The music playing through the 14 speakers is just the way I like it — hard hitting but crystal clear. I’m doing about 150 kmph on the open highway and it’s almost as if I’m wafting along on a magic carpet. My legs are outstretched, the burden of my feet comfortably borne by a footrest. I relax in opulent air-conditioned luxury and I’m being pampered by an able masseuse, who’s working on relieving the tense muscles in my back. I have worked hard for all of this and it’s about time I enjoy some extravagance. The subtle mood lighting helps me calm down, while I look through the window, surveying my empire.
But the Audi A8 L isn’t only about the rear seat — although it’s not a bad place to be. Rewarding your chauffeur with a ride at the back will be equally rewarding for yourself, I realise. Once in the driver’s seat and when you close the door, the Audi cocoons you from all round in lavish trimmings of exotic wood, skin and metal. The seat is fully adjustable, and optional extras include 22 different adjustment options, ventilation and a massage function with different intensity modes. I look left and right, trying to spot potential calamities on wheels. The coast is clear and I step on it. The A8 L that I am driving is powered by the 4.2 FSI petrol engine (more on that later) and it responds to my call for acceleration with utmost urgency. It feels plenty quick and you don’t really need any equipment to tell you that — your senses and that shove in your chest cavity are proof enough. The tonne comes only too easily, almost a pedestrian pace for this car, and before I know it, the speedo’s hovering around the 180 kmph mark. Audi claims a top whack of 250 kmph and I’m sure the A8 will make it there.
The ride, steering and powertrain can be adjusted using three modes — dynamic (basically a sportier setup), comfort and individual. The first two are pretty self-explanatory, but the individual function is pretty much a segment — first in India. What this mode does is that it allows you to calibrate the three settings individually. So a possible combination could be a sporty steering, comfortable ride and gearshifts at lower engine revs. Or a looser-spinning steering wheel, a taut suspension and going through the cogs with the engine spinning a lot more. I really prefer to go the whole hog, with dynamic everything.
For folks who intend to make their millions selling high-tech bits, they certainly will be interested by the A8’s new MMI interface. Apart from looking like something from the future, what it does is that it allows you to trace alphabets and numerals using your finger — so if you want to call your buddy Jake, for example, draw a J and the system should list out all the names contained in the directory that start with that alphabet. Or you could just doodle his number. Only alphabets and numbers from the English language are recognisable by the system, though.
The suffix L after the A8 stands for ‘long wheel base’ and it certainly is just that, with a length of 5.2 metres. And it’s not just lengthy but quite large as well, with a width of just under 2 metres. With a car of such dimensions, negotiating alleys is bound to be a nightmare, but I doubt the average A8 owner will include such areas in his daily commute. My colleague Pablo drove the A8 L in Germany and he was very impressed with how the car handled the autobahn and back roads alike. But here in India, it’s a whole different ball game. In Europe, the cows are around the road and not on them. Audi had gone to great lengths to find the perfect roads to showcase the A8’s prowess and we landed up in Jaipur, driving a short loop around the city.
When you’re overtaking a truck on a two-laned highway, the dimensions of the A8 can be a little tricky. However, when you’re passing a truck on the right that’s hell-bent on overtaking another truck on the left that’s going a mere 0.1 kmph slower than the first, it gets very scary. And although those mirrors might do in Europe, I found them a tad too small for Indian conditions. Heck, here you need the ones that they used to fit on those old steel cupboards.
Audi has announced that the price tag of the A8 L is pegged onwards of Rs 87.32 lakh, ex-showroom, Maharashtra (according to the press release), but what we know is that you get a lot of car for your buck. We also know that the long wheelbase version of the A8 will be sold in the country and will also be available with the 3.0 TDI 250 bhp, V6 diesel motor in India — sounds like just the rival for the 7 Series and the S-class, then.