2004 Audi A8 L Quattro Road Test

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So you finally got a key to the executive washroom, and your paycheck has garnered an extra digit. Your new golden parachute is tucked in a safe place, and you need something to put in that new parking space with your name on it. You look at the Big Benz and the new Beemer, but dismiss them as having a bit more snob appeal than you are comfortable with. You scan the rest of the field and lock your gaze onto a sleek shape that looks like it is in constant motion. You discover that the body is all aluminum, wrapped around an aluminum space frame and you start to salivate a little.

Category: $70,000 – $80,000 5 Passenger Full-Size Luxury Sedan
Who should buy this car: A person looking for the ultimate sedan without compromise.
Comparable cars in this class: BMW 745iL, Infiniti Q45, Jaguar XJ, Lexus LS430, Mercedes S-430

Such is the affect that this new Audi has on car-savvy people who take a closer look. They discover that this car is full of surprises, like a V8 with 5 valves per cylinder for a total of 40 valves and 320 horsepower, or a 6 speed automatic transmission that seems to read your mind. Let’s not forget the new air suspension system that gives this car one of the best rides I have yet experienced without compromising on its road feel and solid handling. And of course we all know that Audi is famous for their Quattro all-wheel drive system

The new A8L is built on a third generation aluminum space frame that is stronger and lighter than on previous cars. It is constructed using fewer parts which allow for more precise fit and easier assembly. Several sections of this frame are cast aluminum for enhanced rigidity. In fact, this structure is 60 percent more rigid than on the previous model and weighs in at 300 pounds lighter to boot.

The aluminum body panels fit together flawlessly into a sweeping flow of lines and curves that looks like it is moving at warp speed while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. And when it does, a slight nudge on the throttle will whoosh you back to super-legal speeds in a seemingly effortless display of quiet power.

The muted sound that this 4.2 liter V8 makes under power seems to have been tuned by the Boston Philharmonic. This is one of the sweetest sounding V8 engines I have yet heard. The Tiptronic automatic transmission can be exercised is several ways: In (D) Drive for all normal cruising, (S) Sport mode for more performance oriented driving where the unit will upshift later and downshift sooner to take advantage of engine braking, or you can shift through the 6 forward speeds manually for full control.

Once behind the wheel, it is easy to find a comfortable position in the 16-way power adjustable driver’s seat. The ignition key works a bit differently than in most cars, put the key in the ignition slot without turning it and the system goes into accessory mode allowing the radio to work. The key goes in straight up and down and stays that way. If you momentarily twist the key to the right and let it go, the engine starts. While that doesn’t sound very unusual, the difference is that you don’t have to wait for the engine to be running before you let the key go. It will continue to crank on its own until the engine starts. The key cannot be removed while the engine is running. To turn the engine off, momentarily twist the key to the left. To stop the radio and other accessories from working, simply pull the key out.

Once you start the car, the navigation display motors up from its hiding place behind a retractable panel. Once in position, it is controlled by a large knob on the console surrounded by eight function keys. This system is called the Audi Multi Media Interface. It is sort of like the BMW iDrive system, but not quite as elaborate. I found it to be somewhat easier to master than the BMW system, but it still requires some quality reading time with the owner’s manual in order to master all the system’s features.

This car has a masterful command of the road. The ride is smooth and quiet over most road surfaces. It will absorb ruts and bumps in its path as though they weren’t there. This is all thanks to a marvelous computer controlled air suspension system called the Audi Adaptive Air Suspension system. It combines a soft ride with excellent handling characteristics for such a large car. The only car that can equal or top this level of competence is the Mercedes S-Class.

There is a ton of room in the rear seat. Most people can sit back there and not be able to touch the front seatback with their outstretched legs. Plenty of comfort back there as well with optional 4-way lumbar support for outboard passengers and standard sunshades that pull up out of the doors. There is also an available four zone heating and air conditioning system so that each outboard passenger has full control over their individual comfort. Seat heaters for front and rear passengers are also available.

A large, well tailored trunk brings up the rear. In our test car, pressing the trunk release on the remote doesn’t just unlock the lid, it motors it to full open. Pressing a large red button on the trunk lid reverses the process until it is closed and locked.

Lots of air bags will make you feel snug and cozy in the event you bit off more than you can chew. There are:

Lots of air bags will make you feel snug and cozy in the event you bit off more than you can chew. There are:

To help you avoid crashes, there are:

The more you know about cars, the more you find to like about this big Audi. This is an executive cruiser of the first order that can hold its own with the best sedans on the planet.

Do you have any feedback on the A8L? Any opinions orexperiences of your own? We would love to hear from you.


 Engine Type 4.2 liter V8 Double Overhead Cam 40 valve Engine with variable valve timing
 Horsepower 330 @ 6,500 RPM
 Torque 317 @ 3,500 RPM
 Fuel Recommended Premium 91 Octane Unleaded.
 Transmission 6 Speed Tiptronic Automatic Transmission
 Tires P235/65TR18
 Overall Length P245/50VR17 All Season Tires
 Wheelbase 193.6″
 Width 110.2″
 Turning Diameter 72.7″
 Curb Weight 39.7 ft Curb to Curb
 Fuel Tank 3,984 lbs
 Miles Per Gallon 19.4 Gals.
Acceleration 0 to 60 6.7
Base Sticker Price city 18, hwy 26


Standard Equipment

Audi A8L

Major Available Options


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In the Garage with is an online blog dedicated to bringing DIYers and devoted car enthusiasts up to date with topical automotive news and lifestyle content. Our writers live and breathe automotive, taking the guess work out of car repairs with how-to content that helps owners get back on the road and keep driving.