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2020 Audi A8L First Drive Review

What is it?

Why would I buy it?

Top-notch tech, rear-seat comfort and relaxing massages

Why would I avoid it?

Low ground clearance, no diesel option, expensive

What is it?

Left Front Three Quarter

This is the Audi A8L, in which the L denotes a long wheelbase. It's the carmaker's flagship luxury sedan that was launched in India at the start of this year with a new design language, luxurious features, a touchscreen operated cockpit, and more. Is it alluring enough for a buyer? We find out.

Let's first take a look at this fourth-generation model’s exterior design, whose body follows Audi Space Frame principle for added strength. Up front is a large grille adorned in chrome but still nothing distinctive, not so emotive, and in fact the front looks like the A6. Yet, the new design highlights include Audi's cutting-edge illumination in the form of full LED matrix headlights with dynamic indicators. They also have an animated welcome and coming/leaving home function, while the spread and illumination is excellent and the tech works fantastically. Moreover, the membership in this elite luxury club calls for a certain size and the A8 comes prepared by being the longest and widest in its segment. Its five-spoke alloys are the only sporty element as everything else exudes elegance and grandeur in loads. Be it the coupe-like roof-line, the stretched wheelbase or the chrome trims. Round at the back too, the wide rear is dominated by horizontal lines. What looks the most lovely is the thin red strip along with the chrome band that stretches across the entire width seamlessly connecting the tail lights. This is, undoubtedly, the most beautiful angle of this car.

left rear three quarter
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How is it on the inside?

Dashboard

The interior looks gorgeous and is well-put-together with materials that have a feel-good factor. Audi designers have co-ordinated these interior elements holistically. For example, the touch screen blends into the piano black dash so beautifully that it looks like one seamless unit with the black interface. The upholstery, soft-touch elements, velvety black-top, and decorative trims with diffused chrome accents, all give a classy look to a roomy yet ergonomic cabin with comfortable front seats. The way the AC vents open up and tweeters come up on the dash is amazing, hinting at the attention-to-detail. My small grumble would still be the shiny areas that reflect so much of light and act as finger-print magnets. Otherwise, there's great visibility from the driver's seat to gauge the four corners of this enormous car.

Rear Seats

Then, as you proceed to step in the second row, the long doors themselves emphasise the space inside. The large windows and the elongated window-line display great outside visibility. And once you're in, you'll not want to move out of these seats - they are that supportive and comfy! Besides, there's an incredible list of features to create the perfect ambience. Smart appointments like four-zone climate control, electrically adjustable seats with recline to maximise comfort, ambient lighting, massage and ventilation functions, a 23-speaker Bang and Olufsen sound system with signature pop out-style tweeters, individual screens for the rear occupants, two sun roofs…the list goes on and on! And if that doesn’t satiate your needs, Audi has gone a step ahead to delight you with another list that includes foot massage, automated blinds, individual wireless removable screens, a wireless tablet for controlling all functions, ionisation, perfume etc. There’s even a refrigerator deep enough to hold two champagne bottles. What’s more, a matrix reading light to exactly adjust where you want it to focus, including the area and intensity. Simply mind-blowing!

Rear Seats

Still, the lack of knobs, buttons, and touch without haptic feedback, make things a little tedious while driving. We humans take time to register and get used to tactile signals. And every time, we tend to look at what we are operating. Nonetheless, all the screens are highly customisable and make it easier for a user to select an interface according to his taste. Well, preparing for crucial meetings on the go will most certainly be appreciated for the ease of comfort, convenience, and connectivity it provides. In fact, I can imagine owners calling in 'a very private meeting in my office but outside your office'. Get the gist? If yes, possibly even pulling out a bottle and raising a toast after a successful deal!

Rear Seats

What makes the deal sweeter is a horde of safety equipment like eight airbags, ABS, EBD, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree camera, lane departure warning, and so on. That said, though this long list of safety tech boosts security, what further amazes is that the A8L can park itself with just the touch of a button or through an app. However, our press car here doesn't have Audi's new AI (artificial intelligence), radar-based guidance, automatic braking, automatic parking or remote assist. Customers can opt for it while buying.

360-Degree Camera Control

How does it drive?

Engine Shot

Unlike its rivals that offer petrol and diesel models with a plethora of variants to choose from, the A8L only comes as a petrol in a single trim. This is a silent 335bhp 3.0-litre V6 mill mated to a quick and sharp eight-speed automatic gearbox that feeds power to all wheels through the Quattro system. Be it in any driving mode, it remains reasonably quiet at all speeds and refinement levels are worth lauding. In efficiency mode, of course, the throttle inputs feel more reserved but it's punchy enough to overtake slow-moving traffic.

Left Front Three Quarter

It doesn't really need to be revved much to get going, but once given the stick, it pushes you in the seat and lurches forward with ease. It's lightning quick but the trouble is, it uses quite a bit of fuel at the same time. The transmission changes gears nicely and very smoothly. The transition is hardly felt, especially at slow speeds. In fact, it even responds quickly when you put the foot down to pull away easily, thanks to the 500Nm torque. As a result, it feels very rapid despite its huge size. So given your prominence, significance and standing, if you have to flee from a crowd or ever happen to be chased by someone in a life-threatening quest, the A8L will easily be able to pull you away very quickly. Audi claims a 0-100kmph sprint in 5.7 seconds and I got a first-hand experience of this the moment I stomped on to the gas pedal. The sport mode further lets you rev till the redline at 6,500rpm, otherwise it’s quite capable to keep cruising at 100kmph at as low as 1,500rpm in comfort mode.

left rear three quarter

This one gets Audi's Dynamic all-wheel steering which is very quick with just two and a quarter turns lock-to-lock. Paired with a 360 camera, parking this huge car won't ever give you the chills. And since you will mostly be in the rear seat, your driver is certainly going to enjoy the light controls. It sticks to the road with tremendous amount of grip. It doesn't feel it's on rails and doesn't lean much in tight corners either. It's quite involving even on a twisty section, while remaining poised and surefooted. The all-wheel steering makes things easier by turning the rear wheels against the direction of the front, hence helping in a tighter turn. On the contrary, at high speed lane changing, it slightly steers the rear wheels in the same direction as the front to maintain stability.

Right Side View

A stress-free driving experience is also due to the adaptive dampers and air suspension that not only provide a plush ride, but also do a good job of ironing out most small bumps and potholes. With the option of raising the suspension, it does a great job of isolating the occupants from rough patches, but due to the car’s sheer length and given clearance, speed-breakers and bigger potholes are certainly going to be a concern. But if patchy surfaces and unpaved roads aren't a major hindrance on the route you take, you are going to have a relaxing journey especially on the highways. The suspension effectively isolates any vibrations, doesn't give a very floaty undulating feel and in fact provides a smooth, comfortable ride over long distances. If you're in the market for a sporty car that's also good for city or highway driving, and if you are okay with not having a diesel option to choose from, the A8L perfectly fits the bill.

Left Front Three Quarter

Should I buy one?

Today it is reckoned that the demand for diesel will plummet further. However, not having a diesel option is like undermining the fact that the demand for an oil-burner in this segment isn't a good one. Yes, the Audi A8L is a great representation of innovation, tech and exclusivity as it competes against the distinguished dynamics of the BMW 7 Series and the sheer comfort brought about by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. But in the process of being brought here as a CBU, it gets way more expensive especially with all the extras (Rs 1.84 crore on-road). Not that you don't know how to make money, but unless you are like Tony Stark who appreciates a high-tech cabin, it might be a little difficult for Audi to convince you to pull out the extra moolah.

Right Rear Three Quarter

Where does it fit in?

The Audi A8L is priced at Rs 1.56 crore (ex-showroom) and is an alternative to its competitors like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series, and the now discontinued Jaguar XJL.

Left Front Three Quarter

Pictures by Kapil Angane

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Audi A8 L Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 1.87 Crores onwards
Bangalore₹ 1.97 Crores onwards
Delhi₹ 1.78 Crores onwards
Pune₹ 1.87 Crores onwards
Hyderabad₹ 1.88 Crores onwards
Ahmedabad₹ 1.8 Crores onwards
Chennai₹ 1.87 Crores onwards
Kolkata₹ 1.73 Crores onwards
Chandigarh₹ 1.75 Crores onwards
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