Audi A8 2014 review
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2014 Audi A8 3.0 TDI, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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No matter how cushy or softly sprung your luxury SUV may be, basic physics suggest that a long-wheelbase sedan is a better bet for occupant comfort.
The combination of a long wheelbase and low ride height naturally lends itself to a pitch and sway resistance that any SUV will struggle to match.
The forthcoming Phantom-sized Rolls-Royce SUV and other inevitable mega-wagons may prove otherwise, but for now a big sedan is generally easiest on your neck muscles.
And that’s where the likes of the Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8, Lexus LS and BMW 7 Series come in. They each deliver supreme occupant comfort, yet carry significantly lighter price tags than models wearing uber badges like Bentley or Rolls-Royce.
The sixth-generation BMW 7 Series arrived in Australia in November last year with the 730d and 740i standard-wheelbase (G11 model code) variants, along with the 740Li long-wheelbase (G12 model code) model.
The V8 petrol 750i and 750Li models have now been added, and will sit at the top of the 7 Series range until the V12-powered all-wheel drive M760Li xDrive arrives in the first quarter of 2017.
For now, the 750 models may not have 12 cylinders, but they do have a set of numbers that will astound most.
List pricing for the new V8 models kick off at $289,600 for the 750i and steps up to $312,700 for the Li. This represents a $64,500 or $74,700 jump over the respective six-cylinder 740 variants, but the twin-turbo 4.4-litre adds 90kW and 200Nm to total the same 330kW/650Nm as the previous model. The 750Li also sneaks in at just under $100,000 more than the 730d’s $217,500 entry point to the new 7 Series range.
The 750 models’ extra poke drops 0-100km/h acceleration by almost a second over the 740 models to a downright-fast 4.7s, and causes combined fuel consumption figures to rise by more than a litre to 8.1 and 8.3L/100km depending on length. Not that it tends to sway choice at this end of the showroom, but the 730d is well ahead of both petrol drivetrains in terms of consumption with a very impressive 4.9L/100km combined figure, and still manages a very respectable 6.1s 0-100km/h claim.
Performance and fuel figures matter little to those on the back seat unless they’re running late or counting C02s, but the 750 models’ extra investment does buy a few degrees of added passenger opulence.
Gesture Control gives anyone with fingers Bewitched powers.
Compared with the identically trimmed 730d and 740i, the 750 models add Executive Drive Pro active dampers and electrohydraulic swaybars fitted as standard, 20-inch alloys, pedestrianrecognising night vision, laser headlights and digital TV.
Over the long-wheelbase 740Li that already comes with reclining back seats, the 750Li gets a 15,000 LED-elemented Sky Lounge panoramic sunroof, massage seats front and rear, heated rear door and console armrests and twin 10-inch rear multimedia screens.
This is on top of the innovative gesture controls for the multimedia system and parking aids, the pocket-filling Display Key that would make Michael Knight blush, Touch Command rear seat tablet controller, heated front console and door armrests as well as seats, and the availability of the M Sport styling package at no extra cost – previously a $10,000 option.
A remote control parking function is also set to become available later in the year once the system meets legal requirements across Australia, but this will not be able to be retrofitted to existing vehicles.
From a practicality standpoint, the folding the centre armrest reveals a fifth seatbelt and there’s also two ISOFIX child seat mounts, four cupholders and bottle holders in the front doors only.
The 7 Series experience begins before you’ve even seen it. With a range of 300m, the Display Key’s smartphone-like touch screen enables monitoring the status of the 7’s fuel gauge and range, whether the windows are up or down, service timing, along with remote aircon control. Lasting about a week between charges, the Display Key can be easily topped up via the on-board USB. It can also be used interchangeably with the included regular BMW proximity key fob.
Hopping aboard, the Gesture Control gives anyone with fingers Bewitched powers, enabling volume control with a circular wave of a pointed finger – clockwise for louder, and the opposite to reduce volume.
Incoming Bluetooth phone calls can be accepted with an open hand sweep to the right, or fobbed off with the same to the left.
When using the 360 degree parking cameras, a pinched thumb and index finger can also be used to pan around the vehicle to check parking clearances at each corner.
Even when mastered the gesture controls are still a bit more clunky than simply using buttons, but it has a great show-off factor and will no doubt be a valuable tool on the showroom floor.
Both 750 models come with Laserlight super-LED headlights, which double the reach of conventional units to 600m with the automatic high beam. In practice, these are extremely bright with a great spread but the headlight internals are also a gorgeous design feature with their intricate detailing.
In addition to the headlights, the 750 models’ pedestrian-recognising night vision does a brilliant job of highlighting any living potential obstacles. However the system will only dab the brakes if a collision is anticipated, and the monitor is located in the centre of the dashboard, outside the driver’s direct view. It would be far more useful if full braking force were applied and the monitor located ahead of the driver, perhaps in the heads-up display.
Put to the test on some genuinely rough country roads, the 750’s Executive Drive Pro active swaybars and dampers integrate with the familiar Sport and Comfort drive modes to regulate bodyroll and ride comfort. The system is at its best when left to work itself out in Adaptive mode, and does a great job of reading your mood – and road conditions – and adjusts the chassis accordingly.
A tip that few buyers will likely verify on a test drive is that the thicker sidewalls of the 19-inch wheels (standard on 730d and 740 models, and a no-cost option on the 750 models) do an even better job of taking the edge off bumps than the 20-inch wheels, and are a must if you prefer comfort over outright aesthetics.
The latest 7 uses carbon fibre extensively through its body to add stiffness and reduce weight by up to 130kg, which is great for fuel consumption but also helps even the big 750Li feel more like a smaller 5 Series when hustled through bends. Yes you’re still placing one of the largest sedans on the road, but it reacts to driver inputs far more readily than you’d expect.
No matter which engine you opt for in the 7 Series lineup you’re not going to feel short changed. The 730d hauls very well with only the faintest hint of diesel clatter at idle. The 740 models add a touch more poke and smoothness, but it’s the V8 in the 750 models that has the most personality. With even more torque than the diesel on tap from just 1800rpm, it pulls with delightful urge and little fuss. When pushed, it elicits an unmistakeable but muted V8 roar. Just enough to clarify its cylinder count, but not enough to upset the ambience.
With impressive efficiency, more than acceptable performance and standard luxury features, the base 730d is arguably the sweet spot in the Australian new 7 Series line-up. But the model that best typifies the 7 Series tradition is the 750Li.
For many, its extra cylinders and corresponding boot badge will be enough to justify its price alone. However the biggest V8 7 Series is easy to drive very fast, with a hint of eight-cylinder soundtrack and will nurse its passengers better than any SUV, yet.
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