It’s no secret that Audi will be pulling the silk off an all-new A8 flagship next month.
Word has it that not only will the car have a polarizing, love-it-or-hate-it new design, but it’ll pack more computing power than a Google server farm, allowing it to move one step closer to fully automated driving.
One of its multitude of ground-breaking features will be its new Traffic Jam Pilot function that’ll enable the car to legally pilot itself at speeds up to 35mph in freeway stop-start traffic. Look Ma, no hands.
Behind-the-wheel texters, tweeters and Subway foot-long sandwich-eaters, prepare to rejoice.
As someone who regularly beats his head against the dashboard trying to master the complexities of modern-day automotive technologies, the thought of an even-more complex Audi is, to me, about as thrilling as a computer virus.
To ready myself for this all-new A8 however, and put its upcoming tech into perspective, I just spent a deliriously-joyful week behind the wheel of the out-going A8, in this case a 2017 A8 L 3.0T quattro.
You gotta love a car that lets you enter an address into its nav system by simply scribbling it with your finger on a small touch-pad on the center console.
This current version has been around since 2010, so design-wise it’s about as youthful and fresh-faced as Nick Nolte in a police mugshot.
Yet with its stretched, limo-like wheelbase, huge grille and honking 20-inch alloys, it still has a tremendous elegance and huge on-the-road gravitas. Valet parkers will fall over themselves to find a primo spot for it outside the front door.
And to drive it is to love it. The A8L comes with a choice of two engines; a honking 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 good for 450-horsepower, or a 3.0-liter supercharged V6 cranking out 333-hp.
Want horsepower nirvana? There’s a short-wheelbase S8 Plus with a thundering 605-hp version of the big 4.0 V8, though that’s simply a speeding ticket waiting to happen.
Trust me, no one will be disappointed with the performance of the supercharged V6. It’s super-quiet and refined and has no shortage of muscle to punch the lightweight A8 off the line, or surge past slower traffic on a two-lane back road.
Part of its eagerness is down to the A8’s magical 8-speed Tiptronic transmission. It responds instantly to calls for kickdown, and shifts from one gear to the next with all the smoothness of hot molasses flowing from a jar.
Through the curves, the car’s standard all-wheel drive quattro set-up, shuffles drive between each wheel to ensure optimal traction. The feeling for the driver is one of sublime poise and balance with real agility. It’s arguable the sportiest-feeling big sedan in its class.
While the ride is a little on the firmish side for a car so focused on delivering sublime comfort for those inside, it’s in keeping with the car’s driver-focused image.
Yet who wants to drive when you can luxuriate in the car’s amazing rear seats?
The A8L is five inches longer than a standard-wheelbase S8, with those extra inches going into the back to provide true stretch-out space.
I know, the analogy with biz-jets is a bit over-used, but that’s exactly what sitting in the back of an A8L feels like. Power-up the massage function, recline the rear backrest, crank-up the 630-watt Bose surround sound system, and chill.
This being the flagship of the Audi range, you’d expect quality. But the A8 goes above and beyond, with its glove-soft diamond-stitched leather, a gorgeous mix of satin-and-varnished timber, Alcantara headliner and brushed metal detailing.
The base price of a ’17 model year A8L 3.0T is $82,500, but nicely-loaded you’ll pay closer to $93,000. Though I expect that with an all-new A8 landing at dealers towards the end of the year, there’ll be good deals to be had on leftover stock.
All I’d say is that the all-new A8 will have to be pretty awesome to outshine this current version.