|July 31, 2000
AudiWorld Review: 2000 A8L
When I first heard that I was going to be reviewing an A8L, Audi's long wheelbase version of the A8, I was a little skeptical. I'm definitely not the type of person that this car is marketed for; I was worried that this would be a big "old man's" car that I wouldn't care for. Plus, I was wondered if it would even fit in my garage.
The A8L was delivered to me in Cashmere Gray, a color I liked from the start. My fears of it being an old man's car were soon put aside. This car drives very well for such a large car -- it sure doesn't feel like a "boat". The ride is soft and tuned more toward luxury than sports driving, but the horrible (in my opinion) Continental touring tires probably had a lot to do with that. With a set of high performance tires I think the handling of this car could greatly improve; then again, the people that can afford this car probably have a nice sports car in the garage too.
The long wheelbase A8 is 5 inches longer than the normal A8. This may not seem like much at first, but it becomes very evident in the back seat. The extra length adds three more inches of leg room for rear passengers. As a result, when seated in the back, I could sit comfortably without touching the front seats. The rear seats have also been repositioned to increase head and shoulder room. Other luxury features for A8 rear passengers are power lumbar support and head rests for the outboard positions. During my review the only people who actually got chauffeured around in the back were my two daughters, and they fit in it with no problems at all. My 5-year old daughter especially like the car -- she actually had some room to move around (even though she was still in her booster seat) and places to put all her "stuff".
The interior for the front passengers is very well laid out. The dual climate controls are a great feature since more often then not husband and wife will have a different idea of the right temperature. The wood and aluminum trim only add to the overall luxury of the car. Audi's documentation states that the Homelink transmitter is supposed to be standard equipment on A8 models, but this particular car was mysteriously missing it.
This was the first time I spent a considerable amount of time in a car equipped with the 310 hp 4.2 liter V8 engine and I was constantly amazed at its refinement. I thought the 225 TT and S4 were smooth at high speeds, but those don't cars have anything on the A8L. At speed the A8 is so smooth and quiet that it was possible to be cruising along at 100 mph and not realize it. If I had trouble keeping the speed limit in the other cars in Audi's line up, it was nearly impossible to do in the A8L. This was also my first time with the Tiptronic transmission and I was pleased with its overall performance.
On a trip to Dinosaur National Monument on the Utah/Colorado border, I set the standard equipment navigation system to take me to Vernal, Utah, the closest town that I knew about. On the way to my destination the navigation system performed flawlessly, and it took me right to downtown Vernal. But on the way back to Salt Lake City the navigation system seemed to have a very limited number of Salt Lake City streets in it, including the street I live on, so I programmed it to the closest location to my house I could find. It took me right back to my location, except at one point it told me to turn right onto a freeway on-ramp, when in reality I had to turn left. Another time the nav system thought I was on the freeway when in fact I was on a street adjacent to it. I also experienced one technical problem with the system during my use; the system reset itself to the metric system after the car was turned off. I don't know if I was doing something wrong or not, but I couldn't find any documentation on how to keep it on my own settings.
The A8L also comes standard with power rear window sunshade and manual side window sunshades, which can be very nice for the rear passengers. The side window shades are built into the doors where you just pull on the small tap and then hook the shade into the hooks at the top of the door. The shades are contoured to the shape of the windows and are excellent for keeping the sun out. I wasn't so impressed with the power rear window sunshade, though. It is raised and lowered by a switch located on the center console. Unfortunately, the shade on this particular car kept getting caught on the rear deck lid and would not raise up. I was only able to get it to work properly once in my week with the car. The rest of the time it required human assistance to free it from the rear deck lid. For a $70,000 car, this was entirely unacceptable. When inquiring about this problem on the A8 forum, at least one other owner had experienced this problem on their 1997 A8.
ESP (Electronic Stability Program) is also standard equipment and I tested it out during a spirited drive up one of my favorite canyons. On the way up I drove with ESP activated and I could feel it taking effect on the hairpin turns, taking some of the fun out of driving this canyon road. ESP is easily deactivated by a button on the center console, and on the ride back down I had it switched off. This time the road was a little more fun, maybe a little too much fun. On the curves I could get the car to slide around a little better, but make no mistake, this is not a sports car. Somehow I managed to make myself car sick on the way back down. I know that's pretty pathetic to admit, but it's true.
The optional acoustic parking system came in handy when it was time to park the car in my garage. The front parking sensors would indicate when to stop pulling in and it was just enough to fit. I never really got to put the rear sensors to the test, but I have used them before on a A6 in Germany and they always worked like a charm when trying to parallel park on those tight European streets.
At the end of my review I was very impressed with this car. The entire time I drove the A8L I never felt it was too large for my tastes and I now believe it would make an awesome family car. Now, if I only had $70,825 to spare, I might consider trading in my A4 Avant.