2011 Audi A8 has style and substance

2011 Audi A8 2011 Audi A8 Photo Credit: Tribune Media Services

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The 2011 Audi A8 is a magical car that can quickly transport you to the adventure fantasy of your choice. After pressing the A8's ignition button, my routine-filled world transformed into something fantastic. Suddenly, my husband was now actor Daniel Craig, my kids disappeared and my cotton hoodie and comfy jeans were replaced with a silky gown, diamonds and stilettos. Driving the A8 brings this 007 level of adventure and luxury to your daily commute as no other car can.

The A8's styling is beyond attractive, inside and out. I've always had a fondness for Audi's signature swoop of LED running lights; we like to call them eyelashes and they are stunning. While the A8 is a full-size sedan, I was willing to forgo my small-car-loving tendencies for the duration of this test drive. The A8 also comes in a long-wheelbase version.

At first, I wondered if it would be a touchy car to drive. As soon as I pulled up the menu of drive-style options, I was reassured that the all-wheel-drive A8 was no pompous prince. This was a sexy, thrill-seeking genius up for a challenge. Each day I toyed with the different drive options -- Comfort, Auto, Sport and Individual, which is programmable.

The Comfort driving mode accelerated and decelerated evenly, and the steering was as effortless as stirring your morning cup of coffee. Auto mode felt similar to Comfort mode, perhaps a little gutsier, though. Dynamic mode was definitely intense and required a stronger steering arm and quicker driver response times. Hit the gas as you turn in Dynamic mode and you may wind up spinning out if you're not paying attention (I know, fun stuff, right?). I wound up in Individual mode and programmed it to be a happy combination of Comfort and Dynamic modes.

The only drawback I found to driving the A8 was its price. The A8 starts at $78,050, and my test car cost $93,525. I didn't want to park it in my normal grocery-store parking space; I felt more comfortable parking the A8 way out in the boonies where it would be safer. When the wind blew my son's scooter onto the driver's side door, I nearly had to call an ambulance because my heart stopped for so long. "No! Not the A8," I cried. The A8 created in me some hyper-sensitive tendencies that less expensive vehicles have not.

Exterior

Ruggedly handsome, the A8 is your favorite Hollywood hero -- in a tux. Enthusiasts will rave over the perfect seams along the A8's body; there are no gaps, even in the rear where four pieces of sheet metal come together with shocking precision. It's so seamless that I couldn't even spot all four pieces. Take a gander at the A8 and try to find a flaw, I dare you.

What most caught my eye was the massive chrome grille. Chrome means shimmer, which makes me smile. I do love sparkly things, just as much today as when I was 5.

The A8 was easy to get into and out of, because it's a low-to-the-ground sedan. What really set it apart was it lowered itself ever so slowly when we unlocked the doors. It was like the A8 was greeting us with a curtsy.

The A8's ease of use carried through to the trunk, which could be opened with the key fob or a button inside the driver's door. I was surprised to find that my test car had a power trunklid, a feature I've only seen on SUVs and taller crossover vehicles. Turns out it's just as helpful and convenient on a sedan.

The A8 has a 372-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The A8 uses premium gas and gets an EPA-estimated 17/27 mpg city/highway.

2011 Audi A8 Photo Credit: Tribune Media Services
SENSE AND STYLE

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Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

Interior

The A8's interior was so pretty that it was precious. Many cars incorporate wood, suede and metal in their interiors, but none I've seen to date compare to the A8's elegance that held its own against my family. You can sense no expense was spared and no detail overlooked.

For 2011, the Multi Media Interface system has been updated with a touch-pad that allows you to write your selections with your fingertip. Yep, it's like finger-painting but in the car. Let's say you're entering a street name for a navigation destination. First, you write the first letter of the street on the touch-pad, then the next and the next until the system fills in the remainder of the street name. This system is also able to recognize Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters.

The five-seater comes with a 12-speaker Bose audio system as standard, but a premium Bang & Olufsen system is available with 19 speakers. It also boasts a factory-installed WLAN hotspot to keep you in touch and productive no matter where you're parked. It also offers wireless access for gadgets of all kinds.

Beyond button pressing, the interior was comfortable and roomy. I hopped into the second row to check it out for myself and had a good 8 inches of space between my knees and the driver's seatback. The second-row seats have bolsters that make it feel cozy, but not intrusive.

Everyone had plenty of snug cupholders and ashtrays. I could've done without the ashtrays, but the kids used them as added storage for their stuff. I liked the flip-top storage cubbies in the armrests on the doors. Other than a pack of gum, I couldn't find anything that would fit in there, but nooks and crannies are always exciting.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

Safety

The A8 is loaded with the latest in safety features.

It has standard all-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system, traction control and eight airbags, including side curtains and seat-mounted side airbags for the four outboard seats.

The sedan has the following optional features: blind spot warning system, a lane departure warning system, a night vision system, a forward collision warning system, and front and rear parking sensors with a backup camera.

The A8 has two sets of lower Latch anchors in the outboard seats. The anchors were difficult to access because they were buried in the seat cushions, which were difficult to move out of the way.

© 2011, Cars.com

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