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“Audi is on a mission,” declares Len Hunt, the man running U.S. operations for Audi. At the moment, though, he’s sitting on the patio of the Maritime Hotel in Barcelona, Spain, the place the automaker has chosen as backdrop for the introduction of its new A8 sedan.
It’s an appropriate setting, though in ways the automaker might not have intended. This is, after all, the land of the legendary Don Quixote, the mythical, mad conquistador who embarks on a series of impossible quests. Some might suggest that Audi itself is seeking the impossible dream. It’s betting this third-generation, lightweight aluminum sedan can take on the heavyweights of the “high-luxury” market, including the S-Class from Mercedes-Benz, and BMW’s 7-Series.
TheCarConnection was offered a chance to take the new A8 on a drive through the Catalonian countryside. It was a relatively brief ride as far as road tests are typically concerned, and the vehicles we had at our disposal were short-wheelbase models, not the longer A8s due for export to the U.S. Nonetheless, the experience provided a good first look at the new Audi flagship, a vehicle that aims to win buyers over with a mix of styling, performance and technological innovation.
The ’04 A8 is a decidedly more handsome vehicle than the one it replaces. The A8 stands more upright, with shorter overhangs, a distinctive front end and a more angular rear. It does not attempt to break new ground, like the big Bimmer, but the new Audi looks more substantial, better suited to a spot alongside its competitors at the country club.
2004 Audi A8Enlarge Photo