Another neat new trick is the ability to download satellite maps and updated route information from Google Earth. At the same time, MMI appears to have turned the corner on user-friendliness. It's still plenty intimidating to new users, but it has improved enough so that a driver could hope to learn all its key functions before the lease ends.
The star of the show, the 6.3-liter W-12 engine, has been given a bit more oomph, thanks to an increase in displacement and the incorporation of direct injection. It now puts out a healthy 500 hp and 461 lb-ft of torque. As in all A8s, the W-12 is paired to an eight-speed automatic -- the same basic unit found in the rival BMW 760Li. The W-12, for all its muscle, can't match the twelve-cylinder Bimmer's staggering 533 lb-ft of torque, but then, it doesn't have to. With its aluminum space frame construction, the A8L W12 weighs in at about 4530 pounds, a good 400 pounds less than the BMW. Not surprisingly, it's mind numbingly fast: the trip to 62 mph flies by in 4.7 seconds, according to factory figures. What's really impressive though, is the distinctly expensive smoothness with which this all transpires. The W-12 does its job in near silence until you ask for warp speed, when it responds with a refined yet throaty roar.
The excellent ZF transmission likewise plays a good Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, swapping gears with seamless perfection in normal driving, and then supplying almost instant downshifts at the squeeze of the gas pedal or tap of left steering wheel paddle. The adaptive air suspension mostly holds up its end of the bargain, too, providing a compliant ride even with Audi's drive select in Dynamic mode (some credit here is also due to the impeccably maintained Bavarian roads). The only fly in the A8 punchbowl is the variable-effort steering, which has an unsettling habit of suddenly reducing assist mid-corner. Efficiency won't be a selling point either, though the extra cogs in the transmission and improvements to the engine should yield some improvement from the last model's dismal 15 mpg rating.