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First Drive: Audi A8L, the best money can buy

Last updated on: January 21, 2011 11:50 IST

First Drive: Audi A8L, the best money can buy

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Carwale.com


Auto Union has been one of the oldest German names in car racing. The Auto Union Type C (1936-37) produced over 480 bhp, with speed in excess of 250 kph, a number unheard of at that time.

Auto Union later became a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group and is today known as Audi AG.

The Audi R10 TDI became the first diesel powered car to win the 24 hours Le Mans and went on to win Le Mans every year since its introduction, until it got replaced by Audi R15.

The change of name and ownership did little to stop the brand from innovating and breaking even more records.

Then the Audi A8 was born, getting all of Audi's on-track experience on the road.

The A8 has, since its inception, been Audi's flagship model. The latest of the lot -- the 2011 Audi A8L will be launched in India soon.

On a special drive in Jaipur, Audi let a few automobile journalists experience the A8L.

So do we approve of the car? Read our first drive report to find out.

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Image: Audi A8L.
Photographs: Carwale.com
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The 2011 Audi A8L is 5267mm long and 1,949mm making it 75mm longer than its predecessor. It gets a single-frame front grille with a three-dimensional look to underscore its luxury and size.

It gets Audi's signature LED string-of-pearls running lamps and the crown hood of the A8 gets prominent strakes to distinguish the V while giving it a muscular look.

The A8 gets a coupe-like roofline and sports Audi's characteristic 'tornado' line that separates the glassed-in area from the sculptured lines. The DLO (daylight opening) is framed with a chrome strip, and the shallow glasshouse makes the A8 look sturdy.

The rear end of the A8 mimics the A4 and gets a parallel chrome strip to highlight the width of the car. The spoiler lip, the prominent shut lines and the twin large tail pipes make the rear look very contemporary.

The car is built on an aluminium space frame -- a concept called Audi Space Frame (ASF) which has been in use since 1994.

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When compared to a steel body the ASF lowers weight by about 40% and boosts strength. The engineers at Ingolstadt have made the new A8 lighter while paying close attention to rigidity and the torsion stiffness which has been increased by 15%.

The other major engineering innovations are the hot-shaped steel used for the B-pillar to improve the crash safety and the usage of a special aluminium alloy called 'fusion alloy' to reduce flab.

Compared to the predecessor and competitors the plastic quality on this A8L is a notch higher and one of the most luxurious interiors ever.

The four-spoke Audi steering wheel comes with multiple controls for audio, trip etc with paddle shifts.

The instrument cluster is made up of twin chrome surround dials and a large central screen reads out audio, trip, speed, the gear engaged in and ambient temperature.

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First Drive: Audi A8L, the best money can buy

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The putter-shaped gear lever just needs to be nudged to shift rather than the conventional lever that needs to be moved. The A8L gets two sunroofs as standard; the outgoing version just had one!

Audi's MMI (multi-media interface) utilises black panel technology to search for contacts on the phonebook.

Back-seat passengers can easily operate the music system with the MMI controls at the rear. The Hi-Fi Bose system, which comes as a standard fitment, delivers about 600 watts through 14 speakers; you can also choose a Bang & Olufsen Sound System with 19 speakers utilising 1400 watts.

There is a complete rear seat package too - it includes seat ventilation, massage seats and a refrigerator. The power adjustable footrest, a feature available on a first-class airplane, deserves a mention.

You can also customise the available feature set to suit you better. The boot of the Audi A8 has a total volume of 510 litres which considering the size of the car is relatively smaller.

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An electric seat and steering adjust put the driver at ease on the A8; once the driver seats himself and closes the door the motorised seat grips the thighs holding him in place.

Plush leather seats and a four-way lumbar support fine tune comfort for front and rear passengers.

Engine

Audi 2011 A8L features two engines -- a 3.0V6 TDI and a 4.2V8 FSI. We drove the 4.2V8 and we will drive the 3.0TDI after the launch in March this year.

The 4.2 FSI engine is six kilograms lighter as the crankcase is now made up of high-strength cast iron alloy.

The 4.2-litre petrol V8 engine churns out 372bhp and a maximum torque of 445Nm. The 3.0-litre diesel V6 engine has been reworked and it now produces 250 bhp of power and a whopping torque of 550 Nm (the older version is the one that we drove, powers the Audi A4).

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The specifications of the 4.2FSI speak for themselves and the engine has enough grunt to overtake without downshifting. Most of the power comes in at a very high rpm; close to 6800 (like most petrol engines).

This is why we missed the diesel where the turbo spools between 1700-2400 (typical common rail characteristic).

Audi claims that the 4.2FSI is 13% and the 3.0TDI is 22% more efficient than the previous engines. Our road test will soon tell you if this indeed is the truth.

Drivetrain

The A8 being the flagship model of the Audi comes with the quattro technology.

The A8's quattro distributes power in ratio of 40:60 to the front and rear wheels. On detection of slip, majority of the power gets transferred to the other axle.

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The two engines on the A8 have been mated to an all new eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF.

We have always loved and admired this quick-shift DSG on Volkswagen Group cars that feature a dual-clutch transmission, the best example is our long-termer Skoda Laura AT.

The driver can operate this eight-speed transmission by tapping the gear lever or the paddle shifts behind the steering wheel. The eight-speed transmission makes the engine feel responsive than ever before and can cruise at a speed of 80 kph in the eighth gear delivering better fuel economy.

This new transmission gets a high efficiency oil pump and heating for the transmission fluid as it helps lower frictional losses.

The Audi A8L isn't built for passenger pleasure alone, so get behind the steering and your chauffeur might just have to search for a new job.

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The chassis ensures a smooth ride fuelling the hopes of the enthusiast within you. The A8 gets the five-link suspension at its front with anti-roll bar and trapezoidal link for the rear.

The suspension arms are all made of forged aluminium to keep the sprung mass low. The hollow anti-roll bars increase torsion rigidity and are made up of high-strength tubes to reduce weight.

The target audience in India will be chauffeur driven. The adaptive air suspension can be adjusted as per the driving mode or shall we say driving mood!

So the ride quality is well composed when the suspension is set in Comfort or Auto mode; at cruising speeds though the ride is suppler and smoother on Auto.

However, the suspension stiffens when shifted to Dynamic mode and makes the ride harsh. In comfort mode, the steering wheel lightens up for easy manoeuvring and in dynamic the steering wheel weighs up and is more responsive.

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Change the mode from Comfort to Dynamic, and the car makes you to push as harder as your skills permit. However, the ESP is always alert and ready to cut in the moment it senses any danger. Just think of it as a guardian angel.

The engine and the front axle are mounted on a separate sub-frame, this helps reduce the delay in the steering response.

The ride height can also be adjusted depending on the mode of your suspension setting. The brakes bite progressively, but there is something with the feel of the pedal that makes it a little spongy in the initial travel.

Our press demonstrator came with Continental ContiPremium Contact 2 235/55R18 tyres which had great grip, but the optional 19-inch Pirelli PZero would definitely be more fun.

To our dismay, the amount of road and wind noise intruding into the cabin was higher than we had anticipated for a car of this price.

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Probably, the roads that we drove were cause for complaint. So we will re-check this aspect once we do a complete road test of the Audi A8.

Price

The Audi A8L's pricing is yet to be disclosed, but we believe it will be close to Rs 80 lakh (Rs 8 million). The Audi A8L is technologically way ahead of its predecessor.

In India, Audi hasn't made as much impact as the other two German car makers, but we can see a steady rise in the hype and awareness around the Audi brand.

Very soon it will be amongst the top three German brands in India like it is worldwide. The new A8L will and should help Audi get a strong base in this segment.

So if you are an S-Class or 7-Series person, who wants the best your money can buy, the 2011 Audi A8L should be on your priority list.




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