Audi A8 Review  

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2008 Audi A8 L quattro Sedan

Ever the most advanced car in the company's lineup, the flagship Audi A8 is a full-size luxury sedan meant to appeal to wealthy consumers looking for maximum luxury and space. Although competing models from the premium German and Japanese marques may sell in greater numbers, the A8 does possess a distinct advantage because of its aluminum frame and body panels. Significantly lighter than a traditional steel frame, the Audi Space Frame (ASF), as it's called, helps offset the bulk of the car's quattro all-wheel-drive system; the A8's competitors are primarily rear-wheel drive.

Thanks to the quattro system, winter-weather capability is one of the A8's strengths. Luxurious accommodations are another, though the current model, which dates to 2004, is considerably more opulent and feature-laden than the original sedan. In addition, the Audi A8 is available in regular- and long-wheelbase sizes. In long-wheelbase form, it's called the A8 L and can be had with V8 or W12 power.

As redesigns go, Audi's 2004 overhaul of the A8 is likely one of the most successful on record. The current generation Audi A8 offers a near perfect blend of luxury, performance, amenities and style, and is one of our favorite full-size luxury sedans. Cabin furnishings are best-in-class, and thanks to Audi's logically designed Multi Media Interface (MMI), accessing the car's numerous audio, climate and navigation functions is as simple as it gets in the luxury car world. Rear-seat room is adequate in the regular-wheelbase model; while opting for the A8 L model, which has a 6-inch-longer wheelbase, provides more than enough legroom for a pair of 6-footers.

Initially, Audi offered only a 4.2-liter V8 on the A8. It's a smooth and refined engine, and most buyers will find acceleration more than ample, although our editors have noted that the car's six-speed automatic transmission can occasionally be slow to respond. In 2005, Audi added the W12 as an option on the A8 L model, and it's the engine to get if you're splurging on your luxury sedan purchase. Smaller than a traditional V12 but no less potent, Audi's W12 consists of two narrow-angle V6s joined at the crankshaft. Equipped with this engine, the Audi A8 reaches 60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

Regardless of which engine you choose, you'll be impressed by the big sedan's ride and handling characteristics. The driver-adjustable air suspension provides a comfortable ride without excessive float over bumps, and if you take the A8 around a few corners, it proves surprisingly agile with nicely weighted steering.

The first-generation Audi A8 was offered from 1997 to 2003. Although it was one of the most technologically advanced cars on the market by virtue of its aluminum frame, it never had its successor's flair for style or performance. Understated in its adornments inside and out, the original A8 failed to deliver the over-the-top ambience that's so important for high-dollar luxury sedans sold in the U.S. However, if you like the idea of owning a more discreet luxury car, you can buy a used A8 for considerably less than you'd pay for a used BMW or Mercedes.

Early A8s were offered only with a 113-inch wheelbase, which meant that their backseats were cramped compared to the other full-size luxury sedans. The longer and roomier A8 L arrived for the 2000 model year and would be our pick if you're planning to carry adults in back. Most first-generation models were sold with a 4.2-liter V8 and quattro all-wheel drive. Thusly equipped, the Audi A8 was one of the quickest large luxury sedans of its day, though the V8 was deficient in off-the-line torque. It was a comfortable car, but not a particularly entertaining one due to overly soft suspension tuning. Audi also offered a less expensive front-wheel-drive model from 1997 to 1999. This rare A8 had a small 3.7-liter V8 and a modest 8.3-second 0-60 time.

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