Audi's redesigned flagship sedan debuted as a 2004 model. A slightly lower-priced shorter-wheelbase model has been added for 2005; the long-wheelbase version is designated A8 L. New standard equipment for 2005 includes a tire-pressure monitor and a rain sensor.
For 2004, an all-new aluminum body was developed, promising 60 percent better structural rigidity than its predecessor. Audi's third-generation space frame uses fewer components and weighs 300 pounds less.
Audi's 4.2-liter V-8 features five valves per cylinder and produces 335 horsepower. The six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission incorporates a Dynamic Shift Program that reduces the number of gear changes needed. An adaptive four-setting air-spring suspension features continuous shock-absorber damping control, and it also permits speed-dependent lowering of the body for increased directional stability. Permanent all-wheel drive, which Audi designates with the term "quattro," is standard.
An A8 L 6.0 quattro sedan with a 450-hp W-12 engine went on sale late in 2004.
(Skip to details on the: A8 L 6.0 quattro)
Audi describes its top sedan as "a harmonious combination of clarity and sporting character, grace and elegance." The A8 L rides on a 121-inch wheelbase, 5.1 inches more than the base A8. The low front end features a short overhang, contrasted with a high tail. A high belt line that rises toward the rear highlights the A8's sporty appearance.
Rear doors on the A8 L are 5 inches longer than usual for easy entry and exit. Seven-spoke alloy wheels hold standard 17-inch tires, but 18- and 19-inch tires � and different rims � are available.
Up to five occupants fit inside the A8 or A8 L. The driver faces a multifunction four-spoke steering wheel and uses an electromechanical parking brake.
Fine wood trim � Amber Vavona or Beige Grained Birch � extends to the sides of the interior, complementing Valcona leather upholstery. Power front seats can be equipped with massage, heating and ventilating functions. The premium Bose surround sound system includes a CD changer and 12 speakers.
Under the Hood
Audi's 4.2-liter V-8 produces 335 hp and drives a six-speed-automatic transmission that offers Tiptronic manually selected gear changes and a Dynamic Shift Program. All A8s have quattro all-wheel drive.
Antilock brakes and 10 airbags, including knee airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, and side curtain-type airbags, are standard.
Instead of being flamboyant, Audi's flagship sedan is civilized and refined and accomplishes most things in a manner that's close to flawless. Next to luxury, maneuverability is the A8's strongest point.
On narrow two-lane roads, this full-size sedan whips from one curve or corner to the next with ease. Going precisely where you steer, it stays beautifully flat in curves and responds immediately to driver inputs. Even when the road gets narrow and windy, staying in your lane is easy.
The ride is elegantly smooth, and the A8 displays total control. You get an abundant rush of energy when the pedal is pushed, but considerable downshifting occurs on even moderate upgrades. Fortunately, those downshifts are smooth and prompt.
The A8 L has abundant backseat legroom, but toe room is more limited. Visibility in all directions is good.�
A8 L 6.0 Quattro
Late in 2004, Audi introduced a variant of its flagship A8 sedan with a W-12 engine rather than the usual V-8. Known as the A8 L 6.0 quattro, the top-level sedan is the first model to wear Audi's new, prominent grille. Rated at 450 hp, its 6.0-liter W-12 mates with a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. This is the first production car in the world to use LED technology, which promises extremely low power consumption, for its daytime running lights. Back to top
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