AW Vehicle Review - 2005 Audi A8 L 6.0 Quattro

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Mar 18, 2004.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The W Stands for Why

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    By J.P. VETTRAINO
    (08:30 March 08, 2004)

    Westbound on the A1, inside the Bavarian border from Salzburg, Austria: Thick Alpen snow sparkles as it falls, but it also feeds the icy sludge building on the autobahn and aggravates a dangerous situation, even in the land where virtually everyone switches to winter tires for the season and every licensed driver allegedly knows how to drive.

    Over a viaduct, the Volkswagen Vento ahead snaps left into the inside guardrail, then rebounds across our path and smacks sideways on the outside rail. No airbag deployment, no apparent injuries, no worries. As for us, we are safely ensconced in the new 12-cylinder Audi A8 L 6.0. These executive land jets are built for a buck and change in whatever soup Mother Nature serves up.

    In the A8 L, you can set the Adaptive Cruise Control, which minds your tailgating and maintains a predetermined distance to the car ahead. You have your Electronic Stabilization Program to help control the car if you can't. You have Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution to keep the car balanced in a panic stop, and Brake Assist to slam the binders harder if you don't press as hard as you should. You have Adaptive Air Suspension to keep the ride smooth and tires planted no matter the surface. You have moisture-sensing wipers, high-intensity headlights and eight airbags. You even have emergency telematics to automatically summon help on the slim chance you need it, not to mention a really cool first-aid kit stashed in the rear armrest.

    Of course, you'd have similar systems in BMW's 760Li or the Mercedes-Benz S600, identified by slightly different acronyms. What you wouldn't have in either of those V12 autobahn princes is quattro all-wheel drive. In an Alpine snowstorm all-wheel drive has its appeal, and it is all-wheel drive that makes the A8 L 6.0's unique W12 engine more than a curiosity or a brand-building ploy.

    Without the W12, according to Audi's engineers, you could not have a 12-cylinder luxury sedan with any all-wheel-drive system. Besides, Dr. Piech fancied the W12, and the big guy usually gets what he wants.

    The W12 engine has been attributed to Ferdinand Piech-longtime head of the Volkswagen-Audi Group (VAG), a racing engineer of considerable accomplishment and the billionaire grandson of Ferdinand Porsche.

    W-configured engines are rare through the century of automobile development, and W12s have been the preserve of the aircraft industry.
    Audi originally presented a W12 with its 1991 Avus concept car. When Piech took command of VAG in 1993, he proposed a new variant for serial production and set his well-trained engineers to work. Whether or not top-down edicts promote cost-effective engine development, the W12 was ready to roll when Piech retired from day-to-day management in 2002.

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    Audi's 6.0-liter W12 is actually two of VAG's familiar 15-degree, single-cylinder-head VR6 engines, mated at the crank-shaft and banked at the unusual angle of 72 degrees. Each bank is essentially a separate engine with its own ECU, communicating with the other via data bus and operating in sync with separate throttle bodies on an intertwined induction system.

    The W concept presented a number of development challenges, according to Matthias Bach, VAG's director of 12-cylinder engine development. Different-length intake runners on the W12 operate with different natural air velocities and temperatures, making a variable-rate intake system, like those increasingly used to flatten torque curves, a near impossibility (without one, the W12 still has an impressively broad powerband). Even the bank angle was tricky. VAG settled on 72 degrees as a compromise between the depth and breadth of the V and the angle's natural balancing effect.

    When the W12 is optimized, specific output compared to a conventional V12 is a wash, according to Bach. There is no inherent power advantage in the W design and indeed, Audi's W12 makes 450 hp (and approximately 425 lb-ft of torque) in German spec. When that DIN rating is converted to SAE for the U.S. market, Audi's engine should slightly surpass the 438-hp V12 in BMW's 760Li, which displaces 27 fewer cubic centimeters. Mercedes' 6.0-liter V12, which has been fitted with twin turbos to address a serious output deficiency compared to the BMW, makes 493 hp.

    If there is no power advantage, why put so much trouble into a W12? Packaging. Bach says the W has one "inestimable advantage": Despite extra cylinders, it is no bigger than the typical V8 with less displacement. The W12 block is a tick smaller than that used for the 90-degree, 4.2-liter V8 in other A8 Ls, and it allows Audi to build a 12-cylinder sedan with all-wheel drive. With a conventional V12, there would be no space in the engine bay for a differential and other front-drive components, according to Bach.

    The W12 is also lighter than the typical V12.
    In German trim, the A8 L 6.0 is actually one pound lighter (4398 pounds) than a comparably equipped A8 L 4.2, and between 210 and 450 pounds lighter than competitors' V12 sedans, even with the quattro hardware. The 12-cylinder A8's weight reduction might be attributed to the engine. Even with Audi's Aluminum Space Frame, the A8 4.2 is heavier than the comparably sized Mercedes S500 4Matic.

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    There is more than the engine to distinguish the A8 L 6.0 from its V8-powered brethren, or its V12 competitors. For starters, the W12 is the first car sporting the tall, vertical grille Audi calls "the new formal idiom of Audi design." The new grille connects Audi's familiar horizontally split grilles over the front bumper, emphasized with a chrome surround.

    Perhaps more significantly, the A8 L is also the first car with LED headlights. Its low beams consist of five light-emitting diodes supplied by a California-based company. Development director Wolfgang Huhn says these lights draw considerably less current than halogen or xenon bulbs to deliver equal lumens. The A8 L 6.0 is the first car with daytime running lights that have virtually no impact on fuel economy, according to Huhn, and full low-beam operation requires less alternator draw than conventional lights.

    It remains to be seen whether these weight and operational efficiencies translate into better fuel economy. Audi claims its W12 is the most fuel-efficient engine in its class, but until it is measured with the EPA cycle, we have no real basis for comparison. The A8 V8s, with their quattro system, get poorer mileage than most competitors by the EPA's formula.

    Inside, the A8 W12 features unique appointments. The steering-wheel hub replicates the shape of the grille, and as is often the case in executive transport machinery, a full console with elaborate climate and seat-adjust- ment switches splits the rear seats. Measured by interior and trunk volume, the A8 L slots between the S600 on the small end and the 760Li on the large.

    Steering and suspension are identical from the A8 L V8 to the W12
    : the same variable-ratio power steering and the same automatic air suspension, calibrated with the W12 for the same net effect as the V8. Despite its heft and quattro's predilection toward understeer, the A8 L is impressively agile, and bears up well under truly aggressive driving (AutoFile, March 1).

    An hour directing the A8 L 6.0 over a variety of public roads in less than ideal conditions was sufficient to demonstrate a couple of points. First, the W12 delivers good throttle response and a wide, flexible torque curve befitting a luxury carmaker's flagship sedan. Audi says 95 percent of the peak torque is available between 2300 and 5300 rpm, and we found no reason to argue.

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    The W12 pulls hard up to its 6200-rpm redline and feels like it still has legs when it hits the limiter. Moreover, the revs translate into executive-class thrust, in the linear fashion of the 760Li rather than the visceral, biturbo rush of the S600, accompanied by symphonic sounds worthy of the chief designer's name. Audi reports 0-to-62-mph times of 5.2 seconds and 0 to 155 mph (governed terminal velocity) in 29 seconds.

    Second, silky-smooth operation is as important as output in a 12-cylinder engine, and Audi's W12 may (or may not) be as smooth as its competitors. It certainly is at idle. Yet at high speed there was a hint of vibration in the A8 L 6.0's steering column and seat bottoms-more than we would anticipate with a conventional V12. Trouble was the test car was fitted with winter tires in proper European fashion. It was difficult to distinguish the effect of the chunky tread pattern from potential driveline vibration.

    The A8 L 6.0 will reach U.S. showrooms as a 2005 model before the end of the calendar year. Its retail price is projected between $115,000 and $120,000, with 12-cylinder amenities like four-zone climate control, power sunshades and ventilated seats included. There will be three options: 20-inch wheels, upgraded from standard 19-inch and not offered by BMW or Mercedes; the Adaptive Cruise Control; and a rear-seat entertainment package with two LCD screens in the front headrests. The full rear console can be deleted in favor of a three-place benchseat.

    Audi expects its 12-cylinder customers to be younger than those buying S600s and 760Lis, with more enthusiasm for high technology. Nonetheless, the company projects modest U.S. sales of 150 A8 L 6.0s per year, compared with 722 760Lis and 919 S600s sold in 2003. Germany has always been the largest market for V12 sedans, which isn't hard to understand. These cars are best suited for flying 140 mph over the open road, and we don't recommend trying this at home.

    In the States, the A8 L 6.0 is less about sales numbers and more about establishing the Audi brand with Mercedes and BMW in a niche where perception still lags: at the top of the sedan mountain. Quattro and the W12 form key components of the plan. Yet the proposition seems muddled by a new member of the exclusive 12-cylinder club. VW's Phaeton luxury sedan, another brainchild of Piech, offers the W12 (and all-wheel drive) for considerably less cash. In deference to what VAG calls Audi's "sportier" image, the A8 gets 30 more horsepower thanks to lighter pistons and connecting rods that raise its redline 200 rpm. We'll leave it to VAG to use those 30 ponies to separate its brands.

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    Bottom line, if you want a 12-cylinder sedan with the advantage all-wheel drive offers in a snowstorm, or anywhere, you don't have to wait for Audi. You can get a similar package now for $20,000 less. The basic idea of 12-bangers is problematic to begin with. In our land, their advantage over a good V8 may be image, or appreciation of a concept, as much as it is functional. The $40,000 premium compared with the V8s makes for expensive image and appreciation, no matter how much disposable income you have.

    One thing is certain. If you want a 12-cylinder sedan with four rings on the hood, you need the A8 L 6.0. You'll get an impressively fast, luxurious, satisfying sedan for your money.

    AUDI A8 L 6.0 QUATTRO
    ON SALE: Before calendar year-end
    BASE PRICE: $117,500 (est.)
    POWERTRAIN: 6.0-liter, 450-hp, 425-lb-ft (DIN)
    W12; awd, six-speed automatic with Tiptronic
    CURB WEIGHT: 4398 pounds
    0 TO 62 MPH: 5.2 seconds (mfr.)

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  2. ZoominRex

    ZoominRex New Member

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    gorgeous car. It's only 4400 lbs for a full size 12 cylinder sedan! :bowdown:
     
  3. Tomash

    Tomash Active Member

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    Beautiful.
     
  4. bokhan

    bokhan i love you

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    frumunda cheese~!
    niiiiiiiice
     
  5. ZoominRex

    ZoominRex New Member

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    After looking at the pic some more I realy wish they didn't redesign the front grille. The current style looks way better.
     
  6. Scooby

    Scooby Growing up too fast...

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    sweet car :bigthumb:
     
  7. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Well, it flies for what it is.

    But the price is pretty lofty, and you can get basically the same thing with a VW badge for much less. I also wonder if this new model still suffers from a flinty ride, and the pronounced road and wind noise that the last one did?
     
  8. ZoominRex

    ZoominRex New Member

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    All it shares with the W12 Phaeton is the engine. The Audi is made with an all aluminum space frame hence the extrememly light weight. I think the curb weight of the W12 Phaeton is around 5600 lbs.
     
  9. Dr_Trac

    Dr_Trac doh!@

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    Dayuuuuuuuum...:eek:
     
  10. ZoominRex

    ZoominRex New Member

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    Audi's fit and finish far exceeds BMW's and Mercedes now. Hell even the Phaeton's interior felt nicer than that of the 745il I sat in.
     
  11. Redline Racer

    Redline Racer Subaru Tecnica International

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    Absolutely stunning.

    Just imagine being on the Autobahn with that appearing in your rear-view mirror. Think even I would get out the way :big grin:
     
  12. AsianRage

    AsianRage Know about Media Ventures?

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  13. Johnny*MacBlayze

    Johnny*MacBlayze wassup? shut up!

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    love the shield grill
     
  14. Redline Racer

    Redline Racer Subaru Tecnica International

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    Yup, I'm still alive :big grin: Just been way to busy to post lately though.
    Being doing some mods to the VW Polo as well which I might have to share the pics of.
     
  15. M4A1

    M4A1 :)

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    Words cannot describe the intense sexual feelings I have for this car.
     
  16. Dr. Woo

    Dr. Woo Guns don't kill people

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    That car in a 6-speed standard = sex

    I wonder if they're going to make a 6-speed available? I can almost guarantee not for you guys in America, but almost anything is available in a standard over here..
     

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