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2015 Audi A8 3.0 TDI Sedan L quattro Tiptronic Review by Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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2015 Audi A8 L Review
“L” is for limo fit for a Potentate

By Steve Purdy
Senior Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

When we get into a big Audi we don’t expect to see the trip computer telling us we have a 750-mile cruising range. But this is a diesel, remarkably enough, and with a 21+gallon fuel tank and highway mileage in the 36-mpg range, I guess that might be accurate. We’ll see.

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This is the big, luxurious, extra-long Audi A8 L TDI and I requested it for a special purpose: to chauffeur classic and collector car owners from the lot where they park their rigs the few miles to the show field for the Lake Bluff Concours d’Elegance of Southwest Michigan. More than half our entered cars are trailered and my volunteer responsibilities for the show include this shuttle service. I always like to impress our guests with something special, and this one is.

For 2015 the Audi A8 gets a mild facelift and every new version of this car gets more and more high-tech gadgetry. The styling updates include a new, bolder grille, crisper character lines all around, new LED headlight and taillight designs, and a more sculpted look, particularly in front. Large 19-inch wheels with a classy 15-spoke design add a measure of heft to the already large visual ambiance of the A8L. An amazing 0.26 coefficient of drag is partly the result of many of these aesthetic updates and it contributes to the exceptional fuel efficiency.

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Inside the A8L we find an ambiance to please a potentate – stitched leather, lots of wood, polished aluminum and piano black. The driver and front passenger have so much room to luxuriate and such rich and lustrous materials to surround them that they may not want to leave. Generous, firm seats are well bolstered but not too firm like some other Germans I could name.
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The navigation and mulit-purpose screen emerges from the center of the dash and is controlled with a not-too-complex knob and 10 buttons just forward of the electric shifter. Audio controls are separate (kudos to Audi for that) including a six-position touch pad for selections. A simple analog clock confirms its elegant character. Audi has always been at the head of the class in advanced electronics and in the early days I often panned them for being too complex and hard to manage. Now, it seems to me, they are leading in terms of being intuitive and easily managed, notwithstanding the addition of more and more features and capabilities.

In terms of gadgetry, this one is getting close to being able to drive itself with lane departure intervention and adaptive cruise control among other cool stuff. We can go down the highway in a line of traffic without touching the steering wheel, brake or accelerator. After a relatively short distance, though, it always asked me to take back the wheel as it drifted left and right across the lane, but with every little advance in these systems we’re closer to an autonomous car. I was able to turn off some of these functions when they interfered with my driving pleasure. A new owner will spend a good deal of time acclimating to all the functions and abilities of this car. If I were to offer a prediction I would say Audi will be among the first to make it to the goal of making a practical self-driving car.

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Under the hood we have a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel good for 240 horsepower and a solid 428 pound-feet of torque. The torque is the important number here. All versions of the A8 get the new 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Audi claims a 0-to-60 time of just 6.3 seconds and EPA numbers of 24 in the city, 36 on the highway and 28 combined. I was easily managing 35 mpg on the highway at extra-legal speeds keeping up with I-94 traffic. These numbers are truly amazing for a 4,500-pound luxury sedan like this.

Now, whether the diesel makes sense or not economically is a complex question. With diesel fuel costs at close to parity with gasoline (currently even 10% less than gas), and with diesel getting typically 30% better mileage you can certainly save money on fuel. But how much you save will depend on how much you drive. The diesel powertrain usually costs considerably more than a conventional one but in the case of a high-end (90-grand or more) car like this it becomes much less significant. Just be assured that today’s diesels, unlike those of a couple decades ago, are quiet, smooth, quick and clean.

This extra long Audi A8 gets a huge back seat with enough legroom for a hoop star. That extra length has not contributed to any extra trunk space, though, as the 14.2 cubic-feet matches that of the standard A8.

Audi’s 4-year 50,000-mile warranty covers the whole car including the powertrain with one year or 5,000 miles of routine maintenance included.

Now, a few notes on driving dynamics and behind-the-wheel feel of the A8L:

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First impressions as we slide into the cabin are of an elegant but unpretentious luxury car. We immediately feel the size and have no trouble finding our way around the controls. With everything adjusted just right my hand falls easily to the electric shifter on the broad console. I’ve never been fond of electric shifters and that feeling has not softened. I know it saves space and mechanical complexity but too often I’m bumping it into a position I’d not intended. But, that is my only complaint inside. The driver’s seat moves in too many directions to count. The mulit-purpose control knob does what I expect nearly every time. And, while there is so much going on with knobs, buttons and touch surfaces that it appears a bit busy, I found my way around without drama.

Out on the road acceleration is strong, not exhilarating but quick enough to do whatever needed to get into traffic briskly and launch down short freeway entrance ramps. No one but the most astute and knowledgeable car person would even know it was a diesel. The wonderfully smooth 8-speed automatic shifts quickly up or down with the standard paddle shifters. It does not downshift nearly as smoothly with the accelerator. Ride and handling are impeccable. As we expect from such a luxury car it is dead silent inside as well, even at extra-legal speeds. The Audi engineers and designers have obviously thought through carefully all the tactile quality issues and ergonomics necessary to make an exceptional luxury automobile.

Audi’s line of A8 sedans includes only one normal wheelbase model – S8. The long wheelbase line includes a 3.0-liter V6, this TDI, a 4.0-liter V8 and the high-end W12.

Our TDI Quattro A8L starts at $85,100 and our test car came loaded with most of the options and packages available bringing the price to $98,500 on the sticker’s bottom line.

So, if you need, or just want, a big, luxurious German sedan I would not hesitate to recommend this one. Which powertrain you choose might be the toughest decision, but the TDI would be a solid choice even though you can get the V6 for a bit less money. The actual performance will be as good as the V8 and you can go well over 700 miles on a fill. I love that.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved

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