2011 A8D4 quattro meets Opulence
Text and photos by Melissa J Knight
It’s worth the wait. For anyone who thinks that Audi’s December 2009 world premiere of the A8 D4 is old news and that the model was anti-climactic when it finally reached showrooms in November, think again. This five-star sedan is giving heightened states of pleasure — beyond what Audi initially described. As is often the case, they under-promised and over-delivered.
The 2011 A8D4 is first class. It is also first in class (the luxury sedan segment rivaling the 7 series, S class and LS) with more than a few technology and design features. The Über-cruiser, as it is becoming known, also has several firsts for the four rings. With a projected profile of buyers with a median income of over $400,000, high power executives, chauffeurs who drive them, and enthusiasts with kids, will all be impressed by the performance, safety, lush features, and posh design details of the new A8. Whereas the A8 D3 felt very masculine to this writer, Audi developed the x chromosome for its latest incarnation. The D4 now holds great appeal for both sexes.
Weighing in at 4409 lbs the D4 is 2 1/2 inches longer, 1 1/2 wider and 1/2 taller. Yet it is 15 lbs lighter than its predecessor. It has a smaller drag co-efficiency, cx.026 compared to .029. Upgraded from the 6-speed Tiptronic its 8-speed transmission is a shift by wire. At the push of a button located on the steering wheel, the car changes from drive mode to full manual controlled by paddle shifters. It’s smooth and fast. With a boost in hp and torque, 372 vs 350; 328 vs 317, the D4 is about 10-12 % more fuel efficient: 27 highway, 21 city. This sleek-styled machine must have spent a lot of time in the wind tunnel.
On a test drive from the ritzy Avenue of the Stars to the twisties of Corral Canyon, the A8 goes from luxury rider on the boulevards to making tight turns with ease, and it is very surefooted, making it feel much smaller than it really is. In drive mode it’s a dream, shifts are barely perceivable, and in tip or sport mode it can be devilish. If you’re prone to getting speeding tickets, you’ll want to engage the speed alert. It was a logical decision for Audi to use bigger brakes with racecar technology: the caliper is an aluminum mono block. When you burn rubber, the semi-floating rotors will cool your car down. Audi is the first in class to use them.
Moving to option packages, there’s enough a la carte items for Audi to present them on a menu. Highlights include:
The much touted touch pad is a first for brand, and a unique feature in the segment. Very intuitive and easy to input, you can draw a word without looking down, or write a number, and this navigational system knows what you mean. Speaking directions is also possible, but for chauffeurs transporting people on conference calls, this is not the most effective. Progressive, practical and safe, expect the A7 and the next A6 to include a touch pad as well.
Night vision is also a first for Audi. Originally developed for the military, it required cutting some red tape for Audi to employ it. (BMW: Prepare for battle.) The camera detects heat, so when the car in front of you has hot tailpipes, they’ll appear in contrast to everything else that appears black or gray on screen. Humans and large animals appear white, and this system also highlights the moving silhouette within a rectangle. When the rectangle is yellow, the mammal is outside the path of the vehicle. When the highlight turns, to red it means you’re within approximately 30 feet (91 meters), and about to hit something. In case you’re visually distracted, as extra security feature, the car will sound a dong. (Do not try this at home.)
Full LED headlights: Faceted like a jewel they are new to the A8D4 and it is first in class to have everything in full LED – low beam, high beam, signal lights, fog lights and adaptive cornering lights.
Extreme surround sound: The A8D4 standard is Bose, now more powerful with 14 speakers and 685 watts. As an option there’s Band & Olufsen with 19 speaker and 1400 watts. Where as the D3 B&O system was retrofitted, this time engineers worked with Audi, spending 300 hours of fine-tuning and designating the spaces they wanted to install speakers. The result is an aural delight with nuances second only to a private concert. If surround sound is not enough to make your day or night, there’s the . . .
Magical massage seats: Another first in segment. Other brands use a lumbar air bag to mimic massage, but Audi engineers pushed the envelope with seats that have separate air chambers offering five different massages, and each has five intensities. This massage action lasts for 10-minute intervals — and you can use it when the engine is off, but the car has to be powered up. (Do try this at your local dealer.) Also available are heated seats, and cool ventilation. And, yes, it’s possible to have all three going at the same time -- a heated seat with cool ventilation, and massage. Uber Cruiser is a bliss-mobile.
Another unique feature is the massage option for rear seats. It’s part of the super-deluxe executive package (for the longer wheelbase) that includes: fully reclining seats, electric foot rests, two 10" MMI screens, as well as heat and ventilation. The interior of this car is a royal experience in and of itself. There’s no liquor bar and you won’t need one because this car has an intoxicating effect. If you don’t have a million bucks when you get in, you’ll feel like you do before you get out.
(Article first published on Quattroworld.com)