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2006 Audi A8 L W12 quattro Test Drive

The ultimate executive express

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

By Jason Fogelson

2006 Audi A8 L W12 front view

2006 Audi A8 L W12

© Jason Fogelson
You're a busy CEO. You like to drive, but sometimes your driver whisks you to meetings. Which incredibly expensive luxury sedan will you choose to do double duty? The 2006 Audi A8 L W12 quattro AT6 lavishes attention on every aspect of the executive luxury sedan. With a $118,190 price tag ($131,310 as tested), the 2006 Audi A8 L W12 quattro comes with a 4 year/50,000 mile warranty. EPA estimate of 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway, mean the A8 W12 gets hit with a whopping $1,700 gas guzzler tax.

First Glance: Understated flash

If you want everyone to know that you're driving a very expensive vehicle, there are plenty of flashy ways to spend your 130 grand. The A8 is stealthy. The closer you look, the more you'll realize how gorgeous the A8 really is.

The A8 L is the long wheelbase version of the A8 -- 5.5" longer than the standard A8. Sharing a big trapezoidal grille opening with the rest of the current Audi line, the A8 sports a surprisingly compact overhang in front. Big Xenon headlights wrap in a horizontal line around the front corners of the car. Subtle chrome trim highlights the grille, underlines the headlights, streaks down the doors and surrounds the windows. The nine-spoke 19" alloy wheels have big openings that reveal enormous polished disc brakes and calipers. The rounded rear corners of the A8 gently reduce the impression of size. Unlike on the competitive BMW 7-series, there are no jarring discontinuities in the elegant lines of the A8.

The exterior fit and finish of my test vehicle was flawless, as you would expect from a car in this price range. Driving around Beverly Hills in the A8 was a real ego boost -- I think that I actually saw a botoxed matron's eyebrows move when I pulled up to the curb in front of her.

Continued below...

In the Driver's Seat: A residence on wheels

2006 Audi A8 L W12 dashboard

Wood, leather and synthetic suede -- everywhere you look

© Jason Fogelson
I could live in the driver's seat of the A8. Surrounded by supple leather (my test car had a $3,900 full leather upgrade option) and polished sycamore wood, I would spend all day listening to the 12-speaker Bose sound system. I would relish the feel of that real wood and leather steering wheel, so smooth to the touch, electrically adjustable for reach and angle. If discomfort ever reared its ugly head, I'd just switch on the seat ventilation system, or electric seat heating, depending on the season. Power massage is also part of the package for the front seats. Everywhere your skin might touch in the cabin is covered with either leather, wood or Alcantra (a synthetic suede), even the headliner.

If, for some reason, I was forced to move into the back seat, I could live there, too. My test car was set up with four seats -- five seat configuration is a no-cost option. With the four-seat setup, a substantial console separates the two rear seats, housing an armrest, cupholders, climate controls and a compartment to store the headphones for the DVD entertainment system. My test car had a refrigerator in the pass through, accessible between the rear seats behind the armrest. That's where I'd keep my Cheese Whiz and Mountain Dew stashed.

On the Road: Part car, part corporate jet

The A8 L has a not-so-secret weapon under the hood: A 6.0 liter 12-cylinder engine arranged in a "W" formation. That's like two V6s working together to power one car. The W12 produces 450 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, and drives all four wheels with Audi's refined quattro system. Put that power through a six-speed automatic transmission, direct it with speed sensitive power steering, slow it down with four-wheel anti-lock brakes and keep it on the road with electronic stabilization and adaptive air suspension and you've got a 4729 lb car that simply glides. The A8 is so smooth and quiet that there are times it feels like you're driving around in a luxury jet instead of a car.

The ride is where the price tag on the A8 starts to make sense. I only wish I could test the A8 on the Autobahn, where its horsepower and long wheelbase would really come into play.

The A8 has a computer interface to access its functions from a central cluster with intuitive button and wheel controls and a sensible nested menu system, controlling everything from audio to climate to navigation to communications. It's easy to get distracted by all that functionality; I had to make a conscious effort to keep my eyes on the road and not play with the controls.

Journey's End: Executive express

2006 Audi A8 L W12 rear view

Outside it's subtle; the real flash is inside

© Jason Fogelson
The 2006 Audi A8 L W12 is a specialty vehicle for a very particular executive who needs to travel in style and comfort. Even successful executives need to consider other options, though. The Audi A8 L 4.2 quattro starts at $72,090 and the A8 4.2 quattro (standard wheelbase) starts at just $68,130. Both are nicely equipped but a notch down from the W12 in luxury and performance.

Other manufacturers compete heavily for your luxury dollars. Mercedes S600 is a stunner, with a 5.5 liter 12-cylinder turbocharged powerplant. BMW's 760Li packs 12 cylinders into 6.0 liters and cutting edge styling from Chris Bangle. The bargain 12-cylinder has to be the VW Phaeton, a gorgeous car that starts at just $101,300. Don't overlook the Maserati Quattroporte and Jaguar XJ for luxury and design. If money really is no issue, you might want to take a look at the Bentley Arnage ($212,000), Maybach 62 ($382,500) and Rolls-Royce Phantom ($328,750). There's no real American competitor right now -- Cadillac's DTS and Lincoln's Town Car are just not in the same league with the Europeans, and the Japanese have never made a serious run at the class.

I'll always treasure my week with the A8. Maybe someday I'll get a chance to live out my Autobahn dreams.

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