Most flagship sedans from premium carmakers are designed to turn heads. The Audi A8 takes a different tack by staying true to its understated image, which has evolved over the years but is present across its A4 and A6 sedans as well. In fact, the deceptively low-key exteriors have even manifested in films—both Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, a seemingly ordinary human with the ability to transform into a superhuman, and Clive Owen as a spy in The Internationalist drive Audi A8s.
The A8’s styling is slick and those familiar with its smaller siblings, the A6 and the A4, will find that it packs the punch that comes with being the top model in the line-up. It has substantial presence, thanks to a long wheelbase that gives the car an overall length exceeding 15ft. It looks like a sedan for a chief executive officer (CEO) or a chairperson of a large corporation. The cabin of the A8 can seat five passengers with ease and is large, spacious and comfortable. Its leather-wrapped confines go head to head with what you would find in its rivals, the BMW 7 series and the Mercedes-Benz S class. Firsts for the A8 are massage seats which only come in the Maybach and an extra feature that residents of cities like New Delhi will find most welcome in the winter: heated seats.
Where power lies
Keeping in consonance with the exterior, the interior ambience is sophisticated but not over the top and, therefore, more restrained than its competitors. The heart of the beast is powered with a turbocharged V-6 that churns out 335 horsepower in conjunction with a 48-volt hybrid system. This dual power system is now fairly common across most top-end sedans that combine electric benefits with ICE engine traditionalism.
Quattro, the word that Audi brandishes as a badge for most of its vehicles and which means all-wheel drive, is in place at the A8. It is mated to a smooth as silk eight-speed automatic transmission that is commendable on open highways and in tight traffic-laden lanes. On a straight road the A8 easily hops up to 100kmh in a little over 5 seconds, which is fast for a big car.
For those expecting a mighty thunder and a growl when the A8 is revved, there may be a bit of disappointment because the sound-cancelling features inside the cabin are so efficient that you hear almost nothing from the outside. Then again with the impressive B&O speaker system that you can’t miss thanks to the UFO-shaped roofers that sit on the front dashboard one would likely end up missing eternal ambient sound in any case.
Another standout and new feature for the latest A8 is a more aggressive grill on the front of the car. While some may find it too aggressive it gives the otherwise sedate sedan just enough of a sharp edge to let onlookers know that something has changed from its predecessors. In addition, the A8 also comes in eight colours in India, more options than one had before. Other tweaks include alloy wheel designs, OLED rear lights, and high-tech Digital Matrix LED headlights. These are designed to adapt to the road and weather conditions and prevent other drivers from being blinded.
Audis have always had sharp looking cockpits and the A8 keeps that up. Its virtual cockpit instrument display and the double touchscreens in the centre of the dashboard add a touch of digital futurism.
Drive or be driven around and the A8 will impress with its air suspension that rides over speed bumps and bad roads with ease and gives the driver a combination of comfort and agility. The 3-litre 55 TFSI petrol option that was driven has significantly more power than other variants.
While the A8’s changes are few, it remains a solid premium sedan, is packed with technology and is extremely comfortable. It has loads of room at the back, doesn’t scream for attention. While some may opine that the A8 was just behind the 7 series and the S Class, that gap is closing slowly but surely.
Pavan Lall is a Mumbai-based business journalist and author of Forging Mettle: Nrupender Rao And The Pennar Story.
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