Weekend out with Audi A8 L

By GEORGE WONG | 27 May 2015

Audi A8 L
Audi is going places. When it’s not busy trying to outsell its other German peers, it’s making news on other fronts.

Volkswagen’s money-spinner is hopping on the self-driving bandwagon, with the A8 flagship tasked to lead the charge. Audi figures that is two to three years away from reality as it sorts through the technical hurdles.

Meanwhile, moviedom beckons and Audi just couldn’t resist plugging itself silly with a vehicle like the  Transporter series, which is basically an extended commercial for the brand. Come September, the Transporter rides again, with a newcomer replacing Jason Statham to take down baddies like a bowling ball in a 10-pin alley. And in typical fashion, Ed Skrein will be driving an Audi hard and fast. This time, it would be an S8, essentially an A8 on steroids. Count on action fans to lap it all up.


Well, we would have been content just to experience the S8 with its drool-worthy V8 twin-turbo engine, which is Audi’s interpretation of sporty luxury in the flagship model. Alas! Keine solche auto  (No such ride).  The tamer A8 will do for now.

The long wheelbase A8 L gave a good account of itself the last time we took it in 2011. It came with a V6 3.0-litre petrol engine supercharged for ample power. Since then, it has undergone a refresh, with a generational change due in 2017, possibly featuring a new 4-cylinder engine to replace the current V6/V8 as the industry trend of downsizing continues. It will certainly be a car keenly expected, being the first model rebuilt from the ground up under new Audi chief designer Marc Lichte.

Audi A8 L

Audi A8 L

Audi A8 L

The current A8 L was priced at RM689,500 (OTR without insurance) at launch in June last year but has since tumbled by some RM33,000 post-GST. So what do you get for RM656,900?

A lot of carryover gear to be sure plus some refinements, a boost in power and smart lighting technology as a declaration of the brand’s Vorsprung durch Technik ethos.

On the outside, the A8 L looks the part of a boss car, with a heft that demands attention and respect. There’s that signature single frame grille that’s much emulated. The design of the car is all elegant and completely understated yet pulsates with a luxury ambience.

Audi A8 L

The mid-life refresh sees the A8 L getting revised bumpers, tail pipes and black window frames as well as a new 19” wheel design.

The biggest change to the exterior are the lights, with front and rear sporting low-energy LEDs that’s the rage these days but executed in a way that’s undeniably Audi.

Xenon headlights of yesteryear have given way to so-called LED Matrix headlights that’s an option but is standard on the A8 Ls shipped into Malaysia. Because headlights shape the face of a vehicle, it’s important to get it right. And Audi has.

The headlights looks attractive, flow well into the rest of the body and look sophisticated. Those lights are a piece of smart technology; the 25 LEDs in each headlamp are grouped in clusters which are controlled by a computer and linked to a camera, and other sensors to produce steerable beams to ensure the lights don’t blind oncoming drivers in automatic high beam mode.

While you are doing other drivers a favour, don’t expect inconsiderate idiots on the road to reciprocate. It has always been on our wish list – and for safety reason as well – to have a windscreen that can dynamically filter out the glare of high beams from oncoming cars at night. We hope.

The LEDs are hooked to the navigation system so the beams can double up as cornering lights. The LEDs can also dim to provide sequential signalling, which is pretty fly.

Apparently, our Road Transport Department has no objection to the use of the hi-tech LED Matrix headlights, in contrast to the situation in the US which has banned such lights. It’s a case of technology leaping ahead of legislation; Americans still follow dated laws that specify that cars must have low beams and high beams.

Audi A8 L

The dash looks posh as befits a flagship with high quality trimmings spread liberally into the mix but is less somber than before with aluminium silver inlay brightening it up as well as on the doors. Most of the switchgear are grouped at the front of the centre console for easy access, thereby keeping the dash as clean as possible, topped with an analogue clock to lend a classic touch.

It’s not all-out opulence as the décor exudes a certain restraint.

In tune with current cars in this league, mod cons are abundant – ventilated leather seats all round. 12-way electrically adjustable seats, sat-nav, four-zone climate control and touch-pad MMI controller. Two 10.2 -inch screens, part of the new rear seat entertainment package, complemented by a Bose surround sound system, serve up content to keep those in the back occupied.

Audi A8 L
Front seats are comfortable enough while the emphasis is on dialling up the pampering service in second row, where space is generous and rear seats are power adjustable with lumbar support. The front passenger seat can be electrically adjusted from the back to move it further forward to free up even more legroom for the rear left passenger.

At 520l, boot space is competitive in its class and there’s plenty of usable space to store stuff in the luggage compartment.

To give the A8 L a good workout, we sped off to Penang island over the weekend and explored the back roads of durian country in Balik Pulau, potter through downtown George Town before swinging back to the mainland the next day and onwards to the Klang Valley. Thank goodness, it wasn’t the school holidays, so expressways and island roads weren’t as jam-packed and afforded opportunities for long bursts of high-speed driving and cornering.

Like before, the A8 L impresses with a high degree of waft-ability, displaying superior ride quality aided by adaptive air suspension and a smooth delivery of power as the car quickens the pace.  Bumps are tackled with no drama and ride comfort is on the firm side even on the softest setting.

Luxo-barge serenity is the name of the game with the car feeling poise and hush at speeds. The engine is merely flexing its muscles as it swings past 100kph and heads to loftier heights. It delivers 310bhp/440Nm to get the car sprinting from 0 to 100kph in 5.9s, and top speed is electronically limited to  250kph

If the owner prefers to drive rather than be driven, he will be pleased that the aluminium space frame chassis keeps the weight down, affording some level of sportiness and steering feedback, elevated a little by the extra power and torque in the latest revision. Steering is light at low speeds, but firms up at highway speeds.

The selectable drive modes, typical in luxury cars, are there to vary damper settings and other parameters to deliver the optimum ride/handling as driver mood dictates. Paddle shifters cajole the driver to manually row through the 8-speed tiptronic gearbox at such times.

Audi A8 L

Eight airbags and stability aid in place, the high margin of safety is also attributed to the car having a quattro all-wheel-drive to ensure it can tackle most road conditions as sure-footedly as a mountain goat - especially when it pours. Tight corners are negotiated with little body roll, accompanied by a sharper steering and throttle response.

Individuals or companies in the market for this sort of cars have deep pockets and have factored in the hefty depreciation of Continentals. The A8 L is a prestige car that reflects a person’s station in life yet is not loud or abrasive.

In its current form, It has kept up with the competition in terms of key amenities offered. Truth be told, it’s quite a nice car to drive as well – if you are not sucked into the excitement of an S8.







CarSifu's Rating: 7.5