The all-new 2011 Audi A8 is an impressive combination of high performance and high technology. High performance in the form of a luxury sedan powered by a 372-horsepower V8 that's capable of hitting 60 miles per hour from a dead stop in just 5.5 seconds or comfortably cruising for hours on end at speeds well in excess of 100 mph. High technology in the forms of onboard navigation and sound systems managed either by voice commands or by a laptop computer-like touch pad embedded in the center console next to a shift lever modeled after the throttle control for high-end yachts. All for a starting price below $79,000.
A new, limousine-like A8L is available as well, featuring an extra-roomy back seat that can be decked out with reclining seats, a powered footrest, and a built-in refrigerator. The basics, in other words.
A true luxury car, the 2011 Audi A8 comes standard with real leather trim and upholstery, all the requisite power-assisted features, Bose surround sound and a voice-recognition navigation system. Standard running gear comprises the aforementioned V8, a slick 8-speed automatic with available column-mounted paddle shifters, Audi's trademark quattro all-wheel drive and low-profile tires on alloy wheels.
Among the more noteworthy options available either in packages or individually are a Bang & Olufsen surround system with 19 speakers and a 1,400-watt amplifier, ventilated and massaging seats, rearview camera, sports suspension, heated steering wheel and, for the A8L, a rear seat entertainment center with a pair of 10-inch LCD screens and individual audio controls.
Looks-wise, the new A8 carries on with Audi's easily recognized trapezoidal grille and LED taillights. New for 2011 (and what Audi claims is a first for passenger cars) is the application of that LED technology to the A8's headlamps. Available only as a stand-alone option, these lamp assemblies use LEDs and only LEDs for all lighting functions, as in, high beam, low beam, turn indicators and side marker and running lights. The carefully arrayed LEDs produce an even, wide pattern of very white light with no hot spots.
Audi didn't neglect the driving experience, as the new 2011 A8 is both a superbly capable luxury cruiser, as would be expected given the market and the price point, and, when properly optioned, a refreshingly fun to drive sports sedan.
The quattro system effectively and invisibly neutralizes any tendency on the car's part to understeer (where it wants to go straight when the driver wants it to turn) or to oversteer (when it tends to turn more sharply than the driver wants), making the car quicker to respond to changes in direction while remaining drama free. Likewise, directional stability on long straight stretches of road inspires confidence.
Audi's MMI multi-media interface employs a touchpad embedded in the center console to control the navigation and sound systems. The pad is multi-talented, offering functions ranging from back lighted number displays for audio presets or owner-programmed functions to scrolling through displayed menus to handwriting recognition (printed block letters and numbers) for keying in navigational requests, like addresses or city names.
While some of the electronics gee-whizardry may be a bit overdone (really, a touch pad?) the new 2011 A8 is an impressive achievement.
The 2011 Audi A8 comes in two models, the A8 ($78,050) and the A8L ($84,000). Both are four-door sedans, but the A8L has a 5-inch longer wheelbase. Both are powered by a 372-horsepower V8 with an 8-speed Tiptronic transmission and Audi's trademark quattro all-wheel drive.
Standard features include charcoal filtered automatic dual zone climate control; heated power front seats; leather upholstery and leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift lever; the usual trio of powered accessories plus the rear sunshade, tilt and telescope steering column and tilt and slide glass sunroof; cruise control; keyless start/stop; auto-dim inside mirror with compass; voice-recognition navigation system and premium Bose surround sound system sharing an 8-inch color display supplemented by a 7-inch driver information display in the instrument cluster; HD and satellite radio (the latter with 3-month trial subscription); programmable garage and gate remote; Bluetooth capability; cooled glove box; and 255/45R19 tires on alloy wheels.
The Audi A8L adds power door closing; power trunk; power rear side door window sunshades; four-spoke multi-function steering wheel with shift paddles; keyless entry; and front and rear parking sensors with rearview camera.
Options include a Premium Package ($2,000) with 22-way power adjustable, ventilated front seats with lumbar support and massage functions; Driver Assistance Package ($3,000) with adaptive cruise control, out-of-lane and blind spot warnings and pre-sense plus that warns of potential collision scenarios, including seat adjustments, window closings, emergency braking and seatbelt pre-tensioning; Cold Weather Package ($800) with heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and rear seat/trunk pass through; automatic four-zone climate control ($950) with separate controls for outboard rear seats; solar sunroof ($790) that powers the ventilation system to circulate fresh air while the ignition is off; thermal night vision ($2,300) with color-coded and audible driver warnings for highlighted pedestrians; dual pane acoustic and security glass ($600); Bang & Olufsen advanced sound system ($6,300) with 19 speakers and 1,400-watt amplifier; and full LED headlamp system ($1400) comprising high and low beams, turn signals and daytime running lights.
The A8 Convenience Package ($2,350) adds keyless entry, power trunk and the park assist system. The Sport Package ($5,900) includes 265/40R20 tires on 20-inch alloy wheels, dynamic steering (variable rate and assist), adaptive sports suspension, sport rear differential, the 22-way front seats and special leather upholstery.
One stand-alone option and two option packages offered only on the A8L capitalize on the roomier interior that the longer wheelbase provides. The stand-alone is a rear seat entertainment system ($3,000) with dual 10-inch LCD screens and individual media controls. The Rear Seat Comfort Package ($4,000) has reclining heated power rear seats, rear seat ventilation, four-zone climate control and rear vanity mirrors. The Executive Rear Seat Package ($12,500) essentially gives the back seat the limousine treatment by combining the Comfort Package with the rear seat entertainment system, giving one seat a power foot rest and installing a 10.4-liter refrigerator in an extended center console. The A8L Drive Select Plus Package ($2,300) adds the sport differential and dynamic steering.
Safety features comprise frontal airbags and front and rear side-impact and curtain airbags; electronic stability control with brake assist; traction control; ABS; EBD; braking pre-sense; all-wheel drive; tire pressure monitoring system; and rear seat child safety seat anchors (LATCH). The optional Driver Assistance Package adds the out-of-lane and blind spot warnings and the active braking and seatbelt pre-tensioning.