The Audi arm of the huge VW conglomerate has been
progressively working its way up the automotive desirability scale.
You only have to hearken back to that dreadful bit of tin-ware, the
Audi Fox, to see what strides have been taken. These days Audi is a
force to be reckoned with, and for the performance driver, Audi has
some special motor cars. One of these is the Audi A8 Quattro, which
will set you back a cool 13.5 million baht in this country. Thank you
so much, keep the change!
our Down-Under correspondent John Weinthal has just had one in his
keep for a week and says that this car represents huge rewards for the
enthusiast driver. Here are the words from Weinthal:
“The first few days with Audi’s AUD 207,000
(about half of what they cost over here) A8 Quattro flagship sedan
were notable for a couple of disappointments, two surprise omissions
from the standard specification and its commanding road presence. This
is a car of great stature. It is also a distinctly feel-good car. I
will explain the disappointments later.
Day Three we escaped the city for some mountain roads - roads with
broken surfaces and enough off-cambers to unsettle almost any car.
Here one discovered why the Audi scooped the Australian super-luxury
car title in the national motoring organizations’ detailed annual
end of year assessments. The award actually went to the almost
identical, but AUD 32,000 less expensive, 3.7 litre 206 kW A8, rather
than the 4.2 litre 246 kW model under review.
“The aluminium bodied, full time all-wheel drive
Audi A8 is presented as the luxury sports sedan supreme among the full
size contenders at this heady end of our market. There is no
exaggeration in this billing.
Audi is a large car. At just over 5 metres it is within millimeters of
its prestige competitors - the 210 kW Lexus LS430, 225 kW Mercedes
500SL, 224 kW 4.2 litre Jaguar XJ8 and the 245 kW BMW 745i. Prices
range from AUD 176,000 for the Lexus to a whopping AUD 261,000 for the
now ageing Mercedes. The Merc and the BMW, and to a lesser extent the
Audi, have option lists which can boost these prices substantially.
“The A8 has two stand-out features in this
company. These are its all aluminium, but otherwise relatively
conventional construction technology, and the constant four-wheel
drive, explaining the Quattro part of its name. The Jag introduces an
all but revolutionary all aluminium construction technology. This
delivers even greater weight savings with similar superior body
rigidity to the A8 for greatly enhanced ride control and handling. The
Merc and BMW are conventional heavyweights. The Lexus manages to be
lighter than this pair, while still using mainly conventional
materials. Each of these cars is an exemplar of build quality and
refinement, while exuding its own distinctive aura and appeal. But for
ultimate driver engagement, even the colossally competent Jag gives
best to the A8. For the rest, their designers had other priorities.
“The Audi’s achievement is all the greater
because so little compromise is involved in terms of ride comfort and
hush even on the standard 19 inch alloy wheels and broad low profile
tyres. Believe me, as an enthusiast driver, this would be my choice
had I the means or the desire for a truly large and imposing vehicle.
“The A8 utilizes a simpler but similar major
function control centre to the much criticized BMW. Radio, TV,
satellite navigation, telephone, suspension adjustment and individual
climate control settings are all tuned with a combination centre
console rotary knob and a set of four press buttons. This even extends
to finger print recognition for individual driver’s preferred
seating, sound system and mirror settings and keyless starting. It is
complex, but probably worth the couple of hours tuition and practice
required for true user proficiency.
“Lexus and Jaguar reckon this to be unnecessary.
So far, but with experience limited to the BMW 7 and the A8, I think I
agree. Some of it does seem to be complexity for its own sake with no
clear advantage. I might be wrong - buyers might well love the
undoubted degree of additional control it hands to them.
“However, the satellite navigation was simply
wrong on many occasions. At one stage it was determined we should do a
left turn from a freeway into the Brisbane River; at a familiar
must-turn-right T junction the voice control and arrow insisted we
turn left; later, both commanded a U Turn when the destination town
was clearly sign posted as straight ahead. Only our familiarity with
the territory saved us at best some unnecessary deviations and at
worst, I guess, becoming hopelessly lost.
“The second flaw was with the cruise control,
although this may have been specific to the test car. This fluctuated
over a range of up to 12 kph with speed increasing on descents and
falling back on even a slight rise. This could easily result in your
farewelling your license to continue enjoying this deliciously hushed,
luxurious capsule. We tested time and again to ensure it was not some
misadventure on our part. Few cars’ cruise control allow speed
variations of more than 2kph which is how it must be.
“The A8 does not have automatic wipers or auto
on-off for its brilliant bi-xenon headlamps. Both are available on
under $50,000 cars today. One soon gets used to their convenience.
“The fact that one loses much of the large
glovebox to the six-stacker CD carrier is probably inevitable because
of the space occupied by the control centre display. However, in-dash
six stackers are much appreciated even by ordinary vehicle drivers
today. Most of these cars also have much simpler steering wheel
mounted buttons for the cruise control rather than the Audi’s lever
hidden behind the left spoke.
“Let me emphasize, this is a hugely rewarding
driver’s car. It is fast, it rides uncannily flat through all manner
of bends without disturbing the passengers’ conversation. The brakes
always feel right and they perform superbly. The steering is nicely
weighted and ensures true communication with the road surface.
“Yet, with all these driving attributes, the A8 is never less
than a five star commodious cocoon for five - preferably four -
extremely lucky folk. No enthusiast driver will disagree with the
Australian Motoring Associations’ professional judges rating this as
Australia’s outstanding large luxury car of the year.