For various reasons, the past month or so has been pretty brutal when it came to stress, frustration, eating even more into what was supposed to be time away from work, and so on. I knew that I needed a weekend where I can forget about work and let the pent up stress and frustration melt mostly away. With that, I was able to work out a weekend loaner from Audi Wilsonville for an Audi A8 for this past weekend.
Initially, the plan was to pick up the A8 from Audi Wilsonville during my lunch hour. I left work and went down there roughly when the A8 would have been available. Unfortunately, the A8 would not be available to be picked up until that night. So, back to work I went. I tried to leave work a bit earlier to beat the rush hour traffic; but, that wasn’t meant to be. When I was able to leave work, I headed down I-5 and the rather slow pace of traffic became stop-and-go funnage for 5 miles. Let’s just say that my whole left leg (particularly, the knee and ankle) got into an argument with the clutch. I was absolutely relieved with I got down to Audi Wilsonville to see the A8 parked up front. What I didn’t notice immediately as I was driving in was that it was an A8 L with a 4.2-litre V8. Excellent!
To be specific, it was a 2012 Audi A8 L painted in Quartz Gray, with black leather interior, walnut brown inlays, Premium Package (includes the 22-way comfort climate front seats with massage) and the Cold Weather Package. All in all, the total price with destination charge came in at $88,375. I’ll talk about that price later in this post.
With I-5 now completely fouled up in both directions, I opted to take one of the long ways back home and started to experiment with the Audi Drive Select settings. Comfort made the car way, way too floaty for my taste and the steering felt extremely light and overly boosted. Dynamic was nice, but was not used to the auto-tensioning seat belts. The sweet spot was Individual, with the steering, suspension and engine/transmission set to Dynamic and the rest set to Auto. Even with steering set to Dynamic, it still felt numb and was a bit hard to judge where the wheels were really pointing during tighter turns.
Many thousands of words have been spilled over non-traditional gear selectors, such as the ones found in BMWs and the one used in the D4 A8. Traditional gear selectors have specific detents for P, R, N and D (plus any other modes and/or gears). The selector in the D4 A8 basically rocks back and forth between P, R, N, D and S with the thumb button acting as the lockout to prevent accidental changes. A lot of the complaints about this type of gear selector is that it can be quite finicky to get from P to D, D to R or D or P as it may skip over the selections in between too quickly if it were tapped/pulled too hard or for too long. Over-compensating by lightly tapping or pulling could also make it ignore the input as well.
With that said, I only ran into the above problem a few times, mostly when I first backed out and pulled out of the Audi Wilsonville parking lot. The nice thing is that the large display in between the speedometer and tachometer shows what the current selection is and highlights any and all changes. Like with most of the current, more-traditional gear selectors in other Audi models, tapping the lever back toggle between D and S. Also, any manual gear changes must be done with the usual shift paddles.
As mentioned, I chose the Audi A8 for the weekend to relax and unwind, and boy did the upgrade to the Audi A8 L deliver in more ways than one. Early Saturday morning, I went up to Maryhill, Washington to visit the Museum of Art and the (replica) Stonehenge Memorial. On the way there, I was caressed by the seat massager, scenic views provided by SR-14 and nice selection of music on an SD card I snagged from my S5. Oh, and how can I forget the muted sounds of the V8? From start to finish, the trek took about 2 hours 40 minutes and every second was fully enjoyed. On the way to Maryhill, the A8 L averaged just a wee bit under 27 MPG per the on-board computer.
First of the two stops was to the Stonehenge Memorial and there was only 4-5 people there, so I had a bit of time to take photos and take in the gorgeous view of the Columbia Gorge and the light wind.
After about 15 minutes, I went back to the car and headed to the museum and checked out the art work both inside and out; as well as, checking out the vendor stands pitched in the side lawn with various bits of arts and wares.
Most of the way back, I opted to go on I-84 and take a few quick scenic detours just outside of Portland proper. According to the on-board computer, the A8 L managed a very respectable 26.1 MPG on the way back due to traveling through Portland via Sandy Blvd and up Burnside. While placing an order for coffee at a Dutch Bros stand close to my home, I got complements from both the person taking the order and the person making the drinks. The rest of the afternoon was spent processing the photos that I took, grabbed a meal and settle in to watch both the Portland Timbers and Thorns play (Timbers game on the telly and the Thorns game streamed on my laptop).
That night, I also formalized my plans for Sunday and started plotting out the route. Sunday morning, packed up and started heading out to US Hwy 26 and then on to OR Hwy 6. First destination, the Tillamook Cheese Factory. The tree lined highway with some twists, turns and some significant grade changes gave me another chance to see how the A8 L drove. As noted earlier, the numb and vague steering required me to slow down more than I had expected to keep the understeer to a minimum. The seat belt tensioners, which were set to Dynamic, did their job and so did the suspension.
The car’s 4,400 pounds definitely reared its head when climbing up some of the steeper grades or when accelerating out of turns. The paddle shifters were used quite a bit and the 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox did its job admirably. I would love to test drive an A8 L with either the 3.0TFSI or the new 3.0TDI to see how well they fair in roughly the same conditions.
As I approached Tillamook and the AC switched to recirculate (salty ocean air plus diary farms equate to a slightly pungent smell), traffic started slowing down and I made the Drive Select switch from Individual to Comfort as I mozied over to the cheese factory. Once there, I made a relatively quick dash into the store and, after a quick stop at the gift store, made it to the fridge with the cheese curds and cut ends. Unlike most other people who go there, I skipped the cheese tasting portion (I live in Oregon and I already have eaten all of the kinds of cheeses they have available for sampling over the past month or so). Afterwards, I grabbed a huckleberry ice cream malt and dashed back out to the car. In the trunk of the car was a cooler with frozen ice packs. Always be prepared. I then made the very short trek over to the Tillamook Country Smoker store and bought about 4-5 months worth (most likely 2-3 months) of jerky, meat sticks and cured steak bites.
Once the bags of cured and smoked meats were in the trunk (at this point, the rather sizable trunk was still about 80% empty), I continued north on US Hwy 101 at a leisurely pace. My next destination was Astoria and the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Before heading into the museum, I walked the path around the buildings and took in the view of the river and the boats putting up and down the river. There were several ships that were docked behind the museum, including a U.S. Coast Guard ship, a paddle steamer and the Lightship Columbia.
I spent a little bit of time checking out the exhibits within the museum, including one of the U.S. Coast Guard vessels installed with a video screen showing some of the training procedures and other duties of the Coast Guard. Since I can get quite queasy watching movies or videos that require 3-D glasses, I decided to skip the Sharks movie that was being shown.
Once it was time to head home, I chose to take US Hwy 30 until Cornelius Pass Road, with the seat massagers on and choose to go back to Individual mode in Drive Select (though I changed the suspension to Auto). While waiting to turn on to Cornelius Pass Road, I flipped Drive Select to Dynamic and had a bit more fun with the drive back toward Hillsboro. Even with the slightly more spirited driving to and from the coast, I was a bit surprised to still get average around 21 MPG.
Between the relatively lush driving experience that the A8 L provided and the visits to Maryhill and Astoria, my goal of relaxing and hitting the reset button was, not only met, but surpassed. I probably used the seat massager, and the cooling part of the ventilated seats, a lot more than most people would in a month. Still, I did miss the sporty ride and the more audible rumble of the V8 in my S5.
For those interested in purchasing a new 2014 A8 L, the 3.0TFSI has essentially replaced the 4.2FSI and the 3.0TDI option is available if fuel economy is a concern. The Premium Package for 2014 includes additional features that were included in other packages for 2012 and 2013, and the increased price of the package reflects that. With that said, a 2014 A8 L 3.0TFSI with the Premium Package and Cold Weather Package has a lower price point of $83,600. Choose the 3.0TDI and the price inches back up to $87,300. If I were to get an A8 L, it would be with the 3.0TDI for both the low-end torque and very impressive fuel economy (24 city / 36 highway versus 18 city / 28 highway for the 3.0TFSI).
Now, would I actually spend close to or over $90,000 (with the addition of the Sport plus package) on an A8 L 3.0TFSI or 3.0TDI? No. Instead, I would spend a few thousand more and pick up a well equipped S6 or S7. Both the S6 and the S7 would be a lot more sportier and close to the size that I would want. The A8 and the A8 L are too large for me and I could not pass up on the biturbo 4.0TFSI and dual-clutch S Tronic gearbox found in the S6 and S7.
Even if I were to scale my budget down to the $75,000 mark, I can get an A7 3.0TDI with full LED headlights, 20-inch Sport Package; or, an A7 3.0TFSI with the same options plus the Driver Assistance Package.
If you are looking for a very posh super sedan, the A8 and the A8 L would be the car to get, mostly when you went with either the 4.0TFSI or the boss 6.0-litre W12 exclusive to the A8 L.
I would like to thank Audi Wilsonville for providing a loaner for the weekend.
For additional photos by QLP Photography, check out the following sets posted on Flickr: