sensors can switch on hazard lights, shut off the engine and fuel pumps, unlock the doors, and switch on interior lighting.
An Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP®) integrates an Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Anti Slip Regulation (ASR) traction control, Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution (EBD) and hydraulic brake assist for improved vehicle control under various emergency or potentially dangerous situations.
Additional safety features include the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) system to assist in the proper installation of child safety seats in the rear outboard seating positions, and three-point safety belts and head restraints for all five seating positions. LED lighting technology used in the taillights increases visibility from the rear while standard equipment Bi-Xenon high intensity low- and high-beam headlights with automatic self-leveling illuminate the roadway ahead. Two front and two rear fog lights add to illumination and visibility in inclement weather.
The A8 L W12 offers an extensive range of amenities that customers in this segment have come to expect. Standard luxury features consist of a Bose? 12-speaker surround-sound system with six-disk CD player, DVD-based navigation, Audi phone preparation with Bluetooth and voice control for phone, radio, CD and navigation, dual paned security glass, Advanced Key keyless entry and engine start system, four-zone automatic climate control, front and rear Parktronic? Acoustic Parking System, power side door and trunk lid closers, electric side and rear window sun shades, and rain sensing windshield wipers . The A8 L W12 now includes a wood-segment steering wheel in its standard equipment.
Traveling in the rear of the A8 L W12 promises to be an even more relaxing affair. Developed by quattro GmbH, the standard Rear Seat Entertainment system combines two 6.5” LCD monitors in the headrests of the driver and front passenger seats, and a remote- controlled 6-disc DVD changer in the luggage compartment. This supremely equipped sedan can thus be transformed into a mobile multimedia center.
Vehicle Type: 4-door sedan,
Fuel Mileage: Unavailable
Configuration: Front Engine/AWD
Displacement: 5998 cc
Horsepower: 450 bhp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 428 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Max RPM: Unavailable
Transmission: 6-Speed Tiptronic
Track (f/r): Unavailable
0-60 mph: 5.0 sec
0-100 mph: Unavailable
¼ mile: Unavailable
Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)
Lateral acceleration: Unavailable
Braking 60-0 mph: Unavailable