The 2007 Audi A8 L W12 Quattro AT6 -- we'll explain all those numbers and letters in a moment -- is 204.4 inches long, more than 2 inches longer than a Chevrolet Tahoe. With the interior outfitted like our test car's, the Audi seats four.
As you might expect, those four people will be very happy. Well, three, anyway: Probably one of them has to pay for the car, which, in this case, lists for $135,170. This includes a $1,700 federal "gas guzzler" tax, due to the EPA rating of 14 miles per gallon in the city, 21 mpg on the highway. Premium gas, thanks.
The A8 has long been Audi's flagship sedan, and the A8 L W12, which joined the lineup for 2005, is the flagship's flagship. The "L" means it's longer than the regular A8 by about 5 inches. And the W12 means it's powered by a 6.0-liter, 450-horsepower 12-cylinder engine that is in sort of a "W" configuration, rather than a conventional "V." Quattro is Audi's version of all-wheel-drive, and no carmaker, except perhaps Jeep, knows more about that than Audi does. And the AT6 means automatic transmission, six speeds.
This is a strong, solid car, happiest when allowed to stretch its legs on the highway. Top speed is governed at 130 mph, which, on the German Autobahn, it would likely see regularly. Here, at 70 mph, it feels as though it's idling.
Indeed, you would be hard-pressed to find a more sure-footed, comfortable vehicle in which to cover a great many miles in a short period of time. Expected luxury appointments are there -- Valcona leather, a DVD rear-seat entertainment system, 16-way power front seats with power massage and ventilation, power rear side sunshades, a retractable color screen for the navigation system and rear-view camera, and dual-pane security glass, which still couldn't keep out some surprisingly loud tire noise on concrete pavement.
Despite the standard 12-speaker Bose Surround Sound stereo with a six-disc CD changer, the test car had an upgraded Bang & Olufsen sound system that cost $6,300, and featured, among many other things, a pair of little round tweeters that silently rose from the corners of the dashboard when the stereo was on. Overkill? Maybe, but there was also a $3,900 "leather appointment upgrade" to the already gorgeous leather upholstery.
Aside from the all-wheel-drive, the A8 L was absolutely loaded with safety and stability equipment, ranging from 10 air bags inside to a "high-pressure headlight washer system" outside. The air suspension continuously monitors load and speed, and adjusts the Audi's height to match. Handling was much more crisp than any car this large should be able to manage; braking was excellent. There is really nothing much here to criticize, nor should there be at this price.
The regular, and exceptionally nice, Audi A8 costs $69,620, which is $65,550 less than this Audi A8 L W12. With the A8 models, discriminating and deep-pocketed customers have three big German sedans to consider, the other two being the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series, both of which also can be optioned up to stratospheric prices.
Those customers can argue the merits of the three cars at the country-club bar. We'll just enjoy our occasional little test-drive peeks into a very different world.
Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5699.