The flagship luxury sedan segment in North America is unquestionably led by the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the BMW 7-series. A class that has been seeing sales dwindle considerably over the past few years, these large sedans are toeing the line between a status statement and a rolling testbed for new technology that will eventually trickle down into lower-end models. The Genesis G90 has recently joined the game, along with the latest iteration of the Lexus LS. It was only a matter of time before the four-ringed Germans caught up with this 2020 Audi A8 L 55 TFSI quattro.
While roughly the same size as the other two German flagships, the A8 has always been a step below, playing against the likes of the Lexus LS and now the Genesis G90. Available to Canadians in only the long wheelbase A8 L body style, the large sedan is over five inches longer than the outgoing standard wheelbase model. The new A8 L definitely has presence out on the road due to its gaping grille and massive footprint, but this was a controversy around our office. Most of my colleagues feel like it’s not differentiated enough from the new A6 and A7, essentially bringing the A8’s appeal downmarket.
The 123.1-inch wheelbase means the A8 L’s total length has ballooned to 208.7 inches, more than a foot longer than the smaller A6. Rear seat accommodations are excellent, including separate climate controls for both outboard seats, as well as heating. There is ample head and legroom, and six-footer adults can relax comfortably while being driven around. Our test vehicle was equipped with screens mounted to the rear of the front seats, providing connectivity and entertainment for rear passengers. This is part of a $3,500 Rear Seat Connectivity Package, and for those who frequently have rear-seat passengers on road trips, worth the price.
Up front, it becomes immediately obvious that the new A8’s main focus is technology. Two massive touchscreens accompany Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, and this just might be the best execution of a primarily touch-based interface currently available. The system is easy to use, and most major controls are clearly marked. The automaker is moving away from physical buttons, which is a questionable move overall, but the system implemented here is fairly good. The touchscreens have haptic feedback, and unlike Jaguar Land Rover’s InControl Touch Pro Duo system, everything remains in the same spot minimizing confusion when drivers need to quickly change a setting on the road.
As expected from Audi, materials are top-notch, with our tester’s Mythos Black paint complimented by stunning Nutmeg Brown Valcona leather upholstery and dark open pore wood trim. Everything looks and feels great to the touch, though we could do without some of the piano black around the screens and along the dashboard. This material looks fine when clean, but prone to scratches and dust in everyday situation. The futuristic four-spoke steering wheel is great to hold, and visibility out of the car is great in all driving situations.
We actually drove the A8 L on a longer road trip to Prince Edward County, Ontario, and were able to evaluate its highway manners. It’s blatantly obvious that a long stretch of open highway is where this car is right in its element. The cabin is immensely quiet with virtually no tire or road noise making its way into the cabin, and the laminated glass and dual-pane side windows do a great job at reinforcing the quietness. Ride quality is superb, with the standard air suspension ensuring that road imperfections are absorbed before making their way to the cabin. Leaving the drive mode selector in “Comfort” keeps the car sorted in the best way possible.
As semi-autonomous driving technology ramps up more and more, it’s interesting to see incremental improvements. A system called AI Traffic Jam Pilot debuts in the new A8 L, and has made this the first car available with Level 3 autonomous driving. It uses radar, laser, cameras, and ultrasonic sensors to keep the vehicle moving at speeds up to 60 km/h, even if the driver takes their attention off the road. Canadians will be disappointed to know that this isn’t available in our market yet, though it does offer adaptive cruise control as well as the standard safety suite including lane keep assist and collision warning.
As of this writing, the A8 L is only available with one powertrain, a 3.0L turbocharged V6 engine assisted by a 48-volt mild hybrid system. Its output of 335 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque is similar to Mercedes-Benz’s S 450, and power is sent to all four wheels through a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system. The mild hybrid system helps to reduce fuel consumption in mild load situations and can re-generate energy using the brakes.
Power is similar to six-cylinder flagship luxury offerings such as the S 450, but falls short in overall refinement when compared to the V8-powered S 560 (reviewed here) and BMW 750Li. The real competition here is the Lexus LS 500 (reviewed here) with its twin-turbocharged V6, which the A8 L trumps in both ease of use and smoothness. Power comes on effortlessly, and passing power is also ample, with the transmission eager to kick down and keep the Audi in the right part of the power band. Even with just six cylinders on tap, the
Audi rates this model at 12.5L/100km in the city and 8.6L/100km on the highway, for a combined 10.8L/100km. We observed overall consumption of 8.1L/100km over our highway trip, making no effort towards efficiency, and a combined 10.2L/100km throughout the test. The A8 L commands premium 91-octane fuel, and despite this, we observed it to be the most efficient of the full-size flagships available today. The mild-hybrid system here helps a little bit, and save for the plug-in hybrid version of the 7-series (reviewed here) and the LS 500h’s dedicated hybrid powertrain, the A8 L is a bit of a rarity in this regard.
The 2020 A8 L starts at $97,800 in Canada, but buyers will be hard-pressed to find one at that base price. The $3,250 Executive Package adds 22-way powered massaging front seats and a heads-up display. A $2,850 Luxury Package brings Comfort sport seats and Valcona extended leather. A $3,700 Exterior Lighting Package adds OLED taillights and a pretty neat welcoming light animation on the rear light assembly. A few miscellaneous packages including Driver Assistance Package, Rear Seat Connectivity Package, and Bang & Olufsen audio ($5,100) bring the total of our test vehicle to just about $120,000.
The A8 L at this price point is an interesting proposition, and would be our pick over the current Lexus LS. The Mercedes-Benz S 450 is a step up in overall luxury, however the infotainment system is dated and confusing, and the Audi’s six-cylinder is a smoother operator. The Genesis G90 is a value proposition at over $40,000 less, but I’m not entirely sure these are being cross shopped. The 2020 Audi A8 L quattro is a comfortable and refined luxury sedan jam-packed with technology and worthy of the flagship title.
2018 Mercedes-Benz S 560 4MATIC
First Drive: 2020 Genesis G90
2020 BMW 750Li xDrive