Group-think is alive and well in the product-planning departments of German luxury brands, but for a change, that’s good news for drivers. The Audi A8L sedan proves it, but also demonstrates German engineers can be mulishly stubborn even when you think they’ve learned their lesson.
For nearly two decades, Audi, BMW and Mercedes followed each other down the rabbit hole of counterintuitive multifunction rotary controllers to manage everything from radio presets to chassis setup. Now, with a near-synchronicity that might merit a raised eyebrow among U.S. companies, recent models from all three showcase the virtues of touch screens.
The 2019 A8L, Audi’s graceful big sedan is that latest beneficiary, with multiple — maybe more than it needs — user-friendly touch screens. There’s plenty more to like, including lean new exterior looks, Audi’s hallmark Quattro all-wheel-drive, and a high-style interior.
The A8L is the first car to use Audi’s new design theme. It’s 1.3 inches longer than the old model, 0.1 inch wider and 0.6-inch taller, but the new design makes it look lower, surprisingly lithe and sporty for a big car.
Features include a standard adaptive air suspension and an optional electromechanical suspension that scans the road and can raise or lower any wheel slightly in 0.3 seconds to improve handling or ride.
When a side collision is imminent, the active suspension can also raise the car 3.1 inches in half a second to make sure the oncoming vehicle strikes the strongest possible part of the A8’s chassis.
A new turbocharged 3.0L V6 generates 11 percent more torque and about 1 percent more power than the supercharged 3.0-liter in the previous A8L.
I tested a car loaded with adaptive cruise control; Apple CarPlay; Android Auto; voice recognition; heated, ventilated and massaging 22-way power front seats; heated, power rear seats; 11 air bags; driver assistance features; twin touch screens; and more. The vehicle I drove cost $100,100.
The controls use a big 10.3-inch touch screen mounted high in the dash board for most features. It’s big, clear and easy to use.
The optional 23-speaker, 1,920-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system is outstanding. I never approached maximum volume, but heard instruments and parts I’d never noticed before in music I know well.
Responsive handling and quick steering make the A8L feel like a smaller, sporty car.
Still, the A8L is one of the biggest cars in its class, and also — unusually for an Audi — the heaviest a 4,751 pounds.
Combined with middle-of-the-pack power, the substantial curb weight led to a leisurely 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds. That’s slower than the BMW 740i xDrive and Mercedes S450 4Matic, the A8L’s most direct competitors.
Dials and buttons for climate control are replaced by handsome twin touch screens low in the center stack, just ahead of the shifter. It looks terrific, but you have to look at it for longer than you would with dials and buttons. Audi’s delight at touch screens’ easy use may have made the company overambitious about using them.
:If you can afford an A8L, get it. The big sedan’s looks, features and comfort more than make up for its minor shortcomings. The A8L is the first in a new generation of big sedans coming from Germany’s top luxury brands, but its value, handling and features should age well even as newer competitors arrive.
2019 Audi A8L Quattro
Base price: $83,800
Price as tested: $100,100
EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 27 highway; premium gasoline
Engine: 3.0L turbocharged V6
Power: 335 horsepower at 5,000-6,500 rpm; 369 pound-feet of torque at 1,370-4,500 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 123.1 inches
Weight: 4,715 pounds
Competitors: BMW 740i xDrive and long-wheelbase Jaguar XJL AWD.
Bottom line: Good buy, if you can afford it