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Test driving the A8L in its newest avatar

The A8L in its newest avatar is an even more distilled version of what already was one of the finest luxury limos around

We were absolutely astounded with the performance, refinement and features offered by the previous version of the Audi A8L. So, when we first saw the new 2014 A8 at the Auto Expo, we had great expectations from the luxury limo. It took some time before we could lay our hands on this spaceship on wheels. However, with its subtle but significant changes and an extravagant cabin, the new version managed to make us lust for it, all over again. Here’s our confession:

A8L

Exterior
The proportions and lines of the new A8L are more or less the same as its predecessor. The most significant change on the new car’s fascia is the futuristic matrix headlights. The new LED headlamps, apart from being a defining factor of the car’s design, represent the next-gen illumination technology with intelligent corner lighting, automatic fading out of other road users and pedestrian marking.

The backseat has a multimedia infotainment system. Occupants can use individual headphones for playing media of their choice
The backseat has a multimedia infotainment system. Occupants can use individual headphones for playing media of their choice

Other revisions include twin creases on the bonnet and some alterations made to the lower bumper. The Audi grille on the new car bears seven chrome strips as opposed to the earlier eight, making it look more refined and sophisticated. In addition, the 2014 version of the car gets newly designed 18- inch, 10-spoke wheels. The car looks similar to its previous version in profile. At the rear, however, some changes have raised the appeal of the car. The LED tail-lamps now have a chrome strip running through them for a sharper and sleeker look. This accentuates the curved boot lid. The exhaust tips have been given a slim, trapezoidal form to make it look aggressive.

Inside the cabin, there is a small fridge. Notice the CD changer and individual SD card slots above chilled compartment
Inside the cabin, there is a small fridge. Notice the CD changer and individual SD card slots above chilled compartment 

Cabin and features
The A8 absolutely astonishes with its high level of detailing and space-age features inside the cabin. Apart from the amenities and creature comforts, Audi have made some changes to further refine the aesthetic appeal of the interior.

Some of the glossy, veneered wood inserts inside the cabin have been replaced with raw-textured wood trim. The 4-spoke steering wheel on the earlier version has been replaced with a new, 3-spoke unit with prominent Audi branding surrounded by a chrome ring. The Audi A8L is laden with the most modern auto tech; however, to underline its classiness and old worldly attention to detail and workmanship, it still bears an analogue clock on its dashboard.

The central armrest on the backseat features a pop-out tray table
The central armrest on the backseat features a pop-out tray table

The new A8L gets a brushed aluminium strip running across the length of the dashboard in place of the piano black insert found on the earlier version. The seats are upholstered in high quality Valcona leather’s Baloa brown and snow-white combinations.

Leg space is generous and you can choose from a variety of massage programmes to relax after a hard day at work
Leg space is generous and you can choose from a variety of massage programmes to relax after a hard day at work 

The rear left passenger seat is the VIP in the A8L’s cabin. This is the most likely place where the boss would sit, and thus it gets maximum amenities and features. At the press of a button, the front seat moves forward, its backrest tilts down forward, a tray like extension flips out from its back to allow you to rest your feet on.

Feature list on the car is endless, with mobile charging points, a small fridge, Active Parking Assist, a Bang & Olufsen system with extraordinary sound, night- vision assist and individual entertainment units for rear passengers being the key highlights.

A special mention needs to be made of Audi’s Active Park Assist tech. Unlike most such technologies, which are more of a marketing gimmick than a functional value-add, this wizardry actually works. The system gives you the option to parallel or perpendicular park your car. After activating the system, you just have to drive slowly into a parking lot. The car will automatically identify a vacant slot. You then have to select the reverse gear, and the car would steer itself into the slot. You just have to control throttle and brakes.

Engine and performance
We drove the V6 diesel engine-powered 3.0 TDI variant of the car. The power and torque figures, as you’d expect on such an exclusive car, are impressive. The turbocharged V6 displaces 2967cc and produces a hefty 254bhp@4,000-4,250 rpm. The torque figure of 580Nm@1,750-2,500 rpm is even more impressive.
The refined engine feels totally unstressed and pulls effortlessly to endow the A8 with more than sufficient grunt. Acceleration is effortless, with max torque coming into play at a low and usable rev band. The cogs are swapped without any jerks. The redline for the V6 powerplant is marked at 5,000 rpm, though the A8L can handle almost all everyday situations with its engine spinning below the 3,000 rpm mark.

The engine comes mated to an eight- speed tiptronic transmission, meant to be operated with a distinctive shifter, and delivering power to all wheels via Audi’s proprietary Quattro tech. The engine transmission combo endows this 2.5 ton luxury limo with a 0-100 sprint time of an impressive 6.1 seconds flat. An electronically-limited top speed of 250 km/h is easily attainable. The cabin is remarkably silent, thanks to Active Noise Cancellation tech. The double acoustic-glazed windows drastically cut down the wind noise and other worldly sounds.

The A8L rides on air springs equipped with adaptive suspension which automatically regulates the ride height. The ride quality remains near velvety, thanks to the assistance from 235/55 profile rubber and gets thrashy only when subjected to the choicest of the fabled Indian potholes. The A8’s high speed manners are impeccable though the heavy weight makes itself evident when the car is chucked enthusiastically around sharp corners.

Our verdict
The A8L’s raison d’etre is to provide the most luxurious road travel. The back seats with their innumerable options/settings and gadgets make travelling both comfortable and entertaining. While the new S-Class has upped the ante in the segment for the quality and workmanship, the A8L still holds its own as regards in-cabin features and luxury. The Active Park Assist from Audi, for example, is superior to Mercedes’ version.

Though due for a replacement in a couple of years from now, the A8L still makes for one hell of a tech and luxury- laden limousine. It’s an overwhelming experience one must have before buying into the segment.

A8L

Technical specs
Engine — 3.0-litre Turbo diesel
Power — 254bhp @ 4,000-4250 rpm
Torque — 580 Nm @ 150-2,500 rpm
0-100 — 6.1s (claimed)

Bells and whistles
>> Intelligent Matrix headlamps
>> Yacht-shaped drive selector
>> Bang & Olufsen audio
>> Rea-seat entertainment
>> Active Park Assist
>> Ventilated seats
>> Massage seats
>> Mini refrigerator 

Rivals

Mercedes S-Class
The latest gen S-Class has raised the bar for players in the luxury limo field. The design, quality and craftsmanship of the cabin is absolutely astonishing.

Mercedes S-Class

The technology packed under the skin is equally mind-blowing, and works perceptibly to refine every aspect of the car’s performance. Exterior design has gone from stately to slightly aggressive for the new model, but the road presence of this machine cannot be questioned. While the S500 petro is still quite expensive, the Indian assembled S350 CDI variant’s pricing is par with the segment.
Price: Rs 1.1 crore

BMW 7 Series
The latest 7-series is an improvement over its predecessor with a more efficient and intent eight speed automatic transmission, and slightly bumped up power and torque.

BMW 7 Series

The Active rear wheel steering tech is unique to this particular limo and makes it stand apart in the segment. Handling, though still fantastic, isn’t as involving as smaller BMWs as the focus is more towards passenger comfort. While not as generously appointed on the inside as its rivals, the 7-series scores highly in terms of engineering excellence.
Price: Rs 1 crore

Jaguar XJ
The Jaguar badge, for whatever reasons, is probably the most desirable of all the cars here, especially for us Indians. The Jag, thus delivers the highest snob value for its patrons.

Jaguar XJ

The engine transmission combo on this limo is quite enticing, making it one of the most involving cars to drive in the segment. The interior looks great, though the quality of materials can be improved in certain areas. The backseat space isn’t class leading either. However, these cars are meant to make you arrive in style, and nothing delivers on that count as much as this British brand.
Price: Rs 1 crore

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    2014 A Recap