EXCLUSIVE DRIVE – THE AUDI A8 QUATTRO

By Philip Hedderman

 

 

I think we’ve just discovered the Eighth Wonder of the World.

 

Well, when I say we, I mean Audi and the luxury limo of the same name.

 

Yes, just like the other seven (depending which list you’re looking at, Ancient, Modern or Industrial) the fleet-leading German saloon has all the credentials needed to be worthy of an accolade so high.

 

Not only is it as majestic as the Pyramids, as mystic as the Taj Mahal, equal in the engineering excellence of theGolden GateBridge-  it will also have the longevity of theGreat Wall of China.

 

Like all of the above, this Super Executive shares one common bond – the envy of all the other nations who don’t possess one.

 

In the automotive world petty jealousies are particularly grating and none more vicious than that of Audi’s Germanic cousins.

 

Well, how does she fare?

 

Not bad for a square.

 

Granted, it lacks the kerbside desirability of the Mercedes S Class and to a lesser degree the BMW 7 Series, but where it lags behind in looks it more than makes up for in luxury.

 

And it is the most obscenely, opulent car on the Irish market today.

 

Open any door and what greets you is a six-star cabin which wouldn’t look out of place in the penthouse suite on the top floor of the Burj Al Arab hotel inDubai.

 

It’s a sumptuous mix of cream Nappa leather, soft suede and brushed aluminium –  coupled with the most atmospheric interior lighting I’ve ever experienced in a car.

 

Slip into the drivers seat and you are engulfed by the dash which is contoured and angled to ensure that every button, switch and lever is within touching distance.

 

Clear, easy to read dials – all accessible by steering wheel-mounted controls including gear shift paddles – means you never have to take your eyes off the road.

 

Taking centre stage is the 7 inch colour monitor which is home to all the latest in in-car technology including CD, DVD, iPod connectivity, touch screen Sat Nav and Drive Select which allows you to adapt the car to particular driving conditions.

 

You can choose from four settings including Comfort, Dynamic, Auto and Individual, which in turn, alters the steering, suspension and gear ratios to suit the drive.

 

In Dynamic for example, you can feel the shocks tighten as the car electronically lowers by a couple of millimetres and the steering becomes more taut as she readies herself for a brisk spin.

 

what a spin it is.

 

The A8 handled like a hot hatch in fast tight bends and not once did it lurch, kick out or hesitate.

 

Thanks to the ‘always on’ Quattro it savaged country roads like they were vast sections of an autobahn and it was simply sublime on three-lane tarmac, cruising effortlessly at 120kph ticking over at 900rpm.

 

The eight-speed, tiptronic, automatic transmission with dynamic shift programme was flawless – not missing a beat as the massively torquey 6-pot monstered the road ahead with minimum fuss.

 

It’s greener too.

 

Thanks to greater use of aluminium and high strength steel the new A8  is considerably lighter making it more fuel efficient.

 

In fact, the 3.0 TDi Quattro we tested boasted 250bhp, giving a 0-100kpm sprint of a GTi-busting 6.1 seconds, while returning 42mpg.

 

Yes, you read right – 42mpg.

 

That’s down to Stop/Start and regenerative braking and a whole slew of filters which keep emissions down to 174g/km – meaning annual road tax of €667.

 

Astounding, considering the L (or long wheelbase) model we drove is even bigger again – offering the rear seat passenger 120mm more legroom while retaining a massive boot capable of lugging 510 litres of luggage.

 

And if you think that’s impressive then just look at the generous list of standard kit – including leather upholstery, Sat Nav, Bluetooth, cruise control, 4 zone climate control, electric blinds (doors and rear windscreen), parking sensors with reversing camera,  electric memory driver seat, tilt/slide sun roof, keyless entry, adaptive air suspension with driver select, to name but a few.

 

But the A8 has one fundamental flaw – the driver.

 

You see, this car is not designed to be driven by its owner.

 

No sir.

 

With the A8 the best seats in the house are in the back.

 

To be more specific, the rear passenger pew which reclines and massage shanghai the weary executive while the front seat magically turns into a foot rest or pouffe as we call them in Coolock.

 

(See Bob’s video)

 

You can’t but help lie back and flick on a movie which is beamed out in High Definition from the fixed DVD screens attached to the back of the front seats.

 

The screens are electrically adjustable and the automatic blinds on the passenger windows will eliminate any interference by the sun.

 

The DVD package (€1,035 option) also comes with two pairs of wireless headphones which mean that the driver isn’t distracted by that PowerPoint demonstration or in my case – Spongebob Squarepants.

 

You can even have a choice of back shanghai massage varying from ‘wave’ to ‘knotting’ and adjust how vigorous it is while you watch.

 

Now that’s luxury.

 

Competition-wise only one car can touch it but I doubt Audi will be too troubled.

 

The new XJ looks like it could be a contender but Jaguar have all but disappeared inIreland.

 

I doubt if one will be bought country wide – in fact, I’ve never even seen one in the flesh on Irish roads.

 

Judging by vehicle stats on the SIMI website, the Tata-owned brand had just 125 cars registered here in 2011 which was trumped by in trouble SAAB (138) and Subaru (208).

 

And they can’t use the excuse that there is a recession and nobody is buying luxury cars.

 

Audi shifted 3,406; BMW – 3,263; Mercedes – 1,905; Lexus –  412 and sister company Land Rover almost 4 times that at 438.

 

A great pity as Jaguar makes very fine cars.

 

The Audi A8 starts €95,150.