2011 Audi A8 — Review
This 2011 review is representative of model years 2011 to 2014.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
It's been a long time (seven years, to be exact) since Audi re-examined its range-topping A8. But this year, the German automaker is treating its flagship to a complete makeover, and we say better late than never. Scheduled for release in the United States next fall, the all-new 2011 Audi A8 will retain its legendary strengths (i.e., an elegant interior and standard all-wheel drive), but will get a little bigger and add a host of new electronic gadgets. And, the newly designed sheet metal is both clean and strikingly muscular.
Under the Hood
As impressive as the extra 22 horsepower is, the really surprising figures come in the efficiency department. While the EPA numbers are still forthcoming, the car could see up to 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway if the company's claims are accurate. Audi says the new transmission will improve the A8's fuel economy by 15 percent compared with the existing model.
That efficiency claim is in large part due to the 8-speed automatic transmission. There's a gear for every speed, allowing the sizable V8 to breathe easier. Coupled to the company's illustrious quattro all-wheel-drive system, the transmission also returns a satisfying driving experience. As in all new Audi vehicles, the quattro system has been tweaked to send 40 percent of power to the front wheels and 60 percent to the rear to deliver more rear-wheel-drive characteristics.
Even above the navigation system, the new touch-screen-based multimedia interface is a millennium ahead of the old system. Want a specific album? Simply flip through a cover flow display just like some MP3 players. Want to adjust your seat? A helpful graphic shows you how the controls manipulate seat position, while controls stay logically on the seat side. Everything from the climate controls to vehicle system information can be altered via the display.
That's nothing new for this segment, but Audi didn't stop there. A new MMI touch pad replaces the cumbersome type-on-screen system of old. If you want to know the location of the closest mall, simply draw out the letters M-A-L-L on the pad with your finger. Skeptical? So were we, but the system is fast and accurate — packed with millions of character symbols, and in any language.
On the Road
As before, the A8 comes with air suspension, which can be set to your choice of Comfort, Dynamic or Auto modes, where the more aggressive setting will provide noticeably increased throttle response along with a marginally stiffer ride. The Dynamic setting may make steering a bit stiff for a 2-ton luxury car, but then again, we can't honestly see A8 owners ever switching the system from Auto.
Right for You?
James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side asSenior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.