Wednesday, May 10, 2017


A full redesign of the Audi A8L sedan is in the works for 2018, and if the 2017 model is any indication, the new version should really be something.

Serving as Audi’s flagship vehicle for over 20 years, the A8 doesn’t garner the attention or plaudits of its Teutonic brethren in the full-size, luxury sedan segment, but it is every bit the equal of the Mercedes-Benz S Class or BMW 7-Series when it comes to sophistication, performance, comfort, and good looks.

That it may be underrated or under-appreciated lies more with the biases of reviewers than it is anything Audi has or hasn’t done with the A8. 

With the W12 and diesel versions on hold for at least a while, the Audi A8L comes with the choice of one of two engines for 2017.

A turbocharged, 3.0-liter V6 sends 333 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels via Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system, and a turbo, 4.0-liter V8 ups the numbers to 450 and 440, respectively. Both get an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters for manual gear selection if desired.

The difference in performance is just over a second in zero-to-60 mph times with the V8 accomplishing it in 4.4 seconds and the V6 in 5.5, according to the company. Fuel economy is only slightly better with the V6. EPA figures are 19 miles-per-gallon city, an impressive 29 highway, and 22 combined for the V6 compared to 18/29/22 for the V8.

Essentially, then, the choice basically comes down to your willingness to pony up $9,000 more for the V8 over the starting MSRP of $82,500 for the V6. But you won’t be disappointed with the V6.

Operating mostly in Sport and dynamic modes, I found that the V6 offers all except what the most power-hungry would want out of a full-size luxury vehicle in the way of performance and without infringing on the comfort of more, um, sensitive passengers. The ride is extremely smooth as even in dynamic setting bumps are absorbed with alacrity.

The L, for long wheelbase, is standard on both the V6 and V8 models, which means backseat riders get up to 42.9 inches of legroom. Despite its length of 207.4 inches, however, the trunk space is kind of stingy for the segment, only 14.2 cubic feet. Both the S-Class sedan and BMW 7-Series sedan offer more.

The list of standard features is what you would expect from the class. Navigation, lots of leather, suede trim, Audi’s MMI interface for operation of infotainment features, full LED headlights (daytime running, high and low beam, turn signals), four-zone climate control, keyless entry and start-stop, Audi Parking System Plus with rearview camera, and Bluetooth hands-free communication are included.

My test vehicle came with extras like 20-inch, 10-spoke wheels over standard 18s, a panoramic sunroof, top-view camera system, head-up display, Valcona sport seats with diamond stitching, rear-seat comfort package with ventilation and massage functions on outboard rear seats, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist. Add the $950 destination and delivery charge the total price ran to $92,500, which included a $5,400 executive package credit.

Even that price makes the A8 one of the bargains in the segment.

With buyers apparently holding off until the 2018 comes out (sales for the 2017 A8 were only 291 vehicles in April compared to 330 for April 2016 and are down 17.6 percent for the year over the first four months of last year), some good offers could be forthcoming on the 2017 Audi A8.

Also, one of the major updates for the 2018 A8 is expected to be in the area of technological features. It will be interesting to see what that will include. What’s next in tech features? Are our cars going to do our taxes some day? Let’s hope that the Germans avoid their usual tendency of over-complicating these tech refinements.

Styling no doubt will get some attention, too, but a radical departure in overall appearance isn’t likely. So you’re not going to be all that much dated if you go with a 2017 A8.

What I liked about the 2017 Audi A8L: This is a good size sedan that rides and handles like a smaller vehicle. As noted earlier, operating in Sport and Dynamic modes provides a fun driving experience.

What I didn’t like about the 2017 Audi A8L: The dial for operating the MMI interface for audio and navigation features is placed at an odd spot just in front of the gear shifter. The driver has to reach forward to turn the knob. It needs to moved back a bit so that your hand falls naturally at the right spot. More irritating, however, is responses to voice commands. It was the most frustrating I’ve ever dealt with. No, dammit, I want Channel 55, not 50s on 5!

Would I buy the 2017 Audi A8L? Yes. Even with a redesign coming up, you’re not going to have buyer’s remorse if you opt for the 2017 A8L.

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