Discretion is the better part of valor, and it's a major component of German executive luxury. Truly memorable looks don't come from the top end of Mercedes, BMW, or even Audi. Those honors are reserved for the coupelike up-and-comers: CLS, Gran Sport, A7.
The Audi A8 veers toward the conservative where the A7 reaches for glamour, but it's still handsomely drawn, and purposefully detailed. New in 2011, the shape's so clearly linked to the past and to Audi's A6 and A4 four-door sedans, it could give lessons in genealogy. The proportions are just a little different; the A8's nose is longer, to accommodate that massive W-12 engine, though the grille looks more ordinary than before. The cabin's given more room to lay back, especially on long-wheelbase models. The shoulders are broader, the effect longer and more infused with drama, the result more aerodynamic. Awesome detailing exists if you look for it, around the LED lamps in front and at the back.
Audi saves its best for the cockpit. The A8's cabin gives the impression that Audi designers don't miss a trick. Aluminum, wood, leather and suede, it's all here, assembled in a way that shows Audi knows how to appeal to ultra-luxury buyers.
It's all in the details. The transmission shift lever resembles the throttle on a powerboat. The audio system start-up cycle is marked by tweeters that rise up out of the dash. The effect of all its subtle engaging tricks isn't distracting, it's exciting.