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July 18, 2012

Test Drive: Audi’s A8 L W12 Quattro

By Chris Boyle

A8 L W12 / AudiBeneath the Hood / A8 L W12Mercedez-Benz M-Class 4MaticRange Rover SuperchargedNew York, New York – Reported by Mike Espindle for Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine

If football is a game of inches, 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.

On my early summer scoot up to the Adirondack Mountains from New York City, 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 $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 $180,000.

Quick Takes

Mercedes-Benz M-Class 4MATIC Thoroughly restyled and reengineered, the new third-gen M-Class SUVs are larger, more powerful and more fuel efficient than their predecessors. A new 3.5-liter direct-injection V6 engine is 13 percent more powerful, providing 302hp and 273 foot pounds of torque, but is also less thirsty. Meanwhile, the new 3.0-liter V6 diesel engine in the ML350 BlueTEC 4MATIC provides 240hp and a tremendous 455 foot pounds of torque. Debuting with the new M-Class, a new back seat iPad dock rotates 90 degrees and tilts for optimal screen viewing. Base price: $48,990.

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Range Rover Supercharged When you need a car to drive through a hurricane, the Range Rover Supercharged is a safe bet. This four-wheel drive SUV is powered by a 510hp, 5.0-liter supercharged V8 with 461 foot pounds of torque. From your high driving position atop 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels, chrome exhausts and a handsome diamond grille, you can power through blinding rain, thigh-deep pools of water and fight winds up to 40 mph. With a 14-speaker, 720- watt Harman/Kardon audio system, you’ll be safe, dry and oblivious to the elements.

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