The Audi A8 may have a leaner frame than some of its rivals, but it doesn't trade off much interior space or refinement in the name of performance. The opposite is true on long-wheelbase models, which are some of the most capable long-distance machines we've driven this year, thanks to highly adjustable and form-fitting seats, lots of leg room, and ultra-high driving range in the TDI turbodiesel.
However, short-wheelbase models aren't quite as equipped for executive-shuttle duty. Their wheelbase checks in at 117.8 inches, while the long-wheelbase model (which you can't have on the S8, and which is the only choice on the W12 and TDI models) has a 122.9-inch wheelbase. Where there's a choice, we say go long: there's virtually no penalty in handling or performance and only a small cut in fuel economy. What's to gain is almost five inches more rear-seat leg room.
On either sedan, the A8's standard seats hardly lack for support or adjustment, what with 18-way power controls, a firm foundation and a soft layer of padding just beneath luscious perforated leather. Extreme road trips are no problem in these, or in the upgraded versions, which come with 22-way adjustments and ventilation and massaging controls. You can tailor a driving position that's ideal for a wide swath of body types, between the seats and the telescoping/tilting steering wheel and the relatively compact dash structure.
While we're on it, we've adapted easily to Audi's power-seat controls. It's a clever way to control all those 22 adjustments: a lever orbiting a seat-mounted wheel lets the passenger flick through various sets of cushions for inflating or deflating, all of it displayed on the A8's big LCD screen.
Step into the back seat--please, ma'am, we'll get your bags--and you'll see firsthand why the long-wheelbase car is such a grander execution. The standard backseat setup has long cushions good for lankier passengers, but there's simply not enough legroom for tall passengers, or for a car of this stature. The A8 L does have the space, and longer doors, so unless you're tight on parking space, it's worth the small premium. Multi-zone climate control keeps everyone comfortable, the rear seats are power-adjustable, and the right-side one includes a footrest while the left-side seat includes massage and recline functions. Available on the A8 L (and included in all W12 versions) are lavish individual seats in back that might just be cause to get someone else to do the driving.
Also on offer in either model is a two-panel panoramic sunroof that makes the interior considerably brighter without interfering with headroom.
In either form, the A8 has plenty of trunk space, though at 13.2 cubic it's not objectively large--it's that the rather long trunklid allows a wide opening. Interior storage is fine for smaller items, and the cabin is a very quiet, refined place, and while you won't hear much wind or road noise, you will hear the tires on the S8 and TDI models somewhat during acceleration and moderate cornering, enough to blot out some of the finer notes coming from the must-have Bang & Olufsen audio system.