the hotel. I’m never leaving the Audi," I texted
to one of the friends I was meeting for Jazz Fest in New
Orleans when the spacious and luxurious 2014 Audi A8L
TDI Quattro diesel luxury sedan arrived at my house.
A8L diesel’s 36-mpg EPA highway rating and 860-mile
theoretical cruising range put that boast to the test. I
had to stop three times for breaks before the car needed
refueling. It covered 740 miles at an average of 35.4
mpg and 67 mph.
sumptuous but thrifty car made it from Detroit to just
outside Tuscaloosa, Ala., on less than a tank of fuel.
The diesel provided plenty of power for fast, smooth
roomy and luxurious interior and Bang & Olufsen
sound system kept me comfortable and entertained. The
A8L’s built-in Wi-Fi hotspot allowed me to post my
fuel economy online before I stopped for the night in
diesel, or TDI, version of the A8 is new for the 2014
model year. It just went on sale and is only available
in the long-wheelbase version of Audi’s biggest and
most luxurious sedan.
TDI prices start at $82,500. The car comes with a
3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel that produces 240
horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque, an eight-speed
transmission and all-wheel drive.
tested a very well-equipped model with perforated
leather seats; massaging, heated and ventilated front
seats; adaptive cruise control; wood, aluminum and suede
trim; Bluetooth connectivity; its own Verizon Internet
account for Wi-Fi service; blind spot and lane-departure
alerts; and 20-inch summer tires and 10-spoke wheels.
A8L competes with the biggest and most luxurious
all-wheel drive models of other top luxury sedans: the
BMW 750Li xDrive; Jaguar XJL AWD, Lexus LS 460L AWD,
Porsche Panamera 4S and Mercedes-Benz s350 Bluetec
4Matic, the only other diesel in the set.
A8L TDI sneers at those cars’ fuel economy and blasts
past as they stop to fill up at gas stations. This is
very much the same tactic that allowed Audi to dominate
recent runnings of the famous 24-hour race in Le Mans,
diesels’ power might not match other automakers’
gasoline engines, but the Audis were virtually
unbeatable because they went so much farther on a tank.
Less time off the track refueling equals more time on
the track, going fast and leaving the competition
A8L TDI’s EPA rating of 24 mpg in the city, 36 on the
highway and 28 combined tops the competitors’ combined
ratings by 3 to 9 mpg. In a competition automakers
strive to win by 1 mpg, that amounts to lapping the
A8L diesel also tops the EPA ratings of the hybrid BMW
Activehybrid 7L, Lexus LS 600hL and Mercedes S400, even
though none of them has all-wheel drive.
engine’s horsepower trails most of the competitors,
but the high-torque diesel and quick-shifting
eight-speed transmission provide smooth and confident
acceleration and plenty of power for long highway runs.
The A8L TDI’s auto-stop function, which shuts the
engine off at traffic lights and other brief halts,
could stand to be smoother.
MMI controller, which combines dials, multipurpose
buttons and a video screen, allows you to adjust
everything from the climate control and massaging seats
to steering feel, throttle response and differential.
system is the most user-friendly among German luxury
brands. It’s less intuitive and requires more
eyes-off-the-road time than some newer systems that rely
on a touch screen, such as Cadillac’s CUE and Chrysler’s
voice-recognition software is terrific. The controls for
picking up and ending hands-free phone calls are
inconveniently located, however.
A8L’s interior look and feel are exceptional. Brown
perforated leather seats, suede inserts on the doors and
wood and aluminum trim lend a distinguished air. The A8L
TDI’s room, comfort and features make it one of the
few big luxury sedans that feel like a bargain; I’ve
been in costlier cars that had less appealing interiors
and fewer features. The trunk is a bit small, with less
space than any of the competitors.
my text, I was happy to exit the A8L when I reached New
Orleans. But I was looking forward to the drive home,
too. I’d had hours of bad weather and construction on
the way south. With better conditions, could the Audi
break 36 mpg in fast, real-world highway driving?
AUDI A8L TDI:
type: All-wheel drive five-passenger luxury sedan
3.0-liter direct-injected turbocharged DOHC variable
timing 16-valve four-cylinder.
240 horsepower at 3,550 rpm; 406 pound-feet of torque at
fuel economy rating: 24 mpg city/36 highway/28 combined.
weight: 4,586 pounds
price (TDI): $82,500
Four out of four stars
to buy: Fuel economy, looks, comfort, features,
Interior storage, operation of some controls, luggage
prices exclude destination charges.