By Grant Davis
For those who put together multimillion-dollar deals by lunch, your car has arrived. The 2011 Audi A8 4.2 FSI quattro packs a mansion’s worth of luxury amenities into a smooth German battleship primed for the autobahn and does it for less than $100,000 ($89,625 to be exact). Sure, there are more expensive, more exotic and much faster sedans out there, but after rolling through the city in this A8, it’s hard to figure out why anyone would shell out all that extra dough. With a 372-hp V8 under the Audi’s hood, 20-inch wheels with low-profile, high-performance rubber on the ground and Audi’s legendary all-wheel-drive quattro drive system ensuring that power goes where it’s needed, the A8 has all the rocket power that any power-suited exec needs. Why? Because all the outrageous luxury features inside the car provide plenty of distraction from, you know, ripping through rush-hour traffic at 25 mph.
Most comfortable car seats – ever
For a mere $2,000 extra, my test A8 came with 22-way adjustible seats for both driver and front passenger. Yes, the seats were heated and also air-conditioned, but to roughly double the amount of yoga most luxury car seats can manage, Audi installed magic fingers in the seat backs, a.k.a., massagers. Flick a lever on the side of the seat and a menu of five massage settings pops up on the navigation screen, from “Stretch” to “Wave.” The seats alone do the impossible: they make the prospect of stop-n-go traffic something to get excited about. And after working out at the gym, the “Knocking” setting did wonders on my aching back and shoulder muscles, so much so that I gave the driver’s seat a name, Gretchen, she of the wonderous hands.
Being a luxury sedan, the backseat passengers also enjoy the love with ample leg room and their own left and right climate control setup, coupled with heated seats as well. Why? Because with the money you save on this Audi versus a pricier Mercedes-Benz S Class or BMW 7 Series, you can afford to hire your cousin Miles to be your driver. With Miles driving you can then fire up your iPad, connect to the Audi’s internal wireless network (WLAN) and plug into the Net. That’s right; the car is your own private broadband WiFi hot spot. In fact, you could pile three of your friends inside with laptops and play a little Call of Duty: Black Ops while Miles drives you to Vegas. From Chicago.
Air suspension equals cloud commuting
To further insulate passengers from the outside world, the A8’s air suspension automatically adjusts to the surface of the road and the aggressiveness of the driver. Careen down the boulevard like a New York City taxi driver and the suspension tightens up. Cruise down the street or freeway with a mellow foot on the gas, keeping the rpms purring no higher than 2,000 rpm thanks to the transmission’s eight gears, and the air suspension dials up super-plush. As clichéd as it sounds, driving the A8 does feel like floating on air (because that’s exactly what’s happening).
All my gushing over how plush the A8 rides doesn’t mean it can’t haul ass. By switching the car to “Sport” mode and sliding the shift lever down to “S” for Tiptronic paddle shifting, I had access to the same DNA that goes into Audi’s R8 supercar: Fast and precise shifts, torque that rocketed me 0-62 mph in a little over five seconds, and a sportscar’s steering response. I found that keeping the engine rev’d in the 3,500-4,000 rpm range transformed the car from cruise liner into growling destroyer. But I have to admit, what goes on under the hood is not what the 2011 A8 is about. Instead, I often found myself fiddling with the seat, climate control, stereo, sunroof and more as I searched for my inner vehicular bliss.
Is the Audi A8 better than a house?
Right now, the A8 is right up there in the arms race to make autos more luxurious and convenient than your home. The massaging seats blow your favorite recliner out of the water; the recliner doesn’t come with A/C, heat, or Gretchen. Powered shades on the rear glass and rear side windows provide privacy for whatever you want to do back there, kind of like drapes in your bedroom. Need a soundtrack for your roadtrip? There’s a 19-speaker, 1,400-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system to provide true concert-quality surround sound that I guarantee you will feel in every inch of your body. I don’t know anyone who has a media room spec’d with 19-speakers, much less 19 speakers tuned to perfection like the A8’s. WiFi? Check. Sat radio? Yep. About the only thing it doesn’t come standard with is a dish for satellite TV and a flatscreen TV – but that’s easy enough to bypass. Just grab a laptop with a 17-inch screen, connect to the Internet, pull up hulu.com, and you’re watching reruns of Nip/Tuck, or suffering through your girlfriend’s reruns of Glee.
This Audi makes living in the exurbs on a country estate with a three-hour commute each day darn near enjoyable. That it can do it for less than 100 K is unbelievable.