I drove a $119,000 Audi A8 L to see if the ultra-luxurious sedan is worth the price. Here's the verdict.

Audi R8 34Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

  • The Audi A8 is in its fourth generation as the carmaker's flagship luxury sedan.
  • Our test car was an extended-wheelbase "L" version, and it came with many thousands of dollars in premium and high-tech extras.
  • There's no doubt that this $100,000-plus private jet for the road is a niche vehicle. But we adored it.


It's been four years since I last sampled the A8, Audi's flagship sedan. Back then, I took an A8 L TDI diesel on a long road trip, with all three of my kids comfortably ensconced in the back seat.

My revisitation of this stylish Audi limo once again found me in an A8 L - the "L" signifies and extended-length frame - but this time, the fuel was premium-grade petrol.

This is the fourth generation of the A8. It landed on US shores in 2018. Our test car was a 2019 model year example, well-equipped, and priced at almost $119,000. Before many thousands of dollars in extras, the car was $83,800.

No road trip this time, just some driving in New York and New Jersey. As far as the business case for this ride goes, sales for the big sedan have been declining for years, as the four-door market in the US has cooled. But the A8 remains a critical vehicle for Audi, in the sense that it's a classic luxury platform. If you want a limo, this is your car.

As it turns out, large sedans can also be excellent conveyors of advanced auto technology. On this front, the A8 is jam-packed with goodies. They cost a lot. Most of them are worth it.

Read on to find out if everything else about this pricey saloon is worth the cost.

Photos by Hollis Johnson.

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Welcome to the mean streets of New York City, 2019 Audi A8 L Quattro!

Welcome to the mean streets of New York City, 2019 Audi A8 L Quattro!

I'm not sure the Audi design language finds its best expression on the A8 L's stretched wheelbase. However, there's no denying the A8 L is a handsome set of wheels, with substantial road presence.

I'm not sure the Audi design language finds its best expression on the A8 L's stretched wheelbase. However, there's no denying the A8 L is a handsome set of wheels, with substantial road presence.

To my eye, the A8L is back heavy, with the extended rear seat and trunk area out of proportion with the hood. But the flow from front to back for a car this big is still elegant.

To my eye, the A8L is back heavy, with the extended rear seat and trunk area out of proportion with the hood. But the flow from front to back for a car this big is still elegant.

Despite my complaint about the proportions, the fastback design of the backlight and the coast-to-coast tail light create and appealing rear end.

Despite my complaint about the proportions, the fastback design of the backlight and the coast-to-coast tail light create and appealing rear end.

The dual chromed exhaust pipes are also a nice touch.

The dual chromed exhaust pipes are also a nice touch.

As is typical with Audi, the model badging is low key.

As is typical with Audi, the model badging is low key.

The famous four-ring badge refers to the four independent companies that we joined to create the Audi brand. Here is on he trunk lid.

The famous four-ring badge refers to the four independent companies that we joined to create the Audi brand. Here is on he trunk lid.

And here it is on the snazzy front grille, framed by a pair of aggressive LED headlights

And here it is on the snazzy front grille, framed by a pair of aggressive LED headlights

You might think that a big sedan such as this would have a big trunk.

You might think that a big sedan such as this would have a big trunk.

But you would be wrong. The A8 L's cargo capacity checks in at just over 14 cubic feet. That's merely adequate for luggage.

But you would be wrong. The A8 L's cargo capacity checks in at just over 14 cubic feet. That's merely adequate for luggage.

The bottom line is that the A8 L Quattro is an attractive, if slightly flawed in my judgment, set of wheels. In "Florett Silver Metallic," it's quite sharp. The 20-inch wheels definitely helped.

The bottom line is that the A8 L Quattro is an attractive, if slightly flawed in my judgment, set of wheels. In "Florett Silver Metallic," it's quite sharp. The 20-inch wheels  definitely helped.

Under the hood, we find a 3.0-liter TFSI V6 engine, coupled to a lightweight hybrid-electric system that assists with fuel economy.

Under the hood, we find a 3.0-liter TFSI V6 engine, coupled to a lightweight hybrid-electric system that assists with fuel economy.

This turbocharged powerplant makes 335 horsepower and can send enough oomph to the A8 L's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, through an eight-speed automatic transmission, to propel the big sled from 0-60 mph in about six seconds.

This turbocharged powerplant makes 335 horsepower and can send enough oomph to the A8 L's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, through an eight-speed automatic transmission, to propel the big sled from 0-60 mph in about six seconds.

There's a learning curve with the shifter, but it isn't steep. And the A8 offers a manual mode, if that's you thing, using paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

There's a learning curve with the shifter, but it isn't steep. And the A8 offers a manual mode, if that's you thing, using paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

Audi does technology pretty well. In the A8 L, there's a central touchscreen running Audi's superb MMI system. There's also a secondary screen to control climate, as well as the heated and cooled seats.

Audi does technology pretty well. In the A8 L, there's a central touchscreen running Audi's superb MMI system. There's also a secondary screen to control climate, as well as the heated and cooled seats.

It's visually striking, but in practice it's a bit difficult to use.

It's visually striking, but in practice it's a bit difficult to use.

The MMI infotainment system is state-of-the-art. The touchscreen is response, and although MMI makes use of an at-times complicated decision-tree structure, it doesn't take long to warm up to.

The MMI infotainment system is state-of-the-art. The touchscreen is response, and although MMI makes use of an at-times complicated decision-tree structure, it doesn't take long to warm up to.

Mapping resolution is stunning. And navigation itself, in my testing, was flawless.

Mapping resolution is stunning. And navigation itself, in my testing, was flawless.

The screen responds briskly to touch inputs.

The screen responds briskly to touch inputs.

Bluetooth device pairing is a snap. There are USB/AUX input, wireless device charging, and a SiriusXM satellite radio subscription.

Bluetooth device pairing is a snap. There are USB/AUX input, wireless device charging, and a SiriusXM satellite radio subscription.

You can also make numerous adjustments to the vehicle, ranging from setting up drive modes to tweaking the interior lighting.

You can also make numerous adjustments to the vehicle, ranging from setting up drive modes to tweaking the interior lighting.

This is cool! Apple CarPlay is available — and it's wireless!

This is cool! Apple CarPlay is available — and it's wireless!

The real showstopper with MMI is Virtual Cockpit.

The real showstopper with MMI is Virtual Cockpit.

This feature modifies the digital instrument cluster ...

This feature modifies the digital instrument cluster ...

... so that the navigation map can take over. Combined with the A8's head-up display, this makes for the most high-tech driving experience on the road. Switch on night-vision and A8 will blow your mind as it picks out pedestrian heat signatures.

... so that the navigation map can take over. Combined with the A8's head-up display, this makes for the most high-tech driving experience on the road. Switch on night-vision and A8 will blow your mind as it picks out pedestrian heat signatures.

In the A8 L, tech shares space with luxury. But it isn't heavy duty. Audi's interior design philosophy is suavely minimalist, and for our tester, a $3,900 "First Edition" package really upped the level.

In the A8 L, tech shares space with luxury. But it isn't heavy duty. Audi's interior design philosophy is suavely minimalist, and for our tester, a $3,900 "First Edition" package really upped the level.

My test car had a "Sarder Brown" interior, with gorgeous gray-brown eucalyptus wood trim and subtle brushed-metal highlights, with just enough gloss to keep things interesting.

My test car had a "Sarder Brown" interior, with gorgeous gray-brown eucalyptus wood trim and subtle brushed-metal highlights, with just enough gloss to keep things interesting.

The A8 L was born to cruise, over long distances, on highways. That means the seats need to be plush. And they are. The front seats are adjustable 22 ways.

The A8 L was born to cruise, over long distances, on highways. That means the seats need to be plush. And they are. The front seats are adjustable 22 ways.

Because the A8 L is on an extended wheelbase, the rear seats have abundant legroom.

Because the A8 L is on an extended wheelbase, the rear seats have abundant legroom.

There's storage in the fold-down armrest.

There's storage in the fold-down armrest.

I was happy to sit back there are pretend I was enjoying the ride. The "Rear Seat Comfort" package added $3,500 to the price.

I was happy to sit back there are pretend I was enjoying the ride. The "Rear Seat Comfort" package added $3,500 to the price.

Rear-seat passengers can gaze up a pair of headrest-mounted screens ...

Rear-seat passengers can gaze up a pair of headrest-mounted screens ...

... That can do double-duty as tablets.

... That can do double-duty as tablets.

This is a limo, after all. There will be times when the back seats takes control.

This is a limo, after all. There will be times when the back seats takes control.

A smaller controller resides between the rear seats, in a special console.

A smaller controller resides between the rear seats, in a special console.

It can also be removed and used as a handheld remote control.

It can also be removed and used as a handheld remote control.

The Bang & Olufsen Advanced 3D audio system is stunning. For nearly $6,000 extra, it should be.

The Bang & Olufsen Advanced 3D audio system is stunning. For nearly $6,000 extra, it should be.

These tweeters extend and retract from the dash, which is a cool effect.

These tweeters extend and retract from the dash, which is a cool effect.

So what's the verdict?

So what's the verdict?

The A8 L Quattro is a rather niche car. Do you need it to drive a family around? Nope. Audi's SUVs have that duty covered. And if family hauling in SUVs isn't your preferences, the company will sell you a sedan that isn't designed to function as a private jet for the road.

As a private jet for the road, however, the A8 L is exquisite. On paper, the 335-horsepower V6 is underwhelming for a car this large (a V8 could be on the way). In practice, once the machine is moving, it's got the goods. Does it have a vast well of power in reserve? No. Does it merge and pass and cruise with aplomb? Most certainly. Is that power applied smoothly and quietly? For sure.

The fuel economy with this drivetrain setup — turbo V6 yoked to 48-volt mild hybrid and eight-speed transmission — is commendable: 19 mpg city/22 highway/27 combined.

This is the type of car that, once you get past the payments, lowers your blood pressure. Yes, in Dynamic mode and with its dynamic all-wheel-drive steering engaged it can come to life and be driven with purpose, although fans of Audi's S and RS cars shouldn't choose the A8. The suspension, steering, and throttle are all optimized for long, straight stretches of highway and slow, easy curves.

Those distances, covered at the upper end of legal speed limits, are where the thousands of dollars in extras that our A8 test car came with truly shine. Want a massage in the rear seats? You got it. Feel like firing up adaptive cruise control with lane-keep assist and low-speed traffic-jam assist? Go for it. Wish to run your hands across Valcona leather and ponder and Alcantara headliner? Have at it.

The 2019 Audi A8 L Quattro tries to drown you in luxury — and succeeds. But it's a good way to go.

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