I suffer from a troublesome back, an injury I picked up during my days as a Sunday League footballer. That may sound like semi-pro level. I assure you it wasn’t. It was a league for overweight wannabes intent on kicking lumps out of each other.
I was clobbered by a particularly fat soand-so and landed awkwardly. Fifteen years later and I still get an occasional shooting pain up my spine. I have tried all sorts of massages, but no change. Still sore. That was until I hobbled into the opulent rear chairs of the Audi A8L, now sporting a massive 6.3-litre W12, and I felt a little better.
Had I known this was the cure, perhaps I’d have saved enough money to buy this car. OK that’d be pushing it. I’d probably just be able to afford one of those 21in five-arm rotor design titanium-look alloys. Let’s get one thing into the open. With a starting price of Dh533,500, this is a staggeringly pricey car. Mine was the fully dressed version, which added another Dh45,600.
You expect to pay silly money for a lavish limo, but is it worth your hard-earned cash? Well firstly, you get the ultimate engine configuration for Audi’s flagship car. The new 12-cylinder motor has raised the bar in terms of luxury, dynamism and efficiency. It’s a heck of an engine that is best described by a list of numbers.
Horsepower? 500. Torque? 625Nm. 0-100kph? 4.7 seconds. Top speed? Limited to 250kph. If these figures don’t send a shiver down your spine, then you must have the same injury as me. Only having driven the W12-powered A8L, can I rejoice in the fact that I have rediscovered some feeling but it’s not just in my back.
This car made me tingle all over, which comes as a surprise because I’m not a fan of limousines. I don’t like their long, awkward-looking bodies and always associate them with heads of states. And politics bores me silly.
So I was a little apprehensive about driving this car, but my mind was changing after closer inspection of the 5,267mm long, 1,949mm wide and 1,471mm high A8L, with an increased wheelbase of 130mm over the regular version leaving 3,122mm of room for a lavish interior. And it certainly is extravagant, especially for those who don’t like to drive but prefer to be driven.
There is space in abundance back there and getting into this sophisticated piece of machinery is made easier as the rear doors have been made longer. Once you nestle into the rear you will, I promise, breathe a sigh of relief. It’s just an automatic response. Back here, you are cocooned from the noise and the hustle and bustle of the world. You feel at peace, and then with the flick of a switch, it gets better.
The power seats can be heated, ventilated and adjusted in just about every conceivable way — forwards, backwards, cushion depth, back angle (with the top half adjusted separately), there’s an adjustable lumbar support and you can even control the front passenger seat from the rear. Want more legroom? No problem! Hit the button then stretch out and snooze.
This seat really is reserved for royalty. As if it wasn’t plush enough, it features ten air-filled pockets that get to work on massaging your back, and you can select between four programmes via a remote control. Once you’ve been suitably kneaded, you’ll want a refreshing drink.
No, there isn’t a bar back here, but you do get a small refrigerator to store your favourite tipple. There’s also a folding table and plenty of wood and leather trim all over the gorgeous interior. It’s an Audi after all.
As for entertainment, it has two 10.2in screens on the backs of the front seats offering DVD and TV reception while the Bang & Olufsen Advanced sound system with 19 speakers also comes standard. This — not to mention the ambient lighting, soft tanned valonea leather and the panoramic glass roof — make for a luxurious, mobile lounge.
The aluminium-built body still has those taut, athletic lines, but it has been improved. The changes though, are very subtle. The single-frame grille gets black gloss paint and chrome finish as do the exterior mirrors. The extra kit includes LED headlights, power-assisted doors and heat- and acoustic-insulated windows.
There’s no hiding those W12 badges — they take pride of place on seemingly every panel there is. You’ll find them dotted around the back, the fenders and even the grille. If you pull up next to an A8L V8, the driver of that will know yours is bigger than his… But the main talking point isn’t the extra legroom, or the massaging seats.
It’s that massive powerplant sitting up front. That 6.3-litre W12 provides the kind of urgency some sportscars can only dream of, all the while feeling totally effortless. Much like a Phantom, this W12 just wafts along — so much so that you’d be hard pressed to tell if the motor is on or off.
The gear changes from the eight-speed tiptronic are ridiculously smooth. You might be forgiven for thinking the cogs have been wrapped in silk. None of that head-jerking nonsense of the R8. With the Quattro all-wheel drive permanently in action, sending 60 per cent of the power to the rear and 40 to the front, this land yacht won’t struggle for grip when you’re caning it or entering bends at pace, though don’t push it too hard because it feels a little nose heavy (the W12 weighs 247kg).
It’ll get you in and out of a pickle with minimal fuss, but this can make for a rather tedious drive. The adaptive air suspension cushions you from road imperfections and it’s truly strange to roll over speed bumps and not feel them. What about its fuel consumption? That must be a thirsty engine, right? Well, the claimed 12.4 litres-per-100km is — when you consider the sort of performance you get — outrageously good.
In fact, it is nine per cent better than the old 6.0-litre engine — and that only had 450 horses. The 6.3’s recuperation system and innovative thermal management means it doesn’t have a serious drink problem. The A8L was always a car designed for its occupants rather than the driver.
But now, with that boisterous W12, it’s a car both chauffeurs and heads of states can enjoy. It hasn’t done much to change my opinion on limousines though, and I might just take an S Class over this if I was on driving duty, but I tell you what, my poor old back isn’t half thankful for it. Who needs chiropractors?