2009 Audi A8 Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
March 20, 2009

The 2009 Audi A8 and A8 L are nimble, refined luxury sedans that still stand out from the crowd.

At TheCarConnection.com, experts have read the best reviews on the Web to bring you a comprehensive summary of comments regarding the 2009 Audi A8 and A8L. With its own editors' expert opinions added to the mix, TheCarConnection.com is able to offer you the best possible information on purchasing a new 2009 Audi A8.

The 2009 Audi A8 is Audi’s large luxury sedan, offering powerful V-8 and 12-cylinder engines; all-wheel drive; and one of the most luxurious, well-designed, and technology-laden interiors of any vehicle. The A8 is offered in two lengths, the standard A8 and extended-length A8 L, which offers expanded backseat legroom, with the top-of-the-line A8 L W12 residing as Audi’s flagship sedan for luxury and technology.

Most drivers will be impressed and pleased with the excellent performance and notable luxury that come with the A8. The 2009 Audi A8 remains powered by a 350-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 on the standard A8 and extended-length A8 L, or a 450-hp W-12 engine in the top-of-the-range A8 L W12. The W-12 engine design is no mistake—it’s unique to Audi and Volkswagen, with three banks of cylinders, all staggered close to each other; the design is especially compact for a 12-cylinder. The high-performance S8, with its V-10 engine and more aggressive equipment, is covered by TheCarConnection.com in a separate review.

V-8-powered models of the 2009 Audi A8 have plenty of strength in either body length, but the 12-cylinder engine has a quiet whir and tremendous torque to provide effortless acceleration at almost any speed. Those sensitive about consumption should be aware that the W12 model has quite low fuel economy ratings, at 13 mpg city, 19 highway. Especially with the V-8-powered A8s, the overall handling and steering feel are remarkably nimble, and the A8 handles sharp curves better than most other large sedans its size; that’s likely because of the A8’s extensive aluminum construction and weight savings. The A8's variable-ratio, variable-assist steering system also has been recalibrated for 2009 to yield more road feel, and the air suspension has been retuned.

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The 2009 Audi A8 has some of the best front seats in any vehicle at any price; they're large and not only firm enough to hold you in place on a twisty road but also superbly comfortable for long-haul driving. The standard-wheelbase model has enough backseat space for average-size adults, but the extended-length L model has almost limousine-like legroom that's good for even the lankiest passengers.

The instrument panel in the 2009 Audi A8 is exceptionally clean and simplified, at least in design, thanks to the Multi-Media Interface (MMI), which brings a single tactile controller to access a range of audio, climate-control, and navigation functions. Compared to BMW's iDrive or Mercedes-Benz's COMAND, MMI is much easier for newbies to figure out, and TheCarConnection.com’s editors feel that it’s less distracting overall.

The standard-features list for the 2009 Audi A8 is extensive; it includes a navigation system, heated front and rear seats, and adaptive bi-xenon headlamps. Other options include rear dual-zone climate controls, an awe-inspiring Bang & Olufsen sound system, obstacle-detection systems, a rearview camera, a solar-powered ventilation system, and a power rear sunshade.

A Sport Package is available on the 2009 Audi A8—bringing big 20-inch polished alloy wheels, summer performance tires, adaptive air suspension, and steering-wheel shift paddles—and new for 2009 is a Technology Package, which includes adaptive cruise control, side assist, and lane assist.

The 2009 Audi A8 has not been crash-tested, but its vast list of safety features includes separate front and rear side airbags, side-curtain airbags, front knee airbags, front active head restraints, and electronic stability control.

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2009 Audi A8

Styling

The 2009 Audi A8/A8L has an almost universally appealing elegance, but others in its class offer edgier styling.

TheCarConnection.com finds that the 2009 Audi A8 carries over many existing design decisions. Other options may offer bolder styling.

On the exterior, the 2009 Audi A8 wins raves. “Nobody does an interior like Audi. The 2004 A8 is awash in gorgeous wood, lovely aluminum and buttery Valcona leather, served up in four different interior ‘envinronments,’” gushes MyRide.com. There are two versions of the A8, Audi's large luxury sedan: a standard car and the A8 L, which has a 121-inch wheelbase, slightly more than 5 inches bigger than that of the base model, according to Cars.com. Both are penned not to offend.

Edmunds says the "snob appeal" of the Audi 2009 is still less than that of its rivals from BMW and Mercedes. As Car and Driver points out, changes for the 2009 Audi A8 are minimal; other than interior/exterior finish options, there's very little to distinguish the 2009 Audi A8 from its predecessor on the outside.

Inside, it's impeccably detailed, and the Audi A8's cabin is as "handsome and spacious" as ever, Edmunds believes. Automotive.com says that "the cabin is elegant and comfortable, and tops the class in finish quality."

TheCarConnection.com's editors think the A8 Audi is one of the most refined-looking vehicles on the road. The exterior shape is enduring; inside the A8, Audi's instrument panel appears remarkably clean and simplified compared to the excess of lines and gadgets in the latest Benz S-Class or BMW 7-Series.

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2009 Audi A8

Performance

The 2009 Audi A8/A8L does a good job of blending sophistication with high-performance muscle.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com are pleased to note that performance in the 2009 Audi A8/A8L is extremely strong—much improved over earlier versions of the vehicle.

The 2009 Audi A8 is powered by a 350-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8 on the standard A8 and extended-length A8 L. The top-of-the-range A8 L W12 boasts a 450-hp 12-cylinder engine. (The high-performance S8, with its V-10 engine and more aggressive equipment, is covered in a separate review.)

Audi claims the 2009 Audi A8 will accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in just over 6 seconds with the standard V-8 engine; the top speed is limited to 155 mph. The longer-wheelbase, 12-cylinder version isn't necessarily faster: Motor Trend says the direct-injection V-8 engine "gives up little to the V-12" and squeezes out up to 18 mpg on the highway.

Both versions of the 2009 Audi A8 use a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Cars.com reports that "considerable downshifting occurs on even moderate upgrades. Fortunately, those downshifts are smooth and prompt." ForbesAutos explains that the transmission can be "taken through the gears like a manual." Furthermore, "you get an abundant rush of energy when the pedal is pushed," Cars.com allows.

The 2009 Audi A8's variable-ratio, variable-assist steering system is recalibrated to yield more road feel, and the air suspension is retuned. The adjustable suspension can "induce unsettling wallow when at softer settings," according to ConsumerGuide, though the A8 Audi rides on 19-inch wheels. However, even before the recent changes to the steering, MyRide.com declares, “On our twisty road loop in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Audi A8 felt smaller than actual size.”

Motor Trend notes that the Audi A8's new steering is "great, with perfect feel and weight, but...we didn't know the old steering ratio needed replacing." Cars.com approves of its drivability: "On narrow two-lane roads, this full-size sedan whips from one curve to the next with ease. It stays beautifully flat while cornering and responds immediately to driver inputs," they report.

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2009 Audi A8

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Audi A8/A8L is one of the most comfortable and luxurious cars on the market.



According to the experts at TheCarConnection.com, the 2009 Audi A8 and Audi A8 L offer excellent comfort and quality—whether you're looking to commute across town or drive across the country.

Cars.com reports that the interior of the 2009 Audi A8 is nothing short of luxurious, including natural wood trim and genuine leather upholstery. Automotive.com remarks, "Audi is known for high-quality, well-designed interiors and the A8 lives up to this." Edmunds calls the interior "superb...with generous amounts of wood, Alcantara (suede) and aluminum accents."

Audi tells Car and Driver that the 2009 Audi A8 would be the "quietest car in its class"—and ConsumerGuide confirms this, but with a touch of criticism. The A8's 19-inch tires are "most always whisper quiet," they say, but "rumble and whine a bit on coarse pavement."

TheCarConnection.com spends a few hundred miles in various A8 Audi sedans and finds that it has some of the best front seats in any vehicle at any price; they're large and not only firm enough to hold you in place on a twisty road but also superbly comfortable for long-haul driving. Testing an extended-length A8 L, MyRide.com states, “Seating is firm and supportive front and rear, and rear occupants enjoy substantial amounts of leg and foot room to ensure total comfort.”

The rear doors in the 2009 Audi A8 are longer than most, making life easier for second-row passengers. Automotive.com notes that the A8L "provides more room and comfort for rear-seat passengers, not that the standard-length model is cramped."

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2009 Audi A8

Safety

The 2009 Audi A8 and A8L have not yet been crash-tested. They do, however, offer an impressive range of safety equipment.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com note that the 2009 Audi A8/A8L has not received crash-test ratings from either major agency—but there are plenty of airbags and other safety features.

J.D. Power contends that "state-of-the-art digital modeling has allowed Audi to build one of the safest cars in its class." Even with this distinction, Audi still piles safety features into the 2009 Audi A8/A8L. These include separate front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags, front knee airbags, front active head restraints, and electronic stability control—all standard, according to Cars.com. J.D. Power explains that "side-mounted air bag supplemental restraints and Sideguard head-protection air bags are designed to offer additional protection for both front and rear outboard occupants."

ForbesAutos reports that the 2009 Audi A8 features adaptive headlights as well. The headlights actually turn with the wheels, providing better illumination around curved roads at night. In addition, the windshield wipers are rain-sensing, the standard quattro all-wheel-drive system provides excellent control in a variety of road conditions, and the brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution ensure maximum stopping power. J.D. Power likes that "Lower Anchorage and Tethers for Children (LATCH) is standard, as is a tire-pressure-monitoring system."

Another interesting piece of safety equipment that comes standard on this year's A8 is Audi's lane assist. The device causes the steering wheel to vibrate when the vehicle begins to wander; however, Motor Trend recommends that this feature be turned off "except when going cross-country on too little sleep...it's amusing at first, then more annoying than helpful."

 

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2009 Audi A8

Features

The 2009 Audi A8 and A8L offer plenty of gadgets and gizmos along with traditional luxury.

The 2009 Audi A8/A8L offer plenty of useful and convenient features in addition to amazing seats, according to the experts at TheCarConnection.com.

Audi has fitted the base model of the 2009 Audi A8 with such features as leather seats, bi-xenon headlights, and a six-disc CD player. Cars.com lists keyless entry and engine start-up, a navigation system, four-zone automatic climate control, a front and rear Parktronic parking system, and electric sunshades for the rear and side windows among the gear included on each A8. Those who want more can choose add-ons that include heated seats, electric sunshades, acoustic parking sensors (great for anyone who struggles with parallel parking), and backseat lumbar adjustment, as well as the massage-and-ventilation mechanisms for the front seat.

Voice recognition for operation of the stereo and the on-board navigation system is included, reports ForbesAutos. For those who must talk on their cell phones while driving, the Audi A8 is equipped with Bluetooth wireless capability, allowing for hands-free telephone operation as well.

These many features can be accessed via Audi's proprietary MMI—a series of buttons and controls mounted on the steering wheel with which the driver can operate the vehicle's numerous devices and controls easily and in greater safety, according to Edmunds. ForbesAutos, however, tells us that it's easier and more intuitive than the BMW iDrive system (albeit "more distracting than traditional knobs and buttons").

Other options include rear dual-zone climate controls, obstacle-detection systems, a rearview camera, a solar-powered ventilation system, and a power rear sunshade. A Sport Package is also available on the 2009 Audi A8. J.D. Power notes that "audiophiles will not want to miss the optional top-of-the-line Bang and Olufsen Advanced Sound System." With this 14-speaker setup, "the sound is pure, rich and deep."

A few changes to the features lineup debut in 2009. Cars.com reports that the "premium luxury package [is] discontinued as its features become standard for 2009." A new Technology Package has been designed to include side assist, adaptive cruise control, and lane assist.

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Styling 7.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
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