19/03/2012 10:34 | By CJ Hubbard, contributor, MSN Cars

Audi A8 L W12 review (2010 onwards)

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Model: Audi A8 L W12
Bodystyle: Four-door long-wheelbase luxury saloon
Engine: 6.3-litre W12, 500hp @ 6,200rpm, 461lb ft @ 3,500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed tiptronic automatic, quattro four-wheel drive

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First Drive: Audi A8 (2010 onwards)

What is it?
This is currently the most expensive Audi A8 on the books - the A8 L W12. In fact, at £94,510, it's the fourth most expensive Audi full stop, just beneath the R8 V8 Spyder and both versions of the R8 V10.

The W12 is at least £20,000 more than the next A8 model down (though Audi is yet to release the pricing details of the very latest high performance S8), and is currently resplendent as Audi's flagship luxury saloon.

To decode that model designation, the L stands for long-wheelbase - meaning an extra 130mm of rear legroom - while the W12 part tells of scant regard for petrol prices and emissions regulations.

Audi A8 L W12 (© Audi)

Where does it fit?
Yes, this A8 is powered by essentially the same 6.3-litre 12-cylinder engine you'll find under the bonnet of many a Bentley, which, in terms of configuration at least, means it's also related to the W16 that propels the Bugatti Veyron.

In other words, it's decadent. You won't be surprised to hear the W12 is only available as a long-wheelbase car. The attraction is smooth, relentless performance that's rarely ruffled but inevitably high maintenance. Hmm.

Rivals include the Mercedes S600 L and the BMW 760iL - though you might also throw in the Jaguar XJ Supersport LWB and perhaps the Lexus LS600h. Audi is middle ground in terms of pricing here - a minor detail at this end of the market.

Is it for you?
All of which makes the A8 W12 L a curious choice in some respects. The unusual motor gives it 500hp - which isn't quite as much as Bentley offers, but still - while the extended wheelbase implies it's designed to be enjoyed from the rear.

The unusual motor gives it 500hp

So it's a car for those with a fondness for either being driven quickly or indulging their chauffeur. Or it's a status symbol. Or perhaps you just don't like the smell of diesel very much.

That said, the W12's engine refinement is certainly exceptional, and the wave of torque available upon the application of your right foot certainly makes an impression.

Audi A8 L W12 (© Audi)

What does it do well?
Inevitably, this is a very fast very large car. Quattro four-wheel drive means the quoted 4.7-second 0-62mph is achievable in almost any weather, but it's the way it goes from waft to rocket at motorway speeds that underlines its immense performance.

Settle back to simply enjoy the ride, however, and you'll find leather seats with electric adjustment front and rear, four-zone climate control, all-round bum warmers and enough rear legroom to curl up and go to sleep in (not to be recommended while the car is moving, obviously).

...if you can't get comfortable you'd probably best go and see a physio.

So if you can't get comfortable in this car you'd probably best go and see a physio. It also exudes a subtle blend of anonymity and menace from the outside, as sharp all-LED headlights and a big shiny grille enhance the general sense of Audi-ness.

What doesn't it do well?
But this very Audi-ness could be a bit of a problem. Not only does it look much like any other Audi at a glance from the outside, the interior is very much in keeping with current Audi motifs - only writ large, and using even higher quality materials.

We just wonder if it doesn't need a little bit more to make it feel truly special, although the various interior ambient lighting elements go a long way; we especially like the light-up W12 sill plates. And the self-closing doors.

Other minor gripes include the slightly fiddly gear selector - it's quite easy to skip beyond the setting you were after. And this is a car that never ever feels small. But then, you're hardly likely to go chucking it down your favourite B-road, are you?

Audi A8 L W12 (© Audi)

What is it like to live with?
The W12 test car was fitted with just two optional extras. While this reflects the comprehensive standard equipment list - including self-closing doors, satellite navigation, DAB digital radio, electric rear window blinds, a massive suite of safety systems, etc, etc - these two still added over £9,000 to the list price.

But hey, who wouldn't want a Bang & Olufsen surround sound stereo, and a rear-seat entertainment package including twin video screens and a supplementary DVD changer? Certainly this scribe's other half spent all her time riding in the back seat, ignoring the other traffic and feeling suitably superior.

The touch-pad sat-nav interface is very clever

The touch-pad sat-nav interface is very clever, and parking is less problematic than you might imagine, thanks to the reversing camera and all-round sensors - even if you won't want to be visiting too many multi-storeys. But then, one presumably has staff for that.

How green is it?
Considering this car weighs 2,055kg, has a 6.3-litre 12-cylinder engine producing 500hp and 461lb ft of torque and is limited to 155mph, 277g/km CO2 isn't as bad as it could be.

Officially, the A8 W12 L will return 23.7mpg combined - we averaged late teens including plenty of motorway miles. It won't be a cheap car to run. But then, if you're thinking of buying one, that isn't likely to put you off.

Besides which, diesel-powered Audi A8s are also available.

Would we buy it?
If you've got the cash, like Audi design and what the brand stands for, then the A8 W12 L is arguably the ultimate expression of this, and you'll want to dive right in. It has technical superlatives a-go-go, properly majestic performance and superb build quality.

If you aren't already an Audi fan, however, then we fear the A8 doesn't quite have the sparkle to win you over - W12 engine or not. But in certain situations, even chauffeur driven ones, there is something to be said for a degree of anonymity - and the A8's design treads the line between this and a glorious sense of occasion very carefully.

Read more Audi car reviews

First Drive: Audi A8 (2010 onwards)

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