It's difficult to appreciate just how long the A8L is until you stand next to it...or attempt to park it in your garage. Perhaps this will provide some perspective: the A8L's wheelbase and overall length are within a half an inch of the three-row, eight passenger Honda Odyssey minivan. In other words, they aren't kidding around when they added the "L" to the name. Hip and headroom are plentiful, although as in the A7 the wide console in between the front seats -- which houses the MMI dial flanked by related buttons and now the touch pad -- makes the driver's seat feel tighter than it should in such a big car. The upside is that this large area provides another place to use the gorgeous, matte wood veneer that we loved in the A7.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
Audi has quickly become my favorite luxury automaker. Jaguar might have a better-performing CEO-class sedan, but the human-machine interface inside an XJ frustrates me too much. Audi manages to deliver lots of technology in a very easy to use package that doesn't distract a driver. And the A8 is hardly a chore to drive.
What really stands out in the 2011 Audi A8L are the exceptional materials used in the cabin. Audi has a very strong reputation for interiors and it is well deserved. Every surface feels special and the interior is very well laid out. To top it off, opt for the $1500 alcantara headliner -- it's the ultimate tactile sensation for those looking to upgrade an interior. Using Audi's new touch-sensitive input pad for the infotainment system feels a bit odd at first, but the system works very well and is quite accurate at deciphering the letters and numbers you form on the pad. It's a rare instance of touch-sensitive technology working well in a car, but it's not surprising that Audi got it right.
Audi makes good use of an aging 4.2-liter V-8 by adding direct injection and pairing the engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Though the A8L isn't a small car, it manages better combined fuel economy than an Acura TL while providing an extra 67 horsepower and weighing a few hundred pounds more. The V-8 doesn't compare so well to BMW's twin-turbo unit, but Audi's choice of normal aspiration makes the A8 much smoother to drive around town where the BMW feels very peaky and unnatural. Of course driving any of these limos around town almost seems like a waste of potential.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor