Thursday, April 28, 2011

Because it’s what's on the inside that counts

On test… Audi A8 4.2 quattro

The Car Of The Year panel? Whatever. The kids in our school lift club… now there’s a bunch of discerning car critics. And, boy, did they love the A8. The three of them might only be in grade 3, and ja, their feet still stick out horizontally when sitting on the back seat, but a more astute bunch of passengers you won’t find.

And with a car like the Audi A8 it’s all about the passengers. Look I could bang on about how impressive the A8’s handling is for such a sizey automobile – and at 5.13m long, sizey it most certainly is – or harp on about Audi’s Space Frame technology and its use of aluminium which makes it 110kg lighter than it’s rivals. But that’s all kind of pointless. No-one’s buying this car for its handling. And the crew on the back seat sure has hell weren’t taking notice of the air suspension, the quattro allwheel drive system, the 8-speed tiptronic ‘box, the 273kW 4.2-litre FSI petrol V8, or indeed any of the fancy electronic wizadry that make driving this car an exercise in effortless power and control. No boet.

What impressed them was the inside. And it’s the inside where Audi trumps its fellow Teutonic luxobarge rivals – the 7-Series BMW and the S-Class Merc. Nobody is able to combine fine leather, wood, chrome, and aluminium in quite the same way as Audi. It’s sophisticated, contemporary design that’s understated and ja… just a very nice place from which one can wave to the hoi polloi outside. Especially if the hoi polloi happen to be your school mates at the stop ‘n drop. The three in the back emerged from the black A8’s rear door like they were facing banks of flashing paparazzi.

Forget the outside of the A8 – it’s another cookie cutter example of Ingolstadt’s rather weird strategy of making all its sedans look pretty much exactly the same. Like the A4 and A6, the A8 is handsome and reserved rather than anything shoutingly innovative. But inside… from the B&O sound system, the night vision assistant, to the MMI interface that includes a small touchpad next to the gear lever with handwriting recognition (helps if you’re lefthanded), Audi’s flaghip sedan is unrivalled.

As is its ability to up one’s playground cred.

The Audi A8 4.3 quttro will cost you... wince...R1 105 905. Why the R5?
(as appeared in the April issue of the Kulula in-flight mag)