Reviews

2012 Audi A8 Driving Impressions


The Audi A8 excels at driving dynamics. This is a car owners will look forward to climbing into, whether it's for the daily commute or the out of state vacation.

We found the A8 rode better and responded to steering inputs with more certainty than did the 2011 BMW 740i or the 2011 Mercedes-Benz S400 we also drove. Our A8 tracked through curves taken at elevated speeds more confidently than the BMW and Mercedes did, the quattro all-wheel drive system invisibly willing the back end to trace the arc marked by the front tires.

Road and wind noise were nicely muted in the A8.

The refined but audibly muscular V8 delivers its power through the 8-speed automatic cleanly and in a linear fashion, with no bumps or surges from camshaft mode transitions.

The W12 arranges its 12 cylinders in four rows of three, instead of the two rows of six cylinders used by a V12. The Audi W12 arrangement results in a more compact package better suited for the quattro all-wheel drive system. The A8L W12 displaces 6.3 liters and produces 500 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 463 pound-feet of torque at 4750. For the 2012 A8L, Audi claims a 0 to 60 mph sprint in 4.4 seconds, and a top speed electronically limited to 130 mph.

Fuel economy for the A8 4.2 is an EPA-rated 18/28 mpg City/Highway with a Combined rating of 21 mpg. Those estimates better or equal the BMW 740i's 17/25 mpg and the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid's 19/25 mpg. Also worth noting is that the A8's V8 delivers more power than either the 740i (315 hp) or the S400's combined gas-electric net (295 hp). Flooring the accelerator will reduce fuel economy, of course. During a week of hard driving, our fuel economy ranged from 13.6 to just over 18 mpg, the latter achieved during extended freeway driving.

The W12 rates 14/21 mpg City/Highway, or 16 mpg Combined, in the EPA test. That's slightly better than that of the V12-powered BMW 760 Li 13/19 mpg, or 15 mpg Combined, and the Mercedes-Benz S600 at 12/19 mpg, or 14 mpg Combined. But the BMW and Benz V12s edge the Audi W12 for horsepower, at 535 hp, 510, and 500, respectively.

The brakes performed consistently and evenly on the A8, never showing the slightest hint of fade. The brakes are always at the ready, aided by a programmed function that primes the hydraulic system any time the driver abruptly lifts off the gas pedal. But it doesn't overdo things, as evidenced by the lack of drama when the brake pedal was touched in the midst of a freeway off ramp entered too fast, delivering only a well-controlled damping of the rate of travel and a calming stop at the intersection at the foot of the ramp.

The A8 is not a lightweight, tipping the scales at 4,409 pounds. The A8L weighs in at 4,453 pounds with the V8, 4,773 pounds with the W12. Both Audi V8 models are marginally heavier than the BMW 740i and 740Li, respectively, and this despite Audi's pound-shaving all-aluminum space frame. Compared to the 5,000-pound, V12-powered BMW 760Li, however, the A8 W12 looks very lean indeed.

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