Audi A8L long term review, 1,200km report


I must confess, the notion of lounging in a car with my feet stretched out alongside the chauffeur seemed a bit decadent at first, but quite frankly, it’s an indulgence I have quickly gotten used to. The rear seat relaxation package on the Audi A8L is, in fact, a big selling point for a car in which most owners won’t venture beyond the back seat. I have to say that it’s the comfiest spot on four wheels I’ve experienced in a long time, and the Audi A8L is possibly the only car in which I’ve spent more time in the back than in the front. It also helps that we’ve got a new chauffeur (Simson) who drives smoothly and safely allowing me to completely relax and ‘savour’ bumper-to-bumper business class travel.

With a long and continuous press of a button (it really should be a one-touch operation), the rear seat reclines, the front passenger seat moves forward, and a footrest elegantly drops down, providing maximum comfort. And when you factor in the A8L’s excellent sound insulation and plush ride quality, you can actually tolerate Mumbai’s notorious traffic and potholes. Ironically, when stuck in the mother of all jams one evening in Mumbai’s Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), I was at the wrong end of the car – behind the wheel. So instead of putting my feet up and productively immersing myself in my phone, I was on and off the throttle and brake pedals.

The A8L isn’t a bad car to drive but inching forward at the rate of 1kph isn’t anyone’s idea of having fun. However, what the BKC snarl did effectively highlight is how utterly smooth the A8L’s eight-speed torque converter automatic is. There’s no DCT jerkiness, but a gradual build up of torque, which augments its outstanding low-speed driveability and comfort in congested traffic.

Wood-finished aircon vents glide open and shut.

Spending extended hours in the A8L, you start appreciating its finer details, and there are lots of them in the cabin. I just love the way the aircon vents glide open and shut, and can only imagine how many engineering hours must have gone into their design. The dash-mounted tweeters of the Bang & Olufsen sound system also rise and go down with similar grace when you turn the ignition on and off. The material quality too is absolutely exemplary with wood inlays reminiscent of upscale furniture.

Wireless charging pad in central box inconvenient to access.

I’m not a fan of piano-black finishes as they highlight even the tiniest of imperfections in them, but the piano-black sections on the dash and centre console in the A8L are just flawless. The sofa-like seats are an epitome of comfort, and don’t have that extra and unnecessary layer of firmness you find in the latest Mercedes seats.

Twin-screen system menu feels dated and needs an overhaul.

But for all its exemplary finish and ergonomic perfection, the A8L’s cabin is, well, boring. And every time I come back to it after a drive in a new Merc or BMW, its lack of wow factor is even more obvious. The digital displays and on-board tech in all Audis are now a generation behind and feel dated. Also, the twin screens on the centre console are smudge magnets and can drive you nuts if you like keeping things neat.

Outstanding ride quality and good clearance.

A drive to Mahabaleshwar gave the A8L a chance to stretch its long legs, and on the Mumbai-Pune expressway and even the single-lane, rain-ravaged road from Panchgani to Mahabaleshwar, the A8L was a true star (pun intended!). The way it floated over bad roads epitomised the outstanding ride comfort modern Audis are known for.

The 3.0-litre, V6 petrol isn’t a firecracker, but it still delivers a sense of urgency when you need it. Fuel efficiency? On the drive up to Mahabaleshwar, I got 6.7kpl, but on the way back – descending from 4,500 feet to sea level – gravity was my friend and helped me get an impressive 9.2kpl. In the city, efficiency varied between 6-8kpl. 

Faulty TPMS indicated loss of pressure

Glitches? The TPMS threw up an error reporting a loss of air in the front tyre when thankfully there was no leak. The last thing I wanted on my night drive back from Mahabaleshwar was to change a flat on an unlit highway. 

Living with the A8L, I was smitten with its understated elegance and superb comfort. Yes, this car has certainly aged, but the consolatory fact is that it has done so gracefully.

Also see:

Audi Q3 long term review, 8400km report

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