It must be an acidity-inducing, stressful job for car designers and engineers to redesign and re-engineer flagships. Imagine the pressure. The vehicle must be fresh, while paying homage to the predecessors, be representative of the current generation of buyers and their tastes, while preserving the heritage of the brand, and its performance must be different, while having the same character of the original. That attempt at infusing freshness without radical change must certainly come from a sense of respect and acknowledgement of the model’s past success. Yet, it is no wonder that many in the industry don’t mess up the overall design, what with the risk of an overhaul leading to a potential drop in loyalty. 

German luxury car brand Audi has had its share of challenges with this issue – its choice of minimalism and the need for a distinct identity – aren’t diametrically opposed. But the room for change is still a narrow band. The Audi A8 sits on top of the model lineup and its design has stayed the most stately, and yet the most unadventurous for generations. Will that change for the next generation? We have to wait and see; in the meantime with the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class going ahead with fairly comprehensive revamps, the A8 needed a refresh to keep up with the competition. And that is what Audi has delivered with the new A8 L.

Design

The A8 L is a large car. Thanks to its design, from some angles it looks larger than its 5.3-metre footprint. Some of the visual highlight elements in the 2022 model add to this sense of size. The wide chrome grille with its multiple arrowhead style elements and the large signature Audi frame sit low and wide at the front. The oversized airdams on either side of the front fender also get thick chrome frames. The bonnet slab, the body side panels, and the doors look similar to the predecessor, though they do get some minor changes. The classic sharp creases that extend end-to-end adding that element of purity to the design continue. In fact, that is one of the reasons why the A8 L is best viewed from the side. The classic long wheelbase sedan and its huge 3.1-metre expanse between the wheels means that one can expect a lot of space inside the cabin.

The highlight in my test mule were the HD Matrix LED Headlamps that dazzle with their high intensity light elements and micro-mirror reflectors to create a light carpet for better visibility. They also offer what Audi calls dynamic projections (five different choices) which create a light and dance show for the coming home/ leaving home sequence. Dynamic turn indicators are passé now, so Audi upped the game. The tail lamps also feature OLED tech and a new light configuration. There’s also the addition of a proximity sensor which activates the LEDs to warn traffic that’s coming too close to the vehicle. It also has its own version of light animations for the coming home/ leaving home function. 

Cabin 

The first impression when I step into the 2022 A8 L’s interior is that it is a plush, extremely spacious cabin. The seats are clad in Valcona full-grain leather and are perfect for long journeys. The front seats get power adjustments and memory settings. But all four seats (two individual seats at the rear in my test mule) get ventilation and massage functions. The rear seat is also a great place to be with its generous amount of legroom. It also gets a foot massage function and a rear entertainment package with twin screens to keep the back benchers occupied and comfortable. Some of these are optional additions.

Some of the other features are ambient lighting, 4-zone air-conditioning, and a rear seat remote for controlling key functions like climate and comfort functions also. Matrix LED headlamps, not enough? Audi has taken the same tech into the cabin for the customisable reading lamps. Though I couldn’t experience the rear seats while being driven, they Would be perfect for long road trips or for the office commute. Up front, the centre stack now includes two touch screens for the infotainment and aircon controls. The dual screen MMI Navigation Plus with MMI touch response (Audi speak for haptic feedback touch control) will take a just a bit of getting used to. The two screens are complemented by the Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument screen, which can also be personalised to show driver specific info. 

Clashing with the need to differentiate, the A8 L’s cabin is still a classic Audi interior in its layout, design and use of materials. There is an obvious heightened sense of quality and hierarchy, though it still pursues minimalist principles. Naturally, while the cabin feels special is doesn’t ever seem like overkill. Safety features include eight airbags, park assist plus and Audi Pre sense for preventive safety. Wood inlays on the auto-closing doors can be customised, as can the colour of seat leather and many other features.

Performance 

The powertrain nomenclature of the A8 L that has been launched is 55 TFSI Quattro. The engine is 3-litre turbocharged petrol that generates 340hp of peak power and 500 Nm of peak torque. There’s also the addition of a 48-volt mild hybrid system for improved efficiency. The A8 L gets Audi’s own Quattro all-wheel drive system and is capable of accelerating up to 100kmph in 5.7 seconds. The V6 engine is extremely refined; and there is so much sound deadening that makes it an extremely quiet cabin. In fact, you could easily mistake it to be an EV.

Also, that insulation from external noises possibly helps fully experience the reproduction quality of the B&O music system. The engine delivers measured amounts of power and torque. Power delivery is linear but unhurried. The 8-speed torque converter gearbox sports ratios that are tuned to deliver the same character. Audi Drive Select Plus offers five different drive modes, including Individual, in which throttle response, suspension dampening and steering feel can be customised. 

The A8 L delivers a ride quality that attempts to pamper the rear seat passengers; something that all flagships try with varying degrees of success. The Audi gets all the kit needed for that treatment. With predictive active suspension the A8 L manages a number of active suspension features. The saloon literally rises 50mm to allow passengers an easier ingress into the cabin. Similarly, it lowers itself after you exit and lock the vehicle. The adaptive dampers with electromechanical actuators work with a clutch of sensors and front camera to detect road unevenness and raises or dampens the car ahead of the pothole or speed breaker. The system is quick to adjust, works only under 40kmph and some cases will need manually adjusting ride height.

So, during my test drive, the A8 had to be manually raised and yet, there were a few big speed breakers in Mumbai which scrapped the bottom. Our roads can be cruel to long wheelbases. Overall, though, the suspension does make the ride comfortable and plush. It can deliver a slightly firmer ride where needed, but the focus is on keeping passengers comfy and not so much in helping tackle a corner with gusto. In fact, there’s even an integrated curve tilt function as part of active suspension only to reduce the lateral forces by banking the car, so passengers will be more comfortable. The A8 L also features all-wheel steering, helpful for a vehicle of this size. 

Bottomline

The facelifted new A8 L certainly manages to differentiate itself from its predecessor, and to my liking even a little bit from the sedans lower down in Audi’s line up. The brand has often been criticised for the lack of visually distinct design differentiators between the models. The 2022 A8 L also gets a lot of new, novel tech that helps raise the bar compared to the competitors. It is still a rear passenger focused saloon, like it should be. With its new tech, plush ride and well-appointed cabin, that is also highly customisable, the A8 L has raised the game. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class would still score a higher rank with its cabin quality. 

The A8 L is an import, but Audi has managed to price the saloon aggressively and the two trim variants — Celebration Edition and Technology — have been priced at about ₹1.3 crore and ₹1.57 crore, respectively. Some of the features like the hi-tech headlights and adaptive suspension are optional additions, and the price could vary based on other customisation options. 

social-fb COMMENT NOW