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Quick Take
It is the rare car that defines itself by the standards of its backseat. From this agreeable perch... Read more »
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It is the rare car that defines itself by the standards of its backseat.

From this agreeable perch, nevertheless, I am most content to issue my opinions about Audi's flagship, in almost papal splendor. This special A8's "L" designation refers to the five extra inches of chassis length assigned principally to rear passengers. Lazing recumbent in this leather-swathed romper room, with the black mesh sunshades raised over the side windows, and another automatically elevated across the rear glass, I have found the epitome of "stretch" in all its mental, moral, and physical meanings.

Regardless of where I'm going or who is taking me there, I am the precious cargo that this car was built to serve. Indeed, word of an "Office Package" dealer option with electronically folding desk and minibar-type cooler for the rear gives me even less incentive to leave the shadowy folds of this sumptuous womb with a view.

2001 Audi A8L interior

2001 Audi A8L interior

The plain facts from the statistics sheet barely do justice to the A8 L's special character: Front leg room is 41.3 inches, rear is 41.1 inches. How can those two numbers, rare as they are in their excruciating proximity, possibly convey the profound significance of this huge, roomy, imposing sedan, whose silky power nevertheless exults in 6.8-second rips from zero to 60? There are 310 horses chomping at their bits under that sheening expanse of aluminum hood. There are four overhead camshafts strumming 40 valves in their V-8 ranks. The music can only be measured as 302 lb-ft of pulling power distributed through all four wheels, thanks to Audi's sophisticated, fourth-generation quattro all-wheel-drive system. Computerized stability control, combined with quattro's unique driving feel, transforms this giant automotive trireme into as nimble a sport-touring performance sedan as ever plied the asphalt seas.

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