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 front and rear.
All the energy conserved on the exterior is reserved for the interior. Excuse us while we gush over one of the most stylish, best-detailed cabins we've seen, ever. The A8's cockpit, no matter how it's layered--wood, leather, aluminum or plastic, or all of the above--gives the impression that it hasn't missed a single detail. It's finished in materials that typically show up in even pricier brands, and though there's certainly a fair share of lines and surfaces and textures and knobs, the cumulative effect is exciting, not distracting.On closer look, it's some of the details that really enforce the wow factor. Audi has modeled the throttle lever after those in yachts and powerboats (though it's a bit like a golf putter), while on startup, two tweeters rise almost silently from the dash. It's especially compelling inside the S8, where carbon trim and white-on-gray gauges muster a sense of occasion in a car that really doesn't need one.