Back in the driver’s seat, 190kW and 580Nm of torque from the V6 TDI makes an admirable fist of moving the luxo barge to 100kph in 5.9sec, but in typical Audi fashion it never feels as speedy as the speedometer suggests. In Eco or Comfort mode the drivetrain is dormant, with a preference for lowering revs and maintaining good fuel economy (5.9l/100km on the combined cycle and CO2 of 159g/km). It requires a real deep stab on the throttle to kick the eight-speed Tiptronic down a few cogs and raise the revs to more than a subterranean idle. When you do this the 3.0-litre V6 diesel swells with a satisfying hurrump from low down. Not loud or audible, but a cushy feeling of acceleration results all the same. You can opt for five different drive settings and even in the comfiest mode the suspension feels busy. This lends the A8 a sporty kind of feel. One that is much more engaging than is perhaps strictly necessary for a luxury long wheelbase limo. The Dynamic setting doesn’t offer much of a step up in suspension harshness from there and shifting the mode means less overall pitch and roll – with the rear suspension hardening substantively, making the car more reactive. I found myself driving in Dynamic mode a lot of the time because it didn’t compromise the A8′s overall comfort and it sharpened up engine response.
From behind the steering wheel, you’ll never tire of the (R28 500 – optional) Night Vision Assist showing you warm exhaust pipes in front of you in traffic. Sure, it may be a gimmick, but as I found on one rainy early morning commute, it picked out a swarm of orange blocks in the darkness, assuring me these were people crossing the road haphazardly. They were indeed and I’d never have picked them out otherwise. The LED Matrix light system works brilliantly well too, adapting the field of light to oncoming traffic without you needing to lift a finger. Except for when you’re following a car with reflective signage on it, like a taxi, an Ambulance or a police van, because then it might assume it’s a chevron on the side of the road and not dim the lights.
The best compliment you can give the Audi A8 L is that it’s a very, very good luxury car: efficient, quick and technologically advanced. The A8 L probably pips the Mercedes-Benz S-Class for steering, braking and driver response too, but not for sheer opulence. If the A8 L could learn one thing from the S-Class it’s the way the Benz soaks up hundreds and hundreds of km without a fuss. Because of that uncanny talent, the S-Class doesn’t feel like a car as much as it feels like a luxury conveyance: a first class cabin on the Blue Train or an admit one on a private jet. That’s why, in my opinion, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class deserves its own special reserved VIP parking spot right at the top of the food chain.
Need to know
Audi A8 L 3.0 TDI
Price: R1 295 000 (R1 547 949 – as tested)
Engine: 2967cc V6 turbodiesel, 190kW @ 4000-4200rpm, 580Nm @ 1750-2500rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed Tiptronic Automatic, Quattro all-wheel drive
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Weight/made from: 2100kg/steel & composites
Performance: 5.9sec 0-100kph, 250kph(limited), 5.9l/100km, 155g/km
On sale: Now
WORDS: Ray Leathern