Audi A8 L W12 Exclusive: Luxury Can Be Lonely – WSJ.com

13 Jun 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Audi A8 L W12 Exclusive: Luxury Can Be Lonely – WSJ.com
Audi A8

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The 2012 Audi A8 L W12 Exclusive Dan Neil/The Wall Street Journal

When it comes to class warfare, this Audi is SEAL Team Six.

Some automobiles invite car-lovers to love—a Nissan GT-R, for instance, or even a Rolls-Royce Phantom, which in its over-the-top-ness has a mirthful, lightly self-mocking quality. The Audi A8 L W12 Exclusive is about as funny as first-strike nuclear deterrence. You are not meant to identify with, nor celebrate the good fortune of, the owner of this car. You need only submit. And wave.

I said wave, dog!

With a base price of $133,500, the A8 L W12 is primarily a chauffeur-driven saloon. Ross Ward

Our test car—a $175,315 Exclusive package, glittering in chrome and black paint—is targeted more at the ministerial class, which is to say, expendable bureaucrats. I have no doubt that right now there are European undersecretaries of finance running around Athens in this model, perhaps wishing their car too had bombproof underpants.

They’ll want for little else. Among the ticked boxes in the Exclusive package is a refrigerator (between the rear seats, in the rear bulkhead); two beautifully tailored electrical outlets on either side of the fixed center console in the back; and what Audi calls a relaxation seat in the right-rear position. This business-class seat reclines and marries up with a motorized footrest that deploys from the back of the front passenger seat.

Heating, ventilation and a very robust multi-mode massage function complement this lordly perch.

You want enumeration? Here’s some: 22-way adjustable front driver’s seat, also with heated/ventilated/massaging function; dual-panel panoramic sunroof; power rear and side sunshades; four-zone climate control; dual rear entertainment system based around 10-inch motorized displays; and Audi Connect, which turns the entire car into a Wi-Fi hotspot. Audi’s navi system also includes Google Earth mapping.

The Exclusive’s sound system gets an upgrade from the A8’s standard Bose amplification to a Bang Olufsen mega-system, with 19 speakers, a 60GB hard drive and a nice round 1,400 watts. That’s not even touching on the superb LED indirect lighting, the ceiling-mounted vanity mirrors and a slew of other swell things.

Audi A8

And then there’s the leather, whole stockyards of it. The cabin trim on our test car was an exquisite claret-colored Nappa top grain leather, set off with alloy and lacquer-black wood trim. The seats are covered in yet softer and more exclusive Valcona leather (color-matching two different grades of leather is itself something of a technical feat).

The headliner was a lush, suede-like Alcantara in charcoal black. From the rear center console a lovely writing table folds out that’s suitable for chopping up lines of pharmaceutical-grade privilege.

“ You are not meant to identify with, nor celebrate the good fortune of, the owner of this car. You need only submit. And wave. I said wave! ”

It all sounds rather awesome, doesn’t it? But I have to tell you, beyond the usual isolations of wealth and power, there is something terribly lonely about this car. Start with the fact that this is a four-seat car (a five-seat configuration is available).

The motorized footrest deployed from the back of the right-front seat requires that seat to be moved all the way forward. That means that when the boss is in the car, the navigator’s position will be empty. And because there is only one preferred seating position in the back, the rear cabin itself constitutes a two-class service.

What minister worth his dacha will want to sit in the diminished, and diminishing, position behind the driver?

That leaves only the driver for the chargé d’affaires to converse with. Not a bad fellow, the driver, but rather dull in conversation. Princeton, you know.

There is a machine under all this luxury, and it’s astonishing in all the ways you’d hope. The W12 refers to the 6.3-liter, 500-hp direct-injection engine, with four rows of three cylinders conjoined at the crankshaft. This engine is so utterly sonorous and smooth it feels like it’s lubricated with mink—not the oil but actual minks.

The mighty 12 is backed up by an eight-speed transmission and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system (with electrically locking front and rear differentials, no less).

Audi A8
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