I really, really like Audi’s big A8 sedan. It’s got everything you’d want in a high-end luxury car, plus the style and technology that Audi’s become famous for in recent years. “Flawless” might be a bit of an overstatement, but I’ve never really been able to find a flaw with it.
And besides being close to flawless, one thing I like about the A8 is that it’s not the usual choice in full-size luxury sedans. Mercedes-Benz S-Class? Yes, it’s been the sign of financial arrival for decades. The BMW 7-Series falls right behind it, and is a true flagship for the BMW brand.
But the A8 is a membership to a secret-handshake club of sorts. By buying one, you’re almost saying “Yes, I could have gotten an S-Class, but I didn’t. I purposely chose the Audi A8. If I have to explain why, you don’t understand.”
If there was one hiccup in the A8’s existence, it was the lack of a “green” variant of the car. If you want a more efficient BMW 7-Series, you can get their ActiveHybrid model, with improved fuel economy, especially in stop-and-go traffic. Likewise, there’s a hybrid version of the Mercedes S-Class, and a diesel model too.
For 2014, Audi is now offering the A8L (the longer wheelbase model) with its wonderful TDI clean diesel engine. Now, there’s a version of the car that’s more eco-friendly without giving up the power and smoothness that makes it so appealing.
If you’re unfamiliar with modern diesel technology, you should know that the “sacrifice” to owning one is pretty much nonexistent these days. Smooth, quiet, and powerful, a diesel engine in a large sedan or SUV makes perfect sense. And yes, lots and lots of gas stations carry the low-sulfur diesel fuel. Just start looking around; it’s out there.
Recently I got to put some miles on an A8L TDI, and it was an absolutely joy. Here are the basics. The engine is a 3.0 liter V6 turbodiesel that puts out 240 horsepower. That might not sound impressive, but the TDI’s torque rating is 406 lbs-ft., which is solidly in V8 territory. But no large V8 luxury sedan is able to match this car’s fuel economy ratings. The city and highway figures are 24 and 36, with a combined number of 28. For a large, heavy car, that borders on amazing.
And I was able to somewhat confirm those numbers. Dashing down to Orange County early on a Sunday morning at typical speeds attainable on wide-open freeways, I saw 34.5 mpg on the car’s trip computer. During my week with the car, the average never dropped below 25, and that included time spent doing video, which involves a lot of time idling, doing back-and-forth street shots for the camera, etc.
I can also vouch for the A8 TDI’s power. Passing cars on the freeway was an easy feat for this full-size sedan. The turbodiesel spools up rapidly and thrusts the car forward with amazing grace. Audi claims a 0-60 time of 6.4 seconds, which I have no doubt about. Helping both power and fuel economy is the 8-speed automatic transmission which always has the proper gear available for the situation.
The TDI engine just flat-out works, which is why it’s going to be added to many more of Audi’s models this year. By the end of summer, you’ll be able to choose it in not only the A8L, but also the A6, the A7, and the Q5 and Q7 SUVs. Like Mercedes-Benz, Audi has finally committed to bringing significant numbers of diesel offerings to the U.S.
And of course, the entire experience of driving an A8 is still there. From the ultra-supportive seats, to the serene quiet, to the gadgets. My test example had all the packages available (base price was $82,500; as-tested came out to $99,445), and I can’t imagine a driver needing anything else in a car. Especially cool is the navigation system that has Google Earth built into it. You can see actual satellite imagery of the road you’re traveling down, the building you’re looking for, and so on. As if that weren’t enough, the car is also Wi-Fi equipped!
The A8 is sort of a special “club” for people who are really in the know about luxury cars. Now, there’s even a VIP section to that club, and it’s called A8L TDI.
I’ll see you down the road.
Dave Kunz is the automotive reporter at KABC-TV Channel 7 and can be heard on “The Car Show” Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM. E-mail Dave at TVCarz @ pacbell.net Twitter: @dave_kunz, Facebook: ABC7Dave