EXECUTIVE EDITOR RORY CARROLL: There's something about a full-size sedan that makes me really happy. Way back, well before I was born, most of the companies that sold cars in the U.S. sold a model or several models that had room in the back seat for adults. Now, that market has been left to the premium automakers from Germany and Japan. But if you can afford to play there, you'll find some really compelling big cars being built with comfy back seats, not the least of which is this big 2014 Audi A8 L TDI that recently visited Autoweek HQ.
It's a car with presence to be sure, but it isn't overbearing or gauche, especially with the thrifty TDI motor under the hood. If you'd just come into piles and piles of money, you'd have to have the W12 or an S8, but the old money choice would probably have to be the torquey, smooth diesel -- not that I'd have even the vaguest idea.
It will get up and run, the interior is Audi-grade -- though I'd probably spring for the matte wood, and it returns decent fuel economy, even if this might be one of the cases where the efficiency benefits of the diesel might be outweighed by the cost of diesel. Best of all, if you want to throw a couple of grown ups in the back seat, you won't feel like you need to apologize for the cramped quarters.
The 2014 Audi A8 L TDI is equipped with a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: I'm not saying I didn't enjoy every moment behind the wheel in this German battleship -- I'd call it the Bismark, but we all know how that story ends -- but in truth, it's not really for me.
Despite the front-seat massagers, it's not really for a driver, either; I imagine Audi is hoping to woo Chinese gazillionaires and the motor pool managers of major international monetary organizations with this imposing extended-wheelbase cocoon-on-wheels. This is, after all, the sort of vehicle you're driven in.
I guess the exception to this (as we've previously noted) is if you're really tall and want to be comfortable without compromising rear passenger space.
And you will be comfortable, once you get the seats adjusted. The lack of a distinctive engine note is one signal this is a luxury sedan that is content to be about luxury, not sports-luxury or dynamic-luxury or anything like that. The A8 L is a comfy place to be whether you're in the front or back, and that's that.
Like an old Rolls-Royce, its performance is “adequate.” Actually, it's more than adequate. But the A8 L goes about getting going in such a tastefully understated manner that a quick glance at the speedometer often leaves you surprised; the car doesn't really leap forward so much as it rapidly and stealthily accumulates momentum.
Having 406 lb-ft of torque on tap from 1,750 rpm means the A8 L TDI will hustle, but there's a hint of roll as you float around corners, and more than a hint of understeer. That's perfectly fine. Again, the A8 L is not a sports car, and it's not really trying to be one.
Yes, you can spend an hour or so molding the 22-way “climate comfort” thrones (with a range of massage features!) into an approximation of a well-bolstered sport seat. Yes, you can switch to “dynamic” mode and feel the light-but-precise electronic steering become dull and artificially heavy.
But the A8 L is at its best -- and its most fun, in my opinion -- when driven as smoothly as possible. That's probably true whether you're the driver or the IMF board member/industrial combine CEO/EU bureaucrat in the back seat.
Anyone who can afford to be driven can afford the sub-$100K price tag on this. In fact, as far as presence-per-dollar goes, you can't do much better than the A8 L -- not that those of you with your fingers on the levers of the global economy have to worry about such trifling matters.
The 2014 Audi A8 L TDI comes in at a base price of $83,395 with out tester reaching $99,445.
2014 Audi A8 L TDI
SENIOR MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: I imagine owners of Audi's A8 L TDI feel an overwhelming righteousness as they sail down the road, mid hands-free conference call or concierge consultation. And why should they not? No, Kozak, this isn't a sports car, nor even a performance sedan, but no one ever intended it to be. You want to revel in big-ass driving sportiness, plop for the S8. I find it difficult to think of a sedan I would rather be in -- and especially driven in -- than an A8 L. Toss in the quiet, smooth and efficient V6 turbodiesel, and you'll let everyone know that you know what's up.
Surely the A8 L would serve perfectly as the conveyance of choice for one of Hollywood's on-screen criminal masterminds. But it works just as well for those of us not hellbent on world domination and destruction.
Fit and finish is impeccable, comfort exceptional. The TDI pushes the A8 forward with consistent surge, though the lack of raw horsepower gives this Audi a different personality than its gasoline-powered siblings. But you know something? Considering how few people actually pay attention to trivial, enthusiast matters such as dynamic balance and sky-high rev limits, let alone how few truly appreciate artistic driving, the 2014 Audi A8 L TDI will have no weaknesses to (I imagine) a great majority, if not all, of the people who drive/are driven in it daily or even semi-regularly.
Base Price: $83,395
As-Tested Price: $99,445
Drivetrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6; AWD, eight-speed automatic
Output: 240 hp @ 3,550 rpm, 406 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
Curb Weight: 4,564 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 24/36/28 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 23.6 mpg
Options: Bang & Olufsen advance sound system ($6,300); premium package including Audi side assist, 22-way climate comfort seats including massage, LED headlights ($4,000); driver assistance package including adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane assist, pre-sense plus, high beam assist, topview camera system ($3,250); Panorama sunroof ($1,300); 20-inch 10-spoke wheels including all-season tires ($1,200).
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