Sometimes you just know when something is good. You can't always express exactly why or point to a particular detail that makes it so, but you know.

When you sit in the 2011 Audi A8, you get that feeling.

Maybe that feeling came from the massage the front seat gave me. But, throughout the cabin, there's a feeling of understated confidence. It's the smell of the leather. It's the way the aluminum MMI knob feels against your fingertips, perfectly machined. It's the mix of wood and metal accents throughout that exemplify the craftsmanship.

It's not one particular piece but how all of them work together in inspiring mechanical precision. It's not even the pieces you see, such as the little solar powered fan on the sunroof that will pull in fresh air and keep the car cooler when parked in the sun. In and out of this car, it just feels right.

Audi calls it "progressive luxury."

I say, "Look out 7 Series."

This car is the complete package. It's European sophistication with an understated attitude that makes it both stand out and blend in at the same time. Nothing feels over the top, but everything feels right.

It's 4.2-liter V-8 growls at traffic lights, but the car glides along highways.

This car may weigh 4,400 pounds, but it can still hit 60 mph from a standstill in under six seconds and, yet, it manages 27 mpg on the highway and 17 mpg in the city.

Better yet, the ride is phenomenal. It's nearly as silent on the road as from inside the cabin. The only thing you'll hear is the sweet V-8 when you hit the gas — 372 horses charging in unison.

Unlike some big sporty luxury sedans that were meant to be enjoyed from the backseat, the A8 remains a driver's car. (There is an extended wheelbase version, the A8L, designed for the unlicensed executive.) But this car makes you want to sit up front.

When you do, you're rewarded every time.

Long body stiff in corners

The car, while more than 200 inches long, still remains stiff through corners and aggressive driving. Audi's aluminum frame provides better performance, as Audi says this new body includes 25 percent more torsional rigidity.

The optional all-wheel-drive system includes torque vectoring — the latest trend for performance cars, which moves torque from wheel to wheel to enable better handling. There are also some other performance features, such as the A8 cleaning the brake discs and filling the calipers with fluid as soon as the accelerator is released. And if the driver fails to hit the brakes, the Audi braking guard will beep and will shake you using the brakes. Really, this car knows what's good for you; most of the time, before you do.

My favorite option on the A8 is its night vision, which is displayed on the 7-inch driver information display. The pedestrian-detection system highlights people along the road and provides a warning if someone is walking in your path. This system uses an infrared camera mounted on the front of the car.

There are actually sensors all around the A8 that help it detect cars in your blind spots as well as operate the adaptive cruise control, which means the car will automatically adjust its speed depending upon the traffic in front of it.

The A8 is high tech all the way but blends the technology in a seamless manner that just enhances the driving experience.

MMI, Audi's multipurpose spinning mouse on the center console, is easy to use and glides through every command. With the touch of one of the buttons surrounding the MMI wheel and a quick spin, it's easy to pull up the navigation system, dial the phone or change the radio station.

New to the A8 is a touchpad next to the driver that allows the driver to spell commands and dial phone numbers without ever taking your eyes off of the road. It does take a little getting used to, but after a few minutes of practice in the driveway, it was easy to master on the road.

Luxury, sportiness balanced

Still, the A8 is not just a collection of high-tech toys wrapped in leather. Just look at it. Its graceful lines inside mirror those on the outside. The car is simply beautiful.

The front end looks big and powerful. The headlights, with that now familiar LED checkmark trim, make this car easily identifiable. The long hood and elegant roof line are graceful and make the A8 look smaller than it really is. The big 19-inch wheels give it a wide confident stance.

Few cars manage such a successful marriage between luxury and sportiness as the new A8. It can handle all of the daily driving with a refinement few other cars can match. It would be fantastic for a long road trip, providing lots of space and nearly every imaginable comfort.

And on weekends, its powerful engine is ready.

With this car, you just know.

sburgess@detnews.com (313) 223-3217