I am not going to repeat it that there are many car launches scheduled for the month of August 2011. Infact, it has been sort of a mayhem with car makers launching different cars in different price brackets and some even coming up with an engine upgrade for their existing models. The last point is a dig at Audi India for coming up with their Audi A8 W12 in India. Now, the Audi A8 was already a fast car and it actually beats logic as to why the manufacturer would want to bring in something more faster and meaner? That’s when it struck me that the A8 sells for about a crore and some more. In this segment, the buyer looks for some exclusivity. The exclusivity thing is offered by distinguishing brands and also engine options. Its more like “My engine can outrun yours even though it shares the same body, manufacturer and name”. So without further ado, presenting the new performance king in the ultra luxury segment, the Audi A8 W12. Since this car has been just launched, Audi weren’t too keen on giving away the car to journalists for a full review and so I had to make do with a test drive of this, should I say behemoth.
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On the exteriors front, as is the case with almost all the variants from Audi stables, there is very less to distinguish it from its slower peers or rather should I say the smaller engines in the form of 3.0 liter TDI or 4.2 liter FSI. Its more of a “blink and u miss it” game. Akin to Mallika Sherawat’s roles in foreign movies. Well, like Mallika’s clothes, there is very little to drape the Audi’s naked lines and only a subtle W12 badge on the front grille as also on the rear distinguish it. Needless to say, like its other brethren, the Audi is huge in proportions masked slightly by its proximity to the ground and also some visual design aids in the form of the chrome slats numbering 8 masquerading as the front grille with 19 inch wheels with 15 spokes in them. The panoramic sunroof is a very good add-on and looks neat in a white colored car. Needless to say, the twin tail pipes at the rear and very wide ones mind you, add to the overall feel of seeing something very special.
Its actually a mismatch of things inside. While anyone familiar with a German car (90 percent of the German cars are owned by VW) would feel instantly at home with the A8, it’s a different thing if one is getting to know this car for the first time. Well, I am not stranger to Audi cars but then the sea of buttons definitely had me confused there. It was kind off nerve wracking when you have such a big car at your disposal and the majority part of your worries include the lookout for some wayward motorcyclist and also those creepy rickshaws. Nevertheless, there is no dearth of equipment in here and the moment the keyless entry allowed me inside the car, a big W12 nestled between the two dials greeted me. The orange color of the ambient lighting is also to my taste and it can be varied according to requirements. Though the front seats don’t have the massaging functions, the rear ones do (after all, the A8 is a chauffer driven car). The massaging function is something of the eerie kind and more like the one that I had underwent in 2008, initially not too pleasing but as time rolls on, you get used to it. There is no dearth of space for 4 decently fed people and also their luggage. I wonder why did Audi persist with the long wheelbase version when even the normal A8 is enough for a 6 foot 4 inch guy like me.
The A8 was always a predictable handler and its chassis built with aluminium ensured that the car stays light overall. However in the A8, the spaceframe technology doesn’t work too many wonders and is still a light bodied thing as compared with the others in its class. The Mercedes S-class seems built like a tank with the BMW not being too far behind. However, I did have to keep a close eye on extremities even though there was an orange blip showing up on the side of the ORVM whenever any vehicle was there in close proximity to my blind spot regions. Trust me, with the A8 W12 in my hand, it seemed that there were a lot of blind spots to contend with. Sure footed is what I would call the W12 engined A8L. During the entire test, the rain gods were continuously pouring down their blessings and if it wasn’t for the auto wipers working away furiously as also the electrical heating for the ORVMs and the head lamp washers, I would have to actually contend with parking the vehicle by the road side and doing all the visual testing. Nevertheless, for a W12 engined car, this car was silent when I wanted it to be and retorted with a growl when I was in the mood for it. Moreover, there was a complete serenity inside the cabin when the accelerator wasn’t been prodded and the car being given the beans. Ride quality is a bit jiggly on the lower side but feels good the moment the car goes past the 50 kmph mark. Moreover, the different damper settings ensure that the chauffer would also have a gala time playing around some James Bond actions.
The talking point or the bragging rights of this W12 car is its engine. The 6299 cc W12 engine weighs in only at 247 kgs and that is some 55 kgs more than the TDI. Seems like weight saving is there everywhere for Audi. 498 Bhp of raw power and a gargantuan 625 Nm of torque is what this engine manages to produce. It is mated to an 8 speed auto transmission with paddle shifts and stuff. All types of electronic gizmos with the Quattro system working at its best to ensure that things don’t go out of hand and the driver or chauffer is always in control of things. Most of the times, it is going to be the latter. But then I am mightily confused about one thing. If you have an Audi which makes close to 500 Bhp of power, wouldn’t you want to drive it or would you let your chauffer do all the honors everytime. If it’s the chauffer who is going to enjoy it, then what is the use of all those 500 Bhp. I am sure that no one would even bother to check out if your car makes 200 Bhp or 500 Bhp as long as it ticks the right kind of boxes. I wouldn’t want to delve into the safety equipment that this Audi carries and the braking performance. They are all the more similar to its TFSI and TDI variants.
The best thing to know about this car is that even with a moderate right foot, this car still returned an overall 10.1 kmpl. There was one particularly scary thing and which my accountant would definitely detest and that is the 2.4 kmpl that it gave under some very spirited driving. However, its good to know that there are only 4 cars in the world that currently use the W12 engine and maybe can serve as a good topic of contention at posh pubs. But then the Audi A8 W12 price in India of Rs 1.26 crores is also worth many discussions. This price is pan- India and is an ex-show room price. For the people who aren’t massaged by egos, I would definitely recommend the TDI variant as it gives similar thrills and same space and equipment. Well, if you have money to dispose off, be my guest and splurge it on. But buying the TDI variant would not only save some moolah in the long run but would also allow some spare change for filling in diesel after buying this car.