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  • 2011 Audi A8 quattro

    Posted on December 28th, 2010 ninarussin

    High performance meets high style in the passing lane

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Audi A8

    Audi’s newest flagship stands apart from its competitors as an edgier, more youthful automobile. Although the A8 and its long-wheelbase sibling fill all of the squares a high-luxury sedan should, neither does so at the expense of emotional content. Driving enthusiasts who blip the throttle will feel their pulses quicken.

    From its unique LED headlamps to the Bauhaus interior, the A8 looks like nothing else on the road. Styling is modern without being faddish. I can picture Bucky Fuller chatting with students in the back seat and feeling completely at home doing so.

    Power comes from a 4.2-liter direct injection V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection. The engine reaches peak torque of 328 foot-pounds at 3500 rpm for powerful acceleration.

    Base price is $78,050, not including the $875 destination charge. A Bang & Olufsen premium audio system on the test car adds $6300. A convenience package includes keyless entry and start, power opening and closing trunk and a rearview camera with ultrasonic park assist ($2350).

    There are two interior upgrades: leather trim ($750) and a premium package which adds 22-way climate controlled front seats with massage and wood decorative inlays on the seatbacks ($2000).

    LED headlamps cost $1400, while 20-inch wheels with summer performance tires add $1200. Dual-pane acoustic and security glass costs $600, bringing the price as tested to $93,525.

    Abundant power

    2011 Audi A8

    Using direct injection enabled Audi engineers to give the newest A8 engine better fuel economy with no sacrifice in power or performance. The new V-8 has 22 more horsepower and three foot-pounds of torque over the outgoing model, plus a fifteen percent improvement in gas mileage.

    Because the engine develops peak torque at mid-throttle, it can accelerate hard off the line. Audi estimates 0-100 kilometer (62 mph) acceleration at 5.7 seconds: not bad for a car weighing 4400 pounds. The eight-speed automatic transmission is seamless, providing smooth delivery of power at any speed.

    The 2011 model is the second A8 with an all-aluminum frame. Using aluminum minimizes weight in the body structure while maintaining a high level of torsional rigidity.

    Standard drive select enables the driver to modify the suspension, throttle, transmission and steering for comfortable cruising or dynamic handling. The air suspension and speed-sensitive steering offer excellent response, even when the car is in comfort mode.

    Test drive on urban and rural roads

    2011 Audi A8

    I wanted my test drive of the A8 to mimic what a typical owner might do in a week: a combination of commuting through traffic, with some weekend time on less crowded rural roads. I began the test in Scottsdale, Arizona Christmas weekend. Between residents doing their last-minute shopping and out-of-towners trying to get oriented, there were plenty of challenges on both the highways and surface streets.

    The A8 offers a stress-free driving experience for such circumstances. Engineers did an excellent job of isolating passengers from road, engine and wind noise, enabling those in the front and back seats to converse with ease.

    The sedan’s exceptional acceleration and steering response make it handle like a much smaller car. Not only is it easy to weave through dense traffic, but equally important, make the occasional emergency evasive maneuver.

    The optional 20-inch wheels and summer tires provide an ample footprint, and the large disc brakes can stop the car on a dime. Since summer tires don’t perform well at temperatures below freezing, I would recommend buyers in four-season climates consider a second set of rims and snow tires for the winter.

    Speed-sensitive steering provides ample assist at low speeds while maintaining positive on-center response on the highway.

    Leaving Scottsdale, I headed east into the Tonto National Forest, where I could test the steering and suspension on some more challenging two-lane roads. I took some off-camber turns pretty hard, and was unable to break the tires loose.

    Visibility to the front and rear is quite good. The optional backup camera projects a grid over the wide-angle image to show the driver’s trajectory according to steering inputs. I find the feature especially handy backing out of vertical slots in crowded parking lots.

    The ultrasonic assist is very sensitive and takes some getting used to. It will sound an alarm long before the driver is in danger of contacting an obstacle.

    Over-the-shoulder visibility, especially to the left, is not particularly good. The thick B pillar makes it difficult to see cars approaching in the adjacent lane. I was surprised that Audi didn’t include blind spot monitoring as a standard feature, since it would mitigate the problem.

    At night, bi-xenon headlamps provide a longer beam that’s closer to daylight than conventional halogen. Audi also offers a night vision assist feature with pedestrian detection, for buyers who drive through poorly lit suburban areas after dark.

    Elegant interior

    Audi A8 InteriorThe A8 interior is one of the most elegant and most comfortable I’ve seen in recent times. Designers kept flourishes to a minimum, allowing the natural beauty of materials such as leather, brushed metal and wood to be fully appreciated.

    The optional 22-way adjustable front seats have more bolster settings than I could figure out in a week. Although I found them extremely comfortable, I’m not sure that I would opt to spend $2000 on the option.

    Rotary knobs on the tilt and telescoping steering wheel enable the driver to adjust the audio system with a minimum of distraction. Audi uses a mouse device on the center console to control comfort and convenience functions on the center stack. It’s intuitive to operate and eliminates a lot of unnecessary clutter.

    I found all of the displays, including the navigation screen and gauge cluster easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. A standard power sunroof brings additional ambient light inside the cabin during the day. At night, LED beams in the headliner illuminate the interior.

    Rear seat passengers have ample head, leg and hip room. Buyers who need additional room in the back seats can look at the long wheelbase model.

    A long, deep trunk can hold several persons’ luggage, camping equipment and the weekly groceries. The trunk is big enough for multiple golf bags, but cyclists will be better served with Audi’s Q5 or Q7: both offering taller, more versatile cargo areas.

    Standard safety

    The 2011 A8 comes standard with front, side, side curtain and front knee airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability control. Quattro all-wheel drive and an electronic differential lock automatically transfers engine power to the wheels with the most traction, offering better control on rain and snow-covered roads.  Audi’s four-year/50,000 miles factory warranty includes 12 months of free scheduled maintenance.

    Audi builds the A8 sedan at its Neckarsulm, Germany assembly plant.

    Likes: A high-luxury sedan with outstanding performance and timeless styling.

    Dislike: Poor over-the-shoulder visibility to the left.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Audi
    Model: A8 4.2 FSI quattro auto tiptronic sedan
    Year: 2011
    Base price: $78,050
    As tested: $93,525
    Horsepower: 372 Hp @ 6800 rpm
    Torque: 328 lbs.-ft. @ 3500 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 5.7 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 17/27 mpg city/highway*
    Comments: *The manufacturer recommends 91 octane premium fuel for maximum performance.

     

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