First Drive: 2011 Audi A8

#Audi, #A8

Light weight also helps the A8 post very good EPA numbers, 17/27 mpg, which beat the six-cylinder and hybrid versions of the 7-series as well as the LS600h L hybrid. (On a related subject though, the gas gauge does not use a needle pointer; instead it lights up a series of tiny white lights, about the size of a grain of rice, in between white hash marks -- an odd design that's easy to overlook.)

Taking the A8 on a road trip meant we got more experience programming the navigation system and using the Bluetooth phone interface, which gave us a chance to really get to know Audi's touch-pad system. You input letters and numbers by drawing them with your finger. Unlike so many gee-whiz tech features that are more annoying and distracting than the more conventional methods they replace, the draw-it function is not only cool but far quicker, easier, and less distracting to use than scrolling around searching for the right letter or number with the knob controller. Very neat. Overall, Audi's MMI and its surrounding buttons get high marks for clarity and ease of use.

Both this example and the car I drove at the launch were standard-wheelbase models, but Audi says that the long-wheelbase A8 typically accounts for the vast majority of sales. It's not hard to see why. Although the standard A8's base price starts at a reasonable (for its class) $78,925, my loaded-up test version rang in at $100,575. At those prices, you might as well get the limo-like rear-seat space of the long-wheelbase version, which is only $5950 more than the standard A8.

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I was inches away from sitting in it at the Houston Car Show. Too bad Audi had it locked up. I guess they were more worried about the car then selling it.
Ditto on Audi's new touch-pad system. It is incredibly easy and intuitive to use. The first time I tried it, I figured I'd have to pull out the owner's manual, but there was no need; it was that easy.

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