2019 Audi A8 L: High on luxury, low on sport
Words and photos by Jill Ciminillo
Sinking into the driver’s seat of the 2019 Audi A8 L is almost a sensual experience. The supple leather is smooth to the touch, and the padding underneath the skin gently contours to your body as you settle into position.
The headrest is plushly pillowed and lightly caresses the back of your head.
The overall experience is like slipping into a warm and welcoming embrace.
The rich chocolate-colored leather, deep suede door accents and textured wood trim add to the ambience, speaking the language of wealth, warmth and comfort.
FIRE AND ICE
This is a direct contrast to the conservative and cold exterior design.
The body of the A8 is a swath of horizontal lines from the rear decklid all the way to the grille. With a long nose, narrow-slitted headlights and wide-mouthed grille, the A8 stares at you with malice, like there is something malevolent here.
I can’t get the image of a shark on the prowl out of my head.
It didn’t help that the test car was a stark Florett Silver Metallic.
But there are touches of beauty here, too, with the elegant chrome accents surrounding the grille and splicing the taillights. Plus, the optional 20-spoke wheels looked like icy flames sparking out from a nexus.
The interior and exterior are a curious juxtaposition, brimming with luxury and amenities, filled with both fire and ice.
I mean that both literally and figuratively.
The test vehicle topped $100k, jumping almost $20k over its base price with expensive options such as an Executive Package, Rear-Seat Comfort Package and Cold Weather Package.
Thus, both the front and rear benefitted from heated-and-ventilated seats, and the front got “heated surfaces.” This included not only the steering wheel but also the armrests. Yes, the armrests!
Another icy-hot feature: Four-zone automatic climate controls. I could blast the heat, my husband could turn on the air, and any rear-seat passengers could control their own destiny without relying on someone from the front seat. In other words: the recipe for familial bliss.
CUT THE CORD
Outside of creature comforts, the Audi A8 L is well-stocked with a plethora of other amenities and technologies. My favorite has to be the wireless environment for my phone.
The vehicle comes standard with wireless Apple CarPlay and an available wireless phone charger in the armrest. I liked that I could get in the car, put my phone in the charger and everything would sync up and charge.
I will point out there was sometimes up to a 5-minute delay in CarPlay kicking in, but once it did, it worked instantaneously with voice or touch-screen commands – which isn’t always the case with wireless environments. There is an occasional delay between spoken command and execution.
Another note: Audi does offer Android Auto, but it’s not wireless.
For 2019, Audi also updated the Multi-Media Interface (MMI) in the A8, ditching the touch controller knob and moving to a touch screen.
Audi has done a superb job with the design here, being one of the few automakers who manages to make a dual touch-screen environment look good and work well. The top screen manages the audio and vehicle settings, whereas the bottom one primarily manages HVAC controls.
One of the interesting finishing touches on the MMI is the haptic touch. When your fingers reach out to adjust the radio stations or HVAC controls, pressing the “button” on the screen has a unique physicality to it. The screen vibrates at the touch, almost tricking your fingers into thinking they pressed an actual button
I often play tug of war with turbocharged engines. The initial “tug” provides little movement, then all of the sudden I’ve dropped the other team in the mud with sheer brute force. And so it was with the 3.0-liter TFSI engine in the Audi A8 L.
It’s nice and smooth once you get to highway speeds, and pressing the pedal to the floor for passing maneuvers provides gleeful instantaneous power. You can shoot out into the passing lane and dip back into the driving lane before anyone has a chance to blink.
The problem for me is always the acceleration from a stop – especially when the auto stop/start engine is engaged. There’s that moment when you depress the gas pedal. And. Nothing. Happens. Then bam! You’re moving-all-too-fast to take that turn.
So, in city driving, I found the A8 more difficult to modulate speed – which I’m sure is something you’d get used to and figure out with ownership. But a week wasn’t enough time for me to get used to the perpetual tug of war.
I mostly kept the vehicle in “Dynamic” mode for the duration of the test because I found the tug of war a little less pronounced, and it firmed up the suspension a bit.
But I noticed something weird in this vehicle that didn’t go away with Dynamic mode: the ride undulated. I’m sure it had something to do with road surfaces, but rather than a stiff bump, bump, bump, the A8 felt like a small boat rocking forward and backward over gentle waves.
I was on a stretch of highway when I really noticed this, switched between modes trying to see if that would help, but it didn’t. I don’t remember feeling quite this sensation in a vehicle before, and I was super glad I don’t get seasick.
NOT FOR ME
While I have to admit there’s a lot to love about the Audi A8 L, I can definitively state this car is not for me. As a petite driver, I couldn’t find the perfect driving position. The seats felt like an oversized – albeit comfortable – chair, and I couldn’t adjust the height or lumbar support enough for my tastes.
Additionally, because of my far-forward driving position, the shape of the door handle made it awkward for me to grasp it. Rather than being a lever, the handle is a smooth sheet of metal dropping down from a metal trim piece. I kept trying to curl my hand over the top, but there is no top, only a bottom. So, I had to twist my wrist and flip my hand upside-down for odd underhanded grip.
When I finally had a taller passenger in the vehicle, however, I could see your hand is meant to slide sideways underneath the metal handle with your knuckles brushing suede.
FINER THINGS IN LIFE
With this all-new Audi A8 L, I feel like Audi has gone more toward the luxury side of the spectrum and left much of the sportiness in the third-gen vehicle in the rearview mirror.
From the rich smell of the leather to the soft touch of the leather, the interior trappings are definitely suited to those who like the finer things in life. I mean, the vehicle has a heated armrest for Pete’s sake!
Is the Audi A8 L a sumptuously outfitted vehicle with cool technology and plenty of available gadgets? Yes, it is. But if you’re looking for a little pep in your step, a la BMW 7 Series, the new A8 L misses the mark.