The Audi arm of the huge VW conglomerate
has been progressively working its way up the automotive
desirability scale. You only have to hearken back to that
dreadful bit of tin-ware, the Audi Fox, to see what strides
have been taken. These days Audi is a force to be reckoned
with, and for the performance driver, Audi has some special
motor cars. One of these is the Audi A8 Quattro, which will
set you back a cool 13.5 million baht in this country. Thank
you so much, keep the change!
However, our Down-Under correspondent John
Weinthal has just had one in his keep for a week and says that
this car represents huge rewards for the enthusiast driver.
Here are the words from Weinthal:
“The first few days with Audi’s AUD
207,000 (about half of what they cost over here) A8 Quattro
flagship sedan were notable for a couple of disappointments,
two surprise omissions from the standard specification and its
commanding road presence. This is a car of great stature. It
is also a distinctly feel-good car. I will explain the
Day Three we escaped the city for some mountain roads - roads
with broken surfaces and enough off-cambers to unsettle almost
any car. Here one discovered why the Audi scooped the
Australian super-luxury car title in the national motoring
organizations’ detailed annual end of year assessments. The
award actually went to the almost identical, but AUD 32,000
less expensive, 3.7 litre 206 kW A8, rather than the 4.2 litre
246 kW model under review.
“The aluminium bodied, full time
all-wheel drive Audi A8 is presented as the luxury sports
sedan supreme among the full size contenders at this heady end
of our market. There is no exaggeration in this billing.
Audi is a large car. At just over 5 metres it is within
millimeters of its prestige competitors - the 210 kW Lexus
LS430, 225 kW Mercedes 500SL, 224 kW 4.2 litre Jaguar XJ8 and
the 245 kW BMW 745i. Prices range from AUD 176,000 for the
Lexus to a whopping AUD 261,000 for the now ageing Mercedes.
The Merc and the BMW, and to a lesser extent the Audi, have
option lists which can boost these prices substantially.
“The A8 has two stand-out features in
this company. These are its all aluminium, but otherwise
relatively conventional construction technology, and the
constant four-wheel drive, explaining the Quattro part of its
name. The Jag introduces an all but revolutionary all
aluminium construction technology. This delivers even greater
weight savings with similar superior body rigidity to the A8
for greatly enhanced ride control and handling. The Merc and
BMW are conventional heavyweights. The Lexus manages to be
lighter than this pair, while still using mainly conventional
materials. Each of these cars is an exemplar of build quality
and refinement, while exuding its own distinctive aura and
appeal. But for ultimate driver engagement, even the
colossally competent Jag gives best to the A8. For the rest,
their designers had other priorities.
Audi’s achievement is all the greater because so little
compromise is involved in terms of ride comfort and hush even
on the standard 19 inch alloy wheels and broad low profile
tyres. Believe me, as an enthusiast driver, this would be my
choice had I the means or the desire for a truly large and
“The A8 utilizes a simpler but similar
major function control centre to the much criticized BMW.
Radio, TV, satellite navigation, telephone, suspension
adjustment and individual climate control settings are all
tuned with a combination centre console rotary knob and a set
of four press buttons. This even extends to finger print
recognition for individual driver’s preferred seating, sound
system and mirror settings and keyless starting. It is
complex, but probably worth the couple of hours tuition and
practice required for true user proficiency.
“Lexus and Jaguar reckon this to be
unnecessary. So far, but with experience limited to the BMW 7
and the A8, I think I agree. Some of it does seem to be
complexity for its own sake with no clear advantage. I might
be wrong - buyers might well love the undoubted degree of
additional control it hands to them.
“However, the satellite navigation was
simply wrong on many occasions. At one stage it was determined
we should do a left turn from a freeway into the Brisbane
River; at a familiar must-turn-right T junction the voice
control and arrow insisted we turn left; later, both commanded
a U Turn when the destination town was clearly sign posted as
straight ahead. Only our familiarity with the territory saved
us at best some unnecessary deviations and at worst, I guess,
becoming hopelessly lost.
“The second flaw was with the cruise
control, although this may have been specific to the test car.
This fluctuated over a range of up to 12 kph with speed
increasing on descents and falling back on even a slight rise.
This could easily result in your farewelling your license to
continue enjoying this deliciously hushed, luxurious capsule.
We tested time and again to ensure it was not some
misadventure on our part. Few cars’ cruise control allow
speed variations of more than 2kph which is how it must be.
“The A8 does not have automatic wipers or
auto on-off for its brilliant bi-xenon headlamps. Both are
available on under $50,000 cars today. One soon gets used to
“The fact that one loses much of the
large glovebox to the six-stacker CD carrier is probably
inevitable because of the space occupied by the control centre
display. However, in-dash six stackers are much appreciated
even by ordinary vehicle drivers today. Most of these cars
also have much simpler steering wheel mounted buttons for the
cruise control rather than the Audi’s lever hidden behind
the left spoke.
“Let me emphasize, this is a hugely
rewarding driver’s car. It is fast, it rides uncannily flat
through all manner of bends without disturbing the
passengers’ conversation. The brakes always feel right and
they perform superbly. The steering is nicely weighted and
ensures true communication with the road surface.
“Yet, with all these driving attributes, the A8 is never
less than a five star commodious cocoon for five - preferably
four - extremely lucky folk. No enthusiast driver will
disagree with the Australian Motoring Associations’
professional judges rating this as Australia’s outstanding
large luxury car of the year.