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CRËME DE LA CRËME

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Dec 18, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

RIDING AWAY WITH THE PRIZE By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

With the introduction of the 2006 A8 L W12 model, Audi has claimed the top-rung in full-size luxury performance sedans by building a more powerful and more luxurious car than any Mercedes-Benz S-Class or BMW 7-Series. The new A8 L W12 offers sleek styling that cuts through the air with a low 0.27 coefficient of drag, and is powered by a 450 horsepower 6.0-liter V12 engine - the most powerful normally aspirated engine in its class. The A8 L W12 is fun to drive thanks to the six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with manual shifting in the brushed aluminum gate, or by paddle shifters located on the steering wheel. The A8 L W12 is the only sedan in its class to employ an all-wheel-drive system, Quattro, enhancing both traction on wet or dry pavement, and stability when cornering. This is also the only sedan in its class riding on a lightweight and stiff aluminum frame and chassis, making the fully independent, adaptive air-ride suspension, even more nimble and precise. The car rides on giant 20x9 wheels and 255/35ZR20 Dunlop performance tires that soak up bumps over poorly paved roads, and a wide patch for superb handling on twisting, curving roads. The A8 L W12 also offers the world's first use of ceramic brakes - huge 15-inch vented discs clamped with six-piston calipers up front, and 14-inch rear vented discs clamped with large single piston calipers. Ceramic brake rotors last longer and will not fade under heavy use. This technology is borrowed from Audi's 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning R9 racecar. Braking is enhanced further with ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist. The interior is extra roomy, ergonomic, elegant, luxurious, and safe for all four occupants. Every creature comfort and safety system is available for your pleasure.

Taking a closer look at the new A8 L W12 and we notice the flat front end with short overhangs, a high imposing rear, and pronounced wedge shape. The crouched silhouette and the shoulder line rising sharply to the rear accentuate its sporty stance. The front fascia is highlighted with Audi's new, large single frame radiator grille - the outer chrome ring of which surrounds the painted grey fins of the grille with horizontal chrome strips. Cut into the sides are clear lens covers protecting the industry's first use of LED running lamps - five lenses in a circle that is pure white, less offensive to oncoming traffic eyes, and takes less energy to use. The night is further illuminated with strong adaptive HID headlamps. The sculpted lower bumper features more openings covered by chrome strips that channel airflow more efficiently under the car, to the brakes, and contain integral round projector beam foglamps at the sides. The side view is highlighted with flared fenders; full-length body-side molding, illuminated pull-up door handles, and deep lower side extensions. Above the beltline is a sweptback windshield and a gently sloping roof line that meets the high-backed rear lid cover. An elegant chrome strip wraps around the side glass. Aero-styled side view mirrors help to cut down the wind noise as the A8 L W12 cleanly slices through the air.

At the rear are large, flush-mounted, trapezoidal wraparound lamp clusters with LED turn signals, a slightly raised lip spoiler, a chrome strip around the rear bumper and two, four-inch wide trapezoidal exhaust tips integrated into the bumper. The A8 L W12 looks like it was chiseled out of a solid piece of aluminum. Perhaps that's true because all of the body panels are made of aluminum for durability and less weight. The styling is a harmonious blend of clarity, sports appeal, agility and elegance. Under the hood is the potent 6.0-liter, DOHC, all-aluminum W12 engine that is uniquely designed and takes up about the same amount of room as a V8 engine. A glance at the engine's cylinder block shows that two-ultra-compact inline V6 units have been joined together at the crankshaft, hence the W designation. Each of the two cylinder blocks contain six cylinders arranged in pairs at an angle of 15-degrees. This offset configuration makes an ideal synthesis of the very compact width - compared with the classic V6, with the very short length of a four-cylinder engine. Joining these two units at an angle of 72 degrees to produce a twelve-cylinder engine has a third advantage: The shallow height of the engine means that the aerodynamically beneficial, flat silhouette of the A8's front end can remain unchanged. The W12's small and compact size also allows Audi to install the Quattro all-wheel-drive system. No key is needed to start the engine: The center console has a push-button start and stop. Lightly push your foot down on the throttle and the engine quickly and effortlessly reaches the 6,200 rpm redline. A full 90 percent of the 428 pound-feet of torque builds at just 2,300 rpm for blistering acceleration. Zero-to-60 mph is reached in just 4.9 seconds.

Mated to this potent V12 engine is a new six-speed Tiptronic transmission with Dynamic Shift Program (DSP) and an additional Sport program. Thanks to the extra gear, the engine's output and torque are always unleashed with precision that the conflicting requirements of spontaneous power flow, high performance and perfectly refined running are all achieved. The additional sixth gear also means that the spread between the lowest and highest ratios has been increased to 6.04 - a vital requirement of great dynamism on one hand, and optimum fuel economy on the other. The W12 is rated at 15 miles per gallon in the city and 21 on the highway - comparable to the typical five-liter V8. Audi's Quattro permanent four-wheel drive continues to lead the way in the luxury segment. It converts the engine's performance with superb efficiency into propulsion and cornering stability, then effortlessly converts the immense torque into locomotion. The aluminum frame provides the high-strength basis for low weight, dynamic performance and excellent handling. The aluminum chassis with four-link front suspension and self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear suspension utilizes an adaptive air-suspension system. This unique four-corner air suspension system with continuous damper control resolves the classic conflict between good handling characteristics and suspension comfort commensurate with the luxury class. The adaptive air suspension system has the right characteristic for every driving situation and reduces body roll with its continuously adjusted damping. The data from four sensors on the axles and three acceleration sensors on the body is evaluated in the adaptive air suspension's central control unit. This computer prompts the adjustment of the individual shock absorbers in a matter of milliseconds, based on the driving situation identified, thereby always assuring optimum driving dynamics and ride comfort. You can choose between four predetermined settings: Automatic mode (lowers the chassis at speeds over 75 mph, or raises the chassis at speeds below 45 mph); Dynamic mode (lowers the chassis to 4.7 inches - even before you push on the throttle, lowering the center of gravity while the air suspension operates with firmer springs and harder damping making the A8 L W12 more agile); Comfort mode (enables the car to glide extra-smoothly over all kinds of surface bumps because the system increases damping forces less frequently at lower speeds); Lift mode (can be activated in the speed range below 45 mph as required). Lift mode keeps the ground clearance raised by one inch and offers the balanced damping characteristics of the automatic mode, suitable for driving on uneven terrain.

I kept the test vehicle in the Automatic mode and truly enjoyed the mix of spirited handling when I wanted it, and a comfortable ride while driving around the mostly poorly paved streets of Los Angeles. Precisely guiding you on your chosen path is a new speed-dependent and steer-angle-dependent Servotronic rack & pinion steering system where the effort required varies according to road speed and steering-wheel angle. The car quickly reacts to your inputs with fast turn-in, very good feedback from the road, and excellent on-center feel. The interior is fully sheaved in suede leather and supremely spacious with 121.5 cubic feet of interior space, 37.4 front and 38.3 inches rear headroom, 41.3 front and 42.3 inches rear legroom to really stretch out in. All four doors open wide and each features a 'self-closing' motor that closes each door when left ajar. The driver-oriented overall design of the cockpit area is sporty and luxurious. The central design features are the rising center console-like a sports car-incorporating the MMI (multi-media-interface) terminal with its retractable display in the instrument panel. The MMI and the absence of a conventional handbrake lever pave the way for the neat, expansive design of both the center console and the instrument panel. The smooth transition between the instrument panel and the door top shoulder is another feature that is typical of Audi. This line, structured by a two-section trim insert, continues back into the rear compartment, creating a new ambience.

Depending on the choice of materials, the interior can be given a sporty flavor, or a tastefully elegant direction. One exclusive trait of the A8 L W12 is a horizontal aluminum strip running below the wood trim inlay. The new four-spoke steering wheel feels great in your hands and contains buttons for the Bose Audio Surround System, MMI interface, and mute button. The 16-way, electrically adjustable front seats, with active head restraints, combine perfect long-distance comfort with very good lateral support and maximum safety, plus heating, ventilation and massage settings. The rear compartment can be equipped with the option of a continuous, leather and wood trimmed center console. A pull-down center armrest contains two cupholders, and a first-aid kit. The two seats also have six-way power adjustments, and a rear seat entertainment system that combines two 6.5-inch LCD monitors behind the front head restraints, and a six-disc DVD player in the cavernous 14.6 cubic feet luggage compartment. The MMI terminal (one inch round curled dial in the middle of the center console) lets you tune the car to your taste. You use the MMI to control the suspension settings, audio system, driver personalization, and Audi navigation system. I'm not a great fan of this system also found on the BMW 7-Series and next year's new Mercedes-Benz S-Class, because you have to take your eyes off the road to look at the screen and see the various readouts, even to change your preferred radio station.

It is dangerous but as the owner and driver, maybe you'll get used to it and be able to change your settings faster. My personal feeling is that these high-priced automobiles should go back to locating buttons on the dashboard. That is the safe and easy way to go. Lexus and Cadillac still use buttons. I feel it is the right thing to do, especially when traveling at a high speeds, just one split second moving your eye off the road can lead to disaster. Most automotive journalists share the same sentiments. Standard equipment in the new 2006 Audi A8 L W12 include: four-zone deluxe automatic air-conditioning with moisture sensor, indirect ventilation and sun sensor providing maximum comfort and convenience, Valcona leather upholstery, polished walnut, sycamore or birch wood inlays, heated/self-dimming sideview mirrors, power tilt/telescoping/heated steering wheel, power windows/door locks with one-touch up/down for all windows, push-button rear trunk opening/closing, universal phone prep with Bluetooth, remote opening fuel-filler door, cruise-control, self-dimming rearview mirror, electromechanical parking brake, 19x9 aluminum alloy wheels, 255/40ZR19 tires, full-size spare tire, tool kit, automatic headlamps/rain-sensing wipers with high-pressure headlamp washers, electrically operated sun blinds for the all rear windows, cornering lamps, a 200-watt Bose Surround Sound System with 12 speakers, a subwoofer, six-disc CD player, DVD navigation, power glass sunroof, rear seat ventilation controls, interior particle and charcoal air filter, thick cut carpeting/floor mats, carpeted & lighted trunk, illuminated entry with theater dimming, rear overhead console, cargo net and tie-downs, tire pressure monitor, traction control and ESP electronic stability control, front/rear dual illuminated vanity mirrors, grab handles above each door, and tinted glass. Standard safety features include knee airbags, side head curtain airbags located in the roof, Parktronic front/rear parking assist, inside trunk release, seat mounted front side airbags, seat mounted rear side airbags, driver airbag with dual stage deployment/ dual threshold, passenger airbag cutoff sensor and dual threshold, three-point safety belt with front and rear pretensioners/force limiters, front and rear power seatbelt height adjusters, front and rear crush zones, side guard door beams, rear foglamps, LATCH system for child seats, child safety door locks, vehicle anti-theft immobilizer, and ONSTAR stolen vehicle tracking.

Options include the rear console with DVD player and LCD screens, radar-controlled adaptive cruise control, three-spoke leather covered multifunction steering wheel, solar sunroof, XM satellite radio, and 20x9 aluminum alloy wheels/tires. The new Audi A8 L W12 now takes its place among the top tier of full-size luxury performance sedans in the world by offering elegant and refined styling, a 450 horsepower V12 powerplant, all-wheel drive, and superb handling and ride dynamics. All this, and it's still one of the most spacious, comfortable, convenient, luxurious and safe environments around. © All photographs and text by Harvey Schwartz For more information on Audi products, go to www.audiusa.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2006 Audi A8 L W12 Price of vehicle: $118.190.00 base, $125,190.00 as tested, excluding $720.00 destination charge Engine type: 6.0-liter DOHC 48-valve W12 all-aluminum engine Horsepower:450 hp at 6,200 rpm Torque: 428 at 4,000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/all-wheel-drive Transmission type: 6-speed automatic with sequential paddle/gate automatic shifting Front suspension: Independent, adaptive variable struts with air springs, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Independent, adaptive variable struts with air springs, stabilizer bar Wheels/tires: 20X9in. aluminum alloy wheels/255/40ZR20in. high-performance tires Brakes: Front - 15 in. vented ceramic rotors/6-piston calipers Rear - 14 in. vented ceramic rotors/single piston calipers ABS, EBD, BA Overall length: 204.4 in. Overall width: 74.6 in. Overall height: 57.3 in. Curb weight: 4,729 lbs. EPA mileage specs: 15mpg/city and 21mpg/highway 0-60 mph: 4.9 sec.

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