Sedately styled, save for some fabulous LED details, the Audi A8 stores up its glamour for a knockout cabin.
In the executive-luxury class, there's little room for showy looks. The truly memorable shapes seem to be reserved for the more coupelike creations sized and priced a tier below the top offerings from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes--cars like the A7, Gran Coupe, and CLS.
The A8 isn't as sleek as the A7, but its details are still finely honed, its sheetmetal still handsomely bent. It has much in common with the smaller A6 and A4 sedans, with proportions that reach for more of the long-nose drama that characterizes most classic sport sedans. Here, it's necessary to fit the A8's relatively compact 12-cylinder engine, but it's leveraged to give the A8 a drawn-out elegance that works well with its broader shoulders and especially, with the long-wheelbase model's longer rear doors. The LED lamps front and rear are awesome bits of detailing, but the grille's less a standout than before.
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.