2011 Audi A8 Review
This review was written when the 2011 Audi A8 was new.
The automotive press loves the 2011 Audi A8’s good fuel economy, excellent suspension, standard Quattro all-wheel drive and opulent, tech-heavy interior. Autoblog writes, “For lack of a better phrase, they've put old luxury on notice and infused some very welcome ‘sport’ into its flagship.” Despite these attributes, the A8 lacks the power of some rivals and has a trunk that’s on the small side among super luxury cars.
If you’re looking for a sumptuous interior with impressive cabin tech, decent fuel economy and handling that walks the line between the comfortable Lexus LS and the nimble Porsche Panamera, the 2011 Audi A8 might fit the bill. It ties the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Hybrid and the V6-powered Porsche Panamera in terms of fuel economy, but it’s more powerful than either and features standard all-wheel drive. Still, the A8 is not the horsepower king of super luxury cars – the class is full of V8-powered rivals that could easily beat the A8 in a drag race.
Sit inside the A8, however, and you might not be in a hurry to go anywhere. Many reviewers say that Audi offers some of the highest quality interiors available today, and as the company’s flagship the 2011 Audi A8 features the automaker’s best materials and available cabin tech. The interior has an almost nautical theme; its large console features a wide shift-lever designed to resemble the throttle from a motor yacht. Reviewers like the design, but say that the shifter is tricky to get into gear. You have to nudge it carefully up or down into the perfect spot, otherwise you’ll overshoot your selection.
Audi’s MMI electronics interface has also garnered positive reviews. It still features a control dial to navigate through on-screen menus, but Audi has also added a touchpad that can recognize handwriting. Reviewers say that it’s easy to trace letters and numbers on its surface while driving, and the touchpad can be used to select audio and navigation settings. Still, one reviewer says the MMI interface has to control too many vehicle functions. Another writes that the navigation system could provide better directions when traffic jams up, and lacked data seen on competing systems such as gas price and weather information.
Passenger space is ample. The backseat has plenty of room in the regular A8, and even more so in the extended-wheelbase A8 L. The seats are comfortable at all four corners, and heated front seats in both models can be upgraded to feature more adjustability, massage and ventilation. Heated rear seats can also be added to the A8, but the A8 L is also adds the option for rear seats that recline, and have heat, ventilation and massage settings.
Despite all this interior room and comfort, reviewers say that the trunk of the Audi A8 is lacking. At just 13.2 cubic feet, the A8’s cargo hold is small, not only compared to other super luxury cars, but also compared to the 15.9 cubic feet in the smaller Audi A6. Rivals like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW 7-Series have 16.4 and 14 cubic feet of trunk space, respectively.
Other Cars to Consider
If you’re looking for a car with an equally luxurious interior, and are willing to trade some of the A8’s sporty performance characteristics for a lower base price, the Lexus LS might be a good choice. Starting at about $66,000, the base LS is nearly $12,000 cheaper than the A8. However, the A8 comes with Quattro as standard equipment. To match the A8’s grip, you’ll pay about $9,500 less for an all-wheel drive LS. Like the A8, the LS is also available with an extended wheelbase. Those models start at about $72,000 and $74,000 for two- and all-wheel drive, respectively – which is still a savings compared to the $84,000 A8 L.
However, there are a few things to consider. The LS has an extremely comfortable ride, but isn’t as nimble as the A8 on winding roads. The LS also can’t match the A8’s fuel economy. According to the EPA, the base LS gets 16 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, which is less impressive than the A8’s 17/27 mpg city/highway.
If the LS doesn’t fit the bill, the BMW 7-Series might. It’s nimbler than the A8, and is available in regular or long-wheelbase body styles with multiple drivetrain configurations. While the bottom-rung 740i is about $8,000 less than the A8, it doesn’t have all-wheel drive, and its twin-turbo six-cylinder engine can’t match the Audi’s power. The more powerful, 750i model is a better match. Its twin-turbo V8 puts out 28 more horsepower than the A8, and it’s available with xDrive -- BMW’s all-wheel drive system.
There is a downside, however. Add xDrive, and the BMW is more expensive. The 750i xDrive starts at $85,500, while the extended-wheelbase 750Li xDrive costs nearly $89,500. Additionally, the all-wheel drive 7-Series can’t match the A8’s fuel efficiency. According to the EPA, the 750i xDrive and the 750Li xDrive both get 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.
Audi A8: The Details
The 2011 Audi A8 comes in two trims: the A8 and the extended-wheelbase A8L, which is 5.2 inches longer than the base model. This extra space translates to increased legroom in the backseat, but reviewers say that the A8’s rear row is comfortable regardless of the model you choose.
Starting at about $78,000, the A8 comes standard with an adaptive air suspension, sunroof, navigation, leather, 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth and a Bose Surround Sound system with iPod connectivity, HD and Satellite radio, a 20 gig internal hard drive and a CD changer. Opt for the $84,000 A8 L, and your Audi comes with all the features listed above, but also gets standard parking sensors with backup camera, power closing doors and trunk, rear sunshades and push button start.
- "While this latest A8 may not look radically new, it packs enough leading edge technology to render it a worthy step forward for Audi's range-topping sedan." -- Automobile Magazine
- "Rival flagships may still best the A8 for brand cachet, residual-value strength and customer-satisfaction scores, but Audi counters with standard all-wheel drive, unique style, and lower base prices with comparable equipment. The subtle but thorough 2011 makeover only adds to the appeal of a terrific premium-large sedan that merits a close look and serious consideration." -- Consumer Guide
- "The new car maintains the model's customary strengths - as in the aforementioned elegant interior and standard all-wheel drive - and then brings a little more size, a host of new electronic doodads and more LEDs than, well, something that has a whole freakin' lot of LEDs." -- Edmunds
- "While not out of line for this class, the Audi is no longer a Lexus-level bargain." -- New York Times
- "It was immediately evident that the car retained all the virtues of the past model, with a smooth ride, good power and a quiet cabin." -- Road and Track
- "The redesigned A8 sedan offers luxury and performance at a lower price than rivals BMW and Mercedes -- too bad it also offers less horsepower." -- BusinessWeek