Weekend with an Audi A8 L 4.0T: PT Cruisin’ in Style and Comfort

Back in August 2013, I had the opportunity to snag the keys belonging to an Audi A8 L 4.2 for a weekend, which included a day trip over to Maryhill in Washington. Since then, I really wanted to take a spin in an Audi with the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8; unfortunately, the likelihood of taking a spin in an S or RS model would be slim to none. Well, when I heard that Audi Wilsonville had an A8 L 4.0T in their loaner fleet, I started to find a way to get the keys to it.

2014 Audi A8 L 4.0T
2014 Audi A8 L 4.0T

It took a few weeks, but I did finally get the confirmation that I would be able to get the A8 L for the weekend of June 28th. While I was waiting for Audi Wilsonville to confirm the availability of the A8 L, I had already been planning out a day trip to go on with the car. The biggest criteria for the day trip destination is a place that I haven’t been to. After a bit of consideration, I opted to drive up to Port Townsend, Washington and do the PT Cruisin’ thing.

Loads of music and podcasts needed for a long trip

For those not familiar with the phrase “PT Cruisin'”, it originated from the “Too Beautiful To Live” podcast and its fans to describe cruising and hanging around in Port Townsend. As a fan of the podcast and being a friend of one of the podcast’s hosts, I wanted to experience a bit of the town and enjoy the beautiful views on the way up there.

I headed down to Audi Wilsonville that Friday afternoon to pick up the keys to the A8 L. By the time I transferred my stuff from the S5 to the A8 L and chatting with a few of the folks down there, rush hour was nearly over; so, I decided to take the most direct route home.

Even before I got my way back on to the the freeway, I immediately noticed the additional torque and horsepower that the 4.0T has over the more pedestrian 4.2-litre V8 I drove last year (the 4.2 V8 has since been replaced by the ubiquitous supercharged 3.0-litre V6). Accelerating spiritedly from a stop didn’t feel like an immediate rush of power, but sure did propel the 4600+ pound metal box on wheels without any hesitation. The power delivery of the 4.0T feels like a combination of the buttery smooth 4.2 V8 and has notes of the 3.0TDI torque monster. Thanks to the twin turbos, the 4.0T never felt out of breath and would keep on pushing past where the naturally aspirated 4.2 V8 would feel a bit underpowered.

Destination: Port Townsend Marine Science Center

Early Saturday morning, I loaded up the A8 L with several bags, some camera equipment and a small cooler with chilled beverages. Even with all of that, it only occupied about a quarter of the trunk. Right before I hopped on the freeway, I topped off the appropriately large, 23.8 US gallon, fuel tank. I decided to take the more common route from Portland to Port Townsend: I-5 north to US Hwy 101 north to Washington SR 20 north.

The approximately 210 mile trek took a little under 4 hours; but, it didn’t feel that way when driving the A8 L. With the air suspension and steering Audi Drive Select set to Comfort, many of the bump and rough patches were soaked up without any problems. The only complaint was that the steering felt numb and made for taking some tight turns at speed a wee bit nerve wracking.

Preferred Audi Drive Select Settings

The Drive Select setting that I fiddled around with the most was the engine and transmission setting. On the highway, I mostly left it at Auto and used either the paddles or bumping the transmission from Drive to Sport when I needed to pass a car or truck. As I got on to US 101, I switched it over to Dynamic and used the paddles to downshift to a lower gear than the transmission thought was the correct gear to be in.

The only other thing about driving the A8 L that made me more nervous than usual is trying to remember how large the car is. Its large girth become pretty darn apparent when crossing narrow bridges, driveways and very tight parking spots. The last bit was an issue when trying to find parking in Port Townsend near the Saturday Farmers Market. Thankfully, there was a gravel parking area a couple of blocks away that allowed for some free-form parking.

Point Wilson Lighthouse

After browsing through the Saturday Farmers Market and grabbing a nice, crusty piece of focaccia to eat for lunch, I continued the PT Cruisin’ by driving around town, checking out views of the sound and taking in the beautiful buildings along one of the main strips. I ventured up to Fort Worden State Park and visited the Marine Science Center and Point Wilson Light.

I have a pretty sizable fear of heights and can very well be claustrophobic, so the idea of climbing up a small lighthouse on a whim felt like trial by fire. Going up the narrow spiral staircase with shallow treads made me feel really uncomfortable; but, it was nothing like what was necessary to get to the top. To get to the top where the rotating light assembly is, I would have to climb a very steep ladder with even shallower treads.

At the top of the lighthouse, one could almost make out Victoria Island up north and Whidbey Island to the east; even more so, if the clouds hadn’t just come in and started to let loose some rain. Climbing up to the top made me pretty tense and ridden with anxiety; but, it was nothing like going back down. The aforementioned ladder didn’t really have much of a railing to hold on to and looking down to not miss the next tread down made me start to feel light-headed and nauseous. Thankfully, I made it down without too much trouble and was glad to be back outside and getting rained on.

River otter, not to be confused with a sea otter
River otter, not to be confused with a sea otter

Before leaving Fort Worden, I made a stop at the Marine Science Center, I got there just in time to see the feeding of the two octopi and other sea creatures, including two large sea cucumbers and an extremely greedy crab. Across the way was the natural history museum portion of the Marine Science Center. Hanging from the ceiling was a skeleton of an orca whale that was beached, along with photos of the on location dissection and autopsy of the whale.

Audi A8 L parked across from the Port Townsend Marine Science Center

Before making the trek all the way back to Portland, I drove over to Port Angeles to check out the town and find a place to grab a few snacks to eat. The traffic on the way back was a bit busier than it was on the way up and there were several left lane loafers (which is now a ticketable offense in Washington). I was sure to make use of the 420 HP and 406 lb-ft of torque to pass a few of those vehicles, which did show more of its full potential at speed. With the turbos already spooled up, dropping down a gear or two had a more immediate effect than a standing start.

On the way back to Portland, I made a pit stop at Olympia and got a significant caffeine boost at another spot in Chehalis, Washington. I made liberal use of cruise control on the way back, with exception of several construction and congestion zones. I didn’t get back to Portland until almost 22:00. Per the trip computer, I had just racked up a bit over 520 miles in one day and the A8 L averaged around 26.5 MPG.

That number is pretty impressive considering that I didn’t make an effort to be fuel efficient, including significant use of the ventilated seat cooler, in any manner and closely matches to what I got in the A8 L 4.2 last year. Speaking of the seat cooler seemed to be a lot more effective than my experience of using it in the Audi A7 last year. I think much of that was due to wearing clothing that was more breathable and allowed a bit more of the cool air to come through.

Big and small: Audi A8 L and Audi A3 Sportback

Sunday was filled with the more mundane parts of life, including grocery shopping and stopping at (another) farmers market. Thankfully the parking spots were a bit more generous than others that I encountered that weekend; but, the A8 L’s badunkatrunk did stick out in one or two of the spots. Having the steering Drive Select setting set to Comfort also helped navigate through the parking lots. The trek to and from the stores and farmers market did not include too much time on the highways, so fuel economy dropped down to a more realistic, daily driver 18 MPG. Before I called it a day, I topped off the fuel tank (again) before returning it the next morning.

On Monday morning, I headed down to Audi Wilsonville to bring back the A8 L and the stop and go traffic on I-5 made me thankful that I was not driving a car with a manual transmission. Well, that is until I made the return trip to work in my S5. Boy, did my legs get a workout.

Overall, I enjoyed driving the A8 L 4.0T both as a long trip cruiser and an executive car in suburbia. There were a lot of creature comforts, including that luscious Alcantara headliner, that made me feel even more privileged and making my, already large, presence felt on the road. That said, I still come to the conclusion that the A8 L is too large of car for me to have as a daily driver. If I did get a chance to pick up an A8 L, it would be a tough decision between the 4.0T and the 3.0TDI. The fuel economy and driving range of the 3.0TDI makes a great car even greater for long trips. On the other hand, the 4.0T can return really good fuel economy numbers on the highway and provides good top end power on demand.

Audi A8 L making its presence known
Audi A8 L making its presence known

At the end of the day, my more limited budget would still mean that I would take a slight step down and pick up an A6 or A7 TDI or an S6 or S7. Both A6 and A7 models are sized more to my liking and would still provide almost all of the creature comforts (or performance in the case of the S6 or S7) that I would ever need.

I would like to thank Audi Wilsonville for allowing me to take the A8 L for the weekend and want to apologize for the wee bit of sand that might be lingering in the front footwells.