On any other day, at any other time, it looks like any other Audi A8. Apart from a subtly different grille and wheels and of course the badges, there’s nothing to tell you that a big, burly engine nestles under the hood. The chance of mistaking it for just another regular luxury saloon is so high that you wouldn’t even bother to give it a second glance.
But as day turns to night, the hour hand on the clock starts to beat gravity and this A8 starts to turn your inner planetary movements. Consider this – it can accelerate from 0-100 kph in just 4.7 seconds. That is Audi R8 V8 territory. Yet it’s got 80 more horses, weighs the notional tonne more and can seat two more lucky souls. With 500 horsepower, it pulls like a pair of Big Boy locomotives yanking a 3000-plus tonne train, except it’s all happening at part throttle. It knackers your thought process, sinks your jaw to the lowest point and makes you all fuzzy just like its predecessor did.
Over two years ago, I’d driven the A8 W12 with its 450 bhp engine in a very similar setting. The sun had set, not just on our side of the planet, but on everyone else as I passed by them. The new W12 continues in that fine fashion. At just 10 per cent throttle, it cruises along effortlessly. The narrow-bank W12 is merely stroking its valves with a velvet cloth. But dig that throttle deeper – 20, 30, 50, 70 per cent and the character starts to change. Unlike the last car that felt quick but barely had an audible V12 growl, this one sounds deeper, more bassy, but not guttural. It’s still strong enough to make your smile look like the Joker and you still haven’t explored its full potential.
It goes from ‘How about some strawberry jelly?’ to ‘Care for flaming tequila?’ in a flash. The gearbox is simply overwhelmed once the throttle is dug deep into the fine carpet, your backside struggling to stay in place on the smooth leather and your hands clenching the steering ever so tightly. Two hundred kilometres per hour comes up so quickly that you can come to terms with the additional 50 bhp and the mite more torque on offer. Having direct injection and the additional 300cc has made the W12 not only quicker, but more efficient too, but that night, the information display was stuck at 4 kpl, so I don’t know what efficiency it was talking about.
Maybe it’s got a lot to do with the way it handles. For its 5.3-metre long aluminium body shell, the A8 holds its line beautifully even as you keep the accelerator pedal firmly pressed. This is very unlike its predecessor, where at some point the tyres would give up the fight before the car did.
The steering, like its other, lesser powered brothers provides enough weight and you can accurately push the car to wherever you want to. Of course, good ol’ quattro plays its role as well.
Strangely, for all its worth, some Rs 1.5 crore – give or take a few lakh – the A8 doesn’t feel any more special than its brothers we were talking about earlier. Apart from a blind lane information system and the fantastic sounding Bang & Olufsen system (which you can opt for on those, er, brothers too), there’s nothing else to distinguish this one, once again. Maybe it’s Audi’s way of saying, we’ll give you the whole deal, and you just choose your engine.
And what an engine even this new W12 continues to be. Which makes me wonder why Audi continue with the S8 – may be it’s the pressure to keep the likes of AMG at bay, but the W12 is just so good by itself that Audi maybe overdoing this thing a bit. The greens may not appreciate it, your neighbours might think you just paid that much more for something that still looks the same and your accountants may not think too differently either. All you need to do is strap them in and take them for a ride the way Statham does. Their whining may just go mute!