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2008 Audi A8L 4.2 Quattro Road Test
The President's Ride
By Doug Neilson
The week after an Audi A8L 4.2 Quattro showed up on my doorstep, I drove to work in the lap of luxury, supported by a beautiful lounge-like 16-way adjustable leather driver's seat and surrounded by an upscale version of Audi's renowned interior design and technology that the company has become famous for over the past several years.
The cabin was serene, protecting me from the elements and noise as I crawled along with the busy morning traffic. I could not tell if it was my uncharacteristic relaxed state of mind, the time of year, or if the other drivers were giving way to the large masterpiece of machinery I was driving, but the drive into work seemed to be a breeze compared with the usual struggle.
At the wheel of this top-line Audi, one's sight and touch are continuously fed inputs that create a profound state of relaxation and comfort within. The interior aesthetics and layout are nothing short of elegant. The eyes pick up a very intuitive and logical design, expertly finished in high quality leather, alcantera, exotic wood, and brushed aluminum.
The outward vision from the driver's seat is also excellent, with minimal blind spots and reassuring views of the edges of this rather large vehicle, very necessary when performing parking manoeuvres. One's tactile sense is comforted when grasping the leather-wrapped steering wheel or when operating a given high-quality button or switch for the many features included.
The steering wheel provides an insulated but sufficient level of feedback from the road surface and varies realistically with speed to further enhance the experience.
Perhaps the most endearing aspect of the A8L is its ride quality which is credited by its long wheelbase (up 130 mm from the standard A8's 2,974 mm to 3,074 mm) and its dynamic air suspension system. Not only do these attributes create a smooth compliant ride, but they also blend in a near sporting firmness when set in dynamic mode, as the air suspension delivers firm, flat cornering and surprising agility.
Speaking of sporting, by slipping the six-speed Tiptronic transmission into Sport mode, one is afforded enhanced engine response and longer, sharper shift points by the transmission. This mode is actually much more enjoyable than the 'manual' mode Tiptronic selection. However, the standard Drive mode is perhaps most fitting to this luxurious vehicle, as it provides smooth, near seamless shifts even when pushed, promoting again both relaxation and comfort.
The 4.2L V8 FSI (direct injection) engine provides ample power to propel this 1,995 kg vehicle and it does so with authority, refinement and a nicely muffled intake growl. Boasting a peak power value of 350 hp at 6,800 rpm and 325 ft-lb of torque at 3,500 rpm, it is ready for any situation when mated to the aforementioned, silky smooth six-speed transmission and the Quattro all-wheel drive system. The latter works invisibly in the background to keep you safely gripping the road.
Another reason for the spirited performance is the lightweight body and Audi space frame (ASF) technology. According to Audi, there is a weight savings of almost 40% versus the calculated weight of an equivalent car built entirely of steel, so usable power, economy and agility are all greatly improved.
The body structure is also notably sound and rigid, further enhancing this solid, yet nimble, luxury sedan.
The braking system is an equal match for the big Audi's progressive abilities with superb feel and allowing excellent modulation. In all, the Audi A8L is an impressive all-round package of luxury, space, performance, technology and safety.
At the end of each workday, I was comforted by the fact I would be driving home in the executive A8L -- it became my own personal sanctuary. Honestly, one cannot fully appreciate a car of this measure until you have the opportunity to drive one. Then, and only then, will you feel just like the privileged executive types Audi designed it for.
For 2008, the Audi A8 and A8L receives a minor exterior tidy with that includes new exterior mirrors, new wheel designs and new-look LED taillights. While under the skin the steering and suspension have been slightly recalibrated to further improve the already excellent connection with the tarmac.
Doug Neilson is a freelance writer based in Calgary, Alta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2008 CarTest.ca.