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January 10, 2013updated Feb 11, 2013

Audi A8 L W12: All Dialed In

By Chris Boyle

BY MIKE ESPINDLE

Audi-A8

Audi’s top-of-the-line city sedan delivers punch, power and panache that can stand toe to toe with any long wheelbase four-door big boy. But, more often than not, what sets the A8 L W12 Quattro apart, are the little things.

The luxury sedan game is played out on a scale of millimeters. Oftentimes subtle engineering, throbbing engine power and cutting-edge design all pull together in the cockpit, where nuances of dash instrumentation, pedal feel and wheel and control locations can make all the difference. Simply said, the Audi A8 L W12 possesses one of the most intuitive and effective driver’s sides I’ve ever experienced.

It looks big at the curb and handles small behind the wheel.

On my exclusive mountain test drive, the shift paddles practically dropped onto my fingertips when it was time to goose the seamless eight-speed transmission and explore the true power of the W12 engine (which, needless to say, was pretty uncanny). Braking, so critical for such a heavy vehicle (4,773 pounds), was intuitive to the point of being almost eerie, like the car knew what I wanted to do before I did. A large center stack offers a plethora of functions, but all were easy to decipher and locate with a quick glance. Seat comfort is world class, and the Bang & Olufsen sound system quality is comparable to much more rarefied luxury sedans.

Besting a base A8 by five inches of wheelbase, 128 horses and 2.1 liters of displacement (the power plant is officially rated at 6.3 liters, 500hp), those seemingly small improvements, like the finely tuned interior approach, again make a big difference. You’ll experience a 0 to 60mph surge in just 4.4 seconds, with stable and controlled high-speed performance that defies the length and weight of this monster. It looks big at the curb and handles small behind the wheel.

You can’t discuss the A8 L W12 without delving into the back seat, since the car is eminently “chauffeur-able,” and the price tag brings it up towards those “gentlemen’s saloons” often associated with hired drivers. Leg room, leather quality, ride comfort, entertainment technology (dual ten-inch screens with a rear-seat DVD slot)…any critical factor of being a passenger in this car compares favorably with a more expensive competitive set. Speaking of the price, Audi lists US$133,500 as the base, but the maker’s Exclusive program offers a selection of 15 leathers, seven woods and other options that can bring the final cost of a personalized A8 L W12 closer to US$180,000.

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