2011 Audi A8 L 4.2 review: Showing the flag

2011 Audi A8 L 4.2

2011 Audi A8 L 4.2

Merriam-Webster defines “flagship” as (1) “the ship that carries the commander of the fleet and carries the commander’s flag”, and (2) “the finest, largest, or most important one of a series…”

That would be the 2011 Audi A8L all over.

Indeed, “flagship” is how Audi defines the A8, and it is the biggest, most luxurious and most impressive and imposing Audi sedan ever. The 2011 Audi A8 is all new, the third generation of the A8 model line, and comes with a superlative generator as standard equipment.

2011 Audi A8 L 4.2 interior

The 2011 Audi A8 L 4.2 interior is loaded with luxury features. (click to enlarge)

The standard Audi A8 is longer and wider than its predecessor, gaining three inches in length and two inches across. In addition to the A8, an A8L version is available. As the nomenclature suggests, the A8L is longer, stretching from 202-inches to 207.4 inches overall, with a longer wheelbase, expanding the distance between front and rear wheels from 117.8 inches to 122.9 inches, directly increasing the rear leg room by 5.1 inches.

Audi calls the standard wheelbase A8 “the driver’s car,” featuring an optional sport package and a three-spoke steering wheel. The long wheelbase Audi A8L  “balances prestige, sportiness and comfort,” and has optional rear seat luxury packages. In other words, the A8L is one a few cars where it’s better to be in back than at the wheel.

2011 Audi A8 L 4.2 tweeter

A tiny tweeter rises from the dash of the 2011 Audi A8 L 4.2 when the audio system is turned on. (click to enlarge)

We did that wrong. We tested the 2011 Audi A8L. But without a chauffeur.

It’s impressive nevertheless, even if it does mean spoiling the kids with enough room for soccer practice.

It’s odd for a manufacturer to tout a lack of efficiency, but not, of course, when speaking of putting together the interior in a luxury car. Then inefficiency is praised. In the Audi A8, “designers were free to draft the A8’s environmental lines with a focus purely on creating a flow around the passengers.”

With a blank check, the interior designers were able to play with “wood inlays, aluminum accents, leather dashboard covering and plastic” to come up with something called the “Koenigsfuge,” or “king’s joint.” It’s where the door and dashboard meet and all the various elements come together. We’re not quite hep to designerspeak, so we don’t get the jargon. Whatever, it’s nicely done.  As is the interior as a whole, and that’s an understatement.

2011 Audi A8 L 4.2 back seat

The 2011 Audi A8 L 4.2 back seat is large enough to play a junior soccer league game. (click to enlarge)

There are a few elements of questionable taste, such as the “driver-selectable LED lighting themes.” It’s mood lighting and it’s available on a Scion, too. On the other hand, why should the kids have all the fun?

Yet on yet another hand, Scion doesn’t offer a factory-installed wifi or Google Maps or a premium package that includes front seat ventilation on 22-way multi-contour  seats with pneumatic lumbar support and seat massage. Or an Executive Rear Seating package with a “relaxation seat” with a power footrest and a fixed console that includes a table and its own controller for the navigation system. No need to say, “Home, James.” Just program the way.

Our test 2011 Audi A8L didn’t have that stuff either. But it did have a $6,300 Bang & Olufsen audio system with little speakers that rise out of the dash like a Star Wars droid extra. Also a $3,000 rear seat entertainment system, a $3,000 driver assistance package (adaptive cruise control with stop and go–full stop and start in traffic), lane assist (lane departure warning), side assist (blind spot warning), pre-sense plus (pre-collision prep) and a four-spoke multi-function steering wheel with shift paddles), plus night vision assistant (infrared imaging) for $2,300, full LED headlights for $1,400, a solar sunroof for $790 and for $800, dual-pane acoustic and security glass (you really should move out of the city).

2011 Audi A8 L 4.2

2011 Audi A8 L 4.2 (click to enlarge)

The night vision system is interesting. Not just an infrared display, the system also detects pedestrians and highlights them in red, reducing the distraction factor that simple camera systems create.

Both the 2011 Audi A8 and A8L are powered by the 4.2-liter direct injection V-8 as standard equipment, although a 500 horsepower W12 engine is available to power the 201 Audi A8L. Naturally, Audi quattro all-wheel drive is standard on all A8 models.

For 2011, the V-8 engine adds direct injection which is the primary reason for a 22 horsepower increase to 372 hp and torque edging up to 328 lb-ft, previously 325 lb-ft.  (The W-12 gets direct injection as well, making Audi the first car maker with all engines so equipped).

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