Review update: The 2019 Audi A8 L is the understated way to arrive

May 24, 2019

The 2019 Audi A8 L sticks to an understated formula that has worked for more than two decades. Audi's biggest and poshest sedan lays a ground game for future driver-assistance and technology features.

While the 2019 A8 L is new, the competition is far from it. Competitors from BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus have a head start on Audi by at least a few years.

With a TCC Rating of 7.8, the 2019 Audi A8 L wins big with a smooth ride, spacious and beautifully wrought cabin, and button-light interface. Where it misses is in underhood refinement, visual pizzazz, and an underlying sense that it's smarter than its driver.

I spent a week living with the 2019 A8 L to see if it's a flagship that should be considered over its competitors. Here's were the big German hit and where it missed:

2019 Audi A8 L

2019 Audi A8 L

Hit: It flies under the radar. The Audi A8 always has played the safe middle ground. If the Mercedes-Benz S-Class shouts "I have arrived" and the BMW 7-Series goes for sporty and svelte, the A8 aims for quiet elegance. It doesn't demand attention but it makes enough of a statement without being loud. The wide front end, stamped aluminum side panels, and rear LED taillights lights are graceful—perhaps too subtle.

2019 Audi A8 L

2019 Audi A8 L

Miss: Powerful, but not smooth. The A8 is supposed to be a luxury flagship, and it has the power but not the smooth acceleration I'd like to see. Its turbocharged V-6 produces 335 horsepower and is paired with a 48-volt electrical system that runs the car's myriad tech features. It takes a second for boost to build off the line and the start-stop system can be caught flat-footed at stop signs to the point where the system judders as it reactivates.

 

2019 Audi A8 L

2019 Audi A8 L

Hit: Wireless Apple CarPlay FTW. Most new cars on sale offer Apple CarPlay compatibility, but few offer wireless connectivity. Get in, press start, and watch Waze pop up on the center screen. No fussy wires and your iPhone can stay in your pocket or bag. Our tester had a wireless charging pad, too. This is how smartphone mirroring should work.

2019 Audi A8 L

2019 Audi A8 L

Miss: Car seats are a pain, if it matters. My test car's optional $3,500 rear seat package added power-reclining backrests that prevented my kids' car seats from fitting properly without removing the car's headrests. Removing the headrests proved comically challenging: they wouldn't clear the A8's roof without reclining the rear seats first. If not for the reclining rear seats, I'm not sure it would have been possible to remove the headrests without first taking out the rear window. 

2019 Audi A8 L

2019 Audi A8 L

Hit: Touchscreens can replace buttons. Porsche's leap into touch controls instead of hard buttons has not been a success. The A8 shows how it's meant to be done. The twin-screen dashboard is logical and easy to use with a quick glance. The upper screen controls audio, navigation, and other infotainment functions with individual tiles while the lower screen handles climate functions. Both screens feature haptic feedback. The digital gauge cluster can be configured to show navigation, trip computer, and other information with ease too. 

2019 Audi A8 L

2019 Audi A8 L

Miss: The A8 can be overwhelming. Slide into the A8 (or even the A6, A7, and Q8 that share this interface) and there's a lot to take in. It took me a full day to learn the basics and another day to get comfortable with the system, but the feeling that the car knows more than I do never subsided.

At $101,095 as tested, my 2019 Audi A8 L had 22-way multi-contour front seats with massage function, wireless Apple CarPlay, a color head-up display, OLED taillights, power reclining rear seats, two touchscreens, and a digital gauge cluster. It lacked for little. 

While the 2019 Audi A8 L might not be as smooth or flashy as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, or as sporty as a BMW 7-Series, the Audi shows how advanced—borderline overwhelming—technology can be implemented.

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2019 Audi A8 L

Base Price: $83,800

Price as tested: $101,095

EPA fuel economy:19/27/22

The hits: Vastly de-buttoned interior, comfortable cabin, wireless Apple CarPlay

The misses: Engine could be smoother, car seats might not fit well, overwhelming at first

2019
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2019
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