2012 Audi A8L: Subtle seduction


By AARON COLE, Managing Editor

I fall in love with everything I see because I’m stupid.

No one felt about Betamax like I did. Remember Crystal Clear Pepsi? I cried for 17 days.

Fool me into love once, shame on you. Fool me twice, call yourself a former girlfriend.

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The 2012 Audi A8L isn’t your typical lover — if I can call it one. (And I will.)

The 4,500 lbs. of German steel, aluminum, leather and mahogany is so cold, calculating and comforting simultaneously, it could only be a former flame.

Swaddle yourself in the Valetta leather hides and kick on the optional driver and passenger massage feature to unwind away in morning traffic. Get too comfortable and the driver alert systems like lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring will open-palm slap you into paying attention to the road again.

How’s that for a two-faced date? Oh, wait ’til you see the bill.

For the A8L, you’ll pay $84,700 for the privilege of taking this one to dinner. Our test car was $92,175. Oh, and if you’re looking to set yourself apart from the rest of the Federal Heights riff raff, you can opt for the W12 model that’s a stupefying $133,000 to start.

At that pace you better find someone new, and I don’t care if he’s good to you.

Here’s the good news: For your hard-earned money, you do get quite a bit of kit.

To start, the A8 is nonpareil in Audi’s lineup. The flagship sedan sets the tone for the rest of the lineup and has since its introduction in 1994. Most of the new tech and styles you’ll find in the higher-volume, lower-priced sedans like the A6 and A4 begin life in the A8.

Have you been blinded by high-intensity discharge headlights recently? Thank the A8 from a decade ago. Heated steering wheel sound nice? Yup, 10 years on that too. Tiptronic transmission? Puh-lease, that was back in the Clinton administration.

In the A8, you’re driving Diana Ross — even if the rest of the world are Supremes.

And this year is no different.

Wi-Fi comes direct from the factory for up to eight users. (Eight?! What is this? A clown car?) Voice-search powered by Google is available, as is Google Earth-powered navigation.

Also standard on A8 and A8L models are powered by a 4.2-liter V8 that cranks a symphonic 372 horsepower and 328 ft.-lbs. of torque at all four wheels (that’s Audi’s Quattro system). Although those figures aren’t overwhelming, it’s enough to power the car from 0-60 in fewer than 6 seconds.

That behemoth lump of German internal combustion is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that aims to convert the engine’s horsepower and torque into whatever you please, thanks to more options this side of Wall Street.

Audi’s goal of specifically fitting each A8 to its owner is achieved by making everything in the car completely variable.

How does your engine feel? Dynamic? Confortable? Auto? How about your transmission? Is it sporty? Cruising?

The good news: the Audi A8L fits better than a glove. The bad news: You practically sew the seams yourself.

These are really small niggles when compared to the magnificent metal you get to pilot. But the A8L and the A8 vary in one important respect: the A8 is driven, the A8L is driven by someone else.

Our test version, the A8L, is cast from the same mold as the Mercedes S-class, BMW 7-series, Jaguar XJL and AMC Gremlin — prestige at every turn.

To be sure, the A8L’s back seat is spacious, and when fitted with the executive rear-seat package with goodies like heat, ventilation and massage, it’s sinfully delicious.

Curiously, the A8L isn’t fitted with seatback tray tables like you’d find on finer Maybachs, Jaguars and Southwest airline flights. Just where exactly am I supposed to set my Ferragamo organizer and sheepskin billfold? Pffft.

Factoid: The Audi A8L is actually the car preferred by higher-ups in China. I have a feeling I know exactly why, let me tell you.

First, there’s enough room to fit the Chinese Olympic gymnastic team in the back seat.

Second, and more curiously, even though the car is ri-donk-ulous in every respect, it fades seamlessly into traffic.

The Audi A8L isn’t quite “new money” anymore, in the way that others are. It just rolls along pavement, satisfying an audience of only one along the way: you. On one hand, it’s hard to buy class. In another hand, it’s hard to feel special in a car that costs so much.

Is it perfect? No. But love isn’t either.

For my money, a little more pomp and pageantry would have been nice.

To that end, I guess that’s what the uber-expensive W12 is made for. When big is better, blindingly fast is best.

Then again, you can’t hurry love.

Aaron Cole is a syndicated auto columnist. He knows he’s wrong, but he’d like to hear it from you. Reach him at aaron.m.cole@gmail.com.

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