The 2022 Audi A8 L is the ultimate luxury sedan from Ingolstadt, but can it run rings around the ultimate luxury sedan in the world?
Let’s get one thing straight – the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the ultimate luxury sedan in the world. It’s the benchmark. The absolute last word when it comes to opulence, tech, and driving comfort on four wheels. The Sonderklasse is the pinnacle of automotive luxury, period.
This story, however, isn’t about the S-Class. Instead, we’ve got a vehicle whose only aim is to beat the S-Class at its own game, or put up a worthy fight, at least. And the Luxo barge in question is none other than the Audi A8 L. So, everything aside, why would anyone – with that kind of wealth and stature – buy the A8 L over the best car in the world?
The 2022 A8 L is not an all-new model, meaning it’s the same fourth-generation car with a nip-and-tuck job. That said, there’s a lot more flash on the outside – thanks to a heavy dose of chrome – along with a lot of new tech inside. What’s more, there’s still a 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol motor sitting under its mahoosive bonnet, which develops 335bhp and 500Nm of torque. Sending the power to all four wheels is an 8-speed automatic gearbox and quattro AWD. What these numbers mean in real life is that when you mash the A-pedal to the floor, the A8 L will clock 0 – 100km/h in just 5.7 seconds. But the sad part is, all of this is irrelevant. That’s because it can’t pip the S-Class with acceleration, handling, traction, or performance. It can only do that if it has the ability to make you feel like a backseat Boss.
Stretching at over 5.3m in length, along with a wheelbase of over 3.1m, the A8 L has got plenty of real estate for back seat occupants to play around. If you’re sitting on the Boss seat, you get even more toys. This particular Technology variant comes with a ‘Relaxation Package’, which frees up more room for the boss at the press of a button, basically reclining your seat, while simultaneously pushing the front seat away so as to free up acres of space for your precious legs. Oh, a footstool pops out from the back of the passenger seat to ensure that you’re well-rested. But the party piece of the A8 L’s rear seats is the foot massaging system (incorporated at the back of the front seats). This is a segment first – yes, even the mighty S-Class doesn’t get this feature.
There are more ways to indulge yourself in luxury as there are two big entertainment (touch)screens for you to enjoy your favourite shows and movies on Netflix. The seats come with massaging and ventilation systems, which quite frankly turn into a spa-like experience. The rear window/sunroof blinds can be electrically controlled from the permanently integrated touchscreen in the rear centre armrest, and there’s a refrigerator to keep your champagne chilled on the move.
On the whole, the back-seat experience is simply exquisite, although it doesn’t have the X-Factor of the Merc. Sure, in isolation, you can’t complain about the comfort and luxury that’s on offer with the A8 L. But I must say that it doesn’t quite have the special or plush ambience of the S-Class cabin. Where the Merc has the soft, classy, and velvety feel of a 5-star royal suite, Audi’s clutter-free and tech-laden interior is more of a presidential suite in comparison. The A8 L falls a little short in terms of the wow factor, although there’s nothing wrong with it objectively.
If there’s one area where the A8 L has the measure of the S-Class, it’s the former’s magic carpet ride quality. Thanks to its ‘Predictive Active Suspension’, which alters the damping and ride height in real-time – it uses the front camera to monitor the road surface ahead – the A8’s ride comfort is indefectible. At low speeds, it glides over broken roads with such composure and panache that you start questioning the existence of potholes on our roads. During a highway cruise, it wafts along as if you’re riding on clouds – it’s supremely refined, has zero-road noise, and flattens every undulation/expansion joint with aplomb. The best part is that it doesn’t feel floaty or excessively soft at high speeds. The only trouble is that the active suspension is a 15-lakh rupee option – yes, on a car that already costs over 1.5 crores.
In case you decide to jump into the driver’s seat, the experience is equally rewarding. Put it in ‘Dynamic’ mode, and it turns into a sports sedan in no time. The steering, suspension, throttle response, and gear changes, everything is sharper and firmer. Go hard around a bend, and the same active suspension that makes the ride quality marshmallow-soft now firms up and raises the springs on the outer wheels to minimise body roll. At the same time, its quattro AWD sends/cuts the drive on all four corners in order to put the power down as neatly as it can. And, then, you have got the rear-wheel steering, which tugs the car towards a corner, helping you to tighten the line. It’s bloody brilliant how the A8 L handles and shrinks around you! The best part is that none of this comes at the expense of comfort. There’s a sense of urgency and playfulness, but the A8 never feels uneasy or out of its depth.
The V6 motor delivers brisk acceleration as Audi claims. It’s silky smooth for the most part, but when you give it the beans, it produces sonorous and sporty noises. The A8 L uses an 8-speed automatic instead of one of the company’s famed dual-clutch gearboxes. The shifts, as a result, are smooth, well-calibrated, and unbelievably seamless. And while the gear selection is quite snappy, at no point does it feel jerky – not even during kick-down.
Trouble in Paradise
While the A8 L matches S-Class pound for pound in terms of comfort and overall luxury quotient, there’s a major fly in its ointment – its cabin looks and feels an awful lot similar to the A6. Apart from a couple of bits and bobs here and there, the overall design layout, screens, and controls look identical. Yes, the front infotainment touchscreen is immaculate, but it’s the same unit you find in lower Audis. It doesn’t even have wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay! Even on the outside, it’s a similar story. Sure, it’s got more bling than a rapper’s ensemble, but it still looks a little anonymous compared to the S-Class.
Would someone buy the A8 L over the S-Class? To be brutally honest, I don’t think that 90% of the target audience would. That’s because even though the A8 L is, objectively, as comfortable, it’s the S-Class that offers a higher brand value – it’s the gold standard of automotive luxury.
The A8 L, then, is meant for jet setters who don’t like to run with the pack. And I’ve to say that it’s got a certain charm, its own individuality. While the S-Class grabs attention everywhere, the A8 L can simply fly under the radar and help you escape those pesky paparazzi eyes. In short, if the definition of ultimate luxury for you is living life on your own terms rather than sticking to the generic formula, the A8 L will certainly resonate with you.
- Audi A8 L Technology
Engine: 2,995cc / V6 / TFSI
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 335bhp @ 5,000 – 6,400rpm
Torque: 500Nm @ 1,370 – 4,500rpm
Price: ₹1.82 Crore (Ex-Showroom; with options as tested)
X-Factor: Luxo barge on weekdays & sports sedan on weekends – the A8 L serves luxury with a twist.