Despite the precariousness of the economic recovery, oil tycoons and financiers still have lots of money to spend, and they are getting sick of not spending it. To wit, sales of ultra-luxury goods like Louis Vuitton bags are gaining momentum. It's also fair to assume that these billionaires will need a proper luxury sedan to tote them to and from Congressional hearings. That's why, even as Audi promotes more efficient and proletarian A8s, including a 3.0 diesel V-6 that will make it to the U.S. market, it still intends to import its top dog -- the updated A8L powered by a bigger and more powerful W-12. The twelve-cylinder sedan will arrive on our shores a few months after the November launch of the 4.2-liter V-8-powered short and long wheelbase A8.
Much like the short wheelbase model we drove a few months ago, the new A8L W12 brings evolutionary, rather than revolutionary changes. In fact, casual observers might have a difficult time telling if this A8, stretched about five inches from the regular-wheelbase model, is the new one -- something that was definitely not the case when the last generation debuted in 2003. Only a few small badges on the outside and on the doorsills tell people you've got the serious motor. That said, our jet-black test model, with its piano black, chrome accented grille and standard full-LED headlights, certainly had enough attitude to cruise unchallenged in the left lane of the Autobahns around Munich.
The cabin is also a clear evolution from the last model, rather than a groundbreaking new design. The result is handsome and hard to fault, but doesn't have the oh-my-gosh appeal of the new Jaguar XJ. There are some fantastic material choices, ranging from a swathe of brushed aluminum across the dash to linen for the door inserts. The W12 model also has standard navigation, controlled as in all A8s by the latest-generation MMI interface. A touch pad located forward of the shifter allows you to scroll across maps, dial phone numbers, and most impressive, scribble in the names of points of interest.