2007 Audi A8 L quattro AT6

By Jonathan Spira on 1 June 2007
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Someone who sits in an Audi A8 quattro L will inevitably feel like a VIP as this auto offers all of the conveniences and amenities one might expect if one were, for example, the Bundeskanzler (Federal Chancellor) of Germany.

In fact, former Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder picked a very similar car for his official vehicle (the Kanzlerwagen), although his had substantially more armor and security devices than mine did.  (Until that point, the Bundeskanzler had always been driven in a Mercedes.)

After spending a week with this automobile, one thing is clear: this car is meant to be ridden in.

Past its darkened panes, one immediately smells leather upon entering.  That’s because there is leather practically everywhere one looks, and even in some places one can’t see.

White ambient LED lighting and the elegant walnut brown wood inlays enhance the luxury mood.  The seats’ design makes one feel as if traveling in a private jet on wheels, although the rear seats lack the adjustments found in BMW 7er and Mercedes S-class models.

I fully expected to turn around from the driver’s seat and see the Chancellor in the back.

For the business traveler heading to a meeting, perhaps one with a government official, the A8 would appear to be the perfect mode of transportation.

Audi says theirs are the “world’s Most Intelligently Designed Cars” and the car is indeed very well designed.  The exterior is discreet.  It doesn’t scream money and therefore doesn’t call too much attention to the car (which is a good thing in many places).

The interior is smart.  There is great attention to small details, such as a lighted vanity mirror that has a magnification setting (hopefully not used while driving) and cup holders that chill one’s beverage.    The upper and lower dashboard as well as the door panels are all in leather with elegant stitching, as are the front seat back pockets.  The headliner and hat shelf are nicely finished in Alcantara (which happens to be a registered trademark for a type of ultra suede).  The driver and passenger each have an individually-adjusted armrest over the center console.

Storage space abounds including a curious “storage shelf” that pops out of the dashboard and seems suitable for holding one medium-sized chocolate chip cookie.  The trunk closer button fascinated the concierge and doorman at my condominium; one less thing to do manually, I suppose.

Turning the car on and off is fun: press the start button and a 5” flat screen display appears out of the wooden dashboard center; Bang and Olufsen speakers slowly rise in the far corners of the dashboard (although they do reflect into the windshield a bit.)

The B&O advanced sound system, which is among the best I’ve heard in a car, has one amplifier with four 125-watt channels and a 250-watt amplifier for the 12” subwoofer.  A second DSP amplifier is responsible for processing signals and nine 35-watt power amplifiers control the surround and tweeter speakers.  Did I mention that most of the speakers are finished in an elegant stainless steel treatment that sets off very nicely from the black leather doors? (Did I mention this option is $6300?)

The Audi Advanced Parking System goes beyond a rear-view camera or warning; it also helps plot a course of entry to a tight parking spot by displaying a path of entry on the MMI display.

Perhaps my only real point of contention is Audi’s Multi Media Interface, or MMI, system.  There are simply too many switches and dials, even though the point of MMI is to simplify control of a range of features including the entertainment system, telephone, satellite navigation, and ride dynamics.  BMW does this much better with its iDrive system and with far fewer buttons although Audi’s is definitely ahead of the rest of the pack in this area.

None of the mobile phones I tried (including the BlackBerry Pearl, the Sony Ericsson S710a, plus a Motorola Pebl and  Razr) worked with Audi’s Bluetooth system although Audi advises that many Motorola mobile phones (including some Razrs), as well as a few select ones from LG, Nokia, RIM, Palm, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson, will indeed function.
The satellite navigation system was easy to program and a secondary display in the cluster provided turn-by-turn directions without being distracting.  However, no traffic information is available.

The Audi A8 was introduced in 1994 although it first reached the U.S. in 1997.  It was considered rather innovative back then, thanks in part due to its all aluminum frame, which helped to significantly reduce weight without being any less rigid.  (Its lighter weight also helps offset the bulk of the car’s quattro all-wheel-drive system.)  The original A8 wasn’t particularly successful in the marketplace perhaps due to the sheer absence of any flair.  The current version is less understated and, when equipped with the W12 6.0-liter 450-horsepower engine, the A8 really moves.  The V8, however, is no slouch.

Audi also makes the S8 variant, which is powered by a version of the Lamborghini Gallardo’s V-10 engine, adding a stiffer version of the adjustable air suspension, a quicker steering ratio, and rear-biased quattro all-wheel drive.  It is available only in the standard wheelbase A8 platform and, with a base price of ca. $94,000, will undercut its rivals from BMW and Mercedes.

The quattro all-wheel drive system makes the car surefooted in treacherous winter weather (although our model was equipped with summer performance tires, which would have to be changed for winter driving).

The A8L has 5 inches of additional wheelbase, which are entirely devoted to rear-seat space. The sport package added 20” 7-Double Spoke alloy wheels, high performance summer tires, a multi-function sport steering wheel, and adaptive air suspension
In city driving, I found the car to be quite agile and it didn’t feel as if I were driving such a large vehicle. On the highway, there was too much of a disconnect between road and driver; I would have liked more road feel.  Overall the A8 is definitely an Autobahn cruiser designed for a quick run (at a steady 220 km/h) from Munich to a meeting in Berlin.

2007 Audi A8 L quattro AT6
Base price/price-as-tested $72,900/$97,970
Drivetrain Front engine, all-wheel drive with EDL (Electronic Differential Lock)
Engine 4.2-liter/350 hp/32-valve DOHC V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic transmission with tiptronic[BA1] (a feature that allows the driver to override the automatic mode and shift manually)
Curb weight 4409 lbs
Wheelbase 121.1 in
Length x width x height 204 x 74.6 x 57.3
0-100 km/h 5.6 seconds
EPA city/highway fuel economy (mpg) 18/25

–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.

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