SINGAPORE – The Audi A8L must be the most overlooked German limousine here.

It does not have the history and prestige of the Mercedes-Benz S-class, nor the sleek styling and performance of the BMW 7-series. But it is a wonderful lounge on wheels in its own right, delivering a blend of comfort and driveability that customers of its rivals would not quibble much about.

The mid-life facelift reinforces its masculine, Teutonic overtones, accentuated further by a wider and more prominent grille, new headlights which appear slimmer and brighter, and more upright air intakes. A chrome package is a suitable relief to the test car’s dark paintwork, and optically stretches the long-wheelbase car.

At first glance, the A8L is about the same size as the S-class and 7-series, and exudes the same regal presence. But if you were to go by precise measurements, the Audi is millimetres shy in length, width and wheelbase. Height-wise, it is between the other two cars.

Its aluminium construction has not saved it much weight, with the V8 variant tested here tipping the scales at 2,080kg.

But proof of the pudding is always in the eating, and the A8L passes muster with a breezy, light-footed performance which can be attributed to its responsive and linear throttle, an all-wheel steering system which conveys nimbleness, and a beefy twin-turbocharged 4-litre V8 with 660Nm accessible from 1,850rpm.

On top of that, like many modern Audis, it has a mild hybrid system, which allows it to coast with the engine off under very light load conditions. Under medium load, the V8 car will shut four of its eight cylinders.

As a result, the test car posts an average fuel consumption of 14 litres/100km – not far from Audi’s declared 12.4 litres/100km, and remarkable for a 5.3m, 2-tonne limousine with a century sprint of 4.5 seconds.

Revving the engine is always rewarding, as the pickup in speed is accompanied by a creamy, bassy soundtrack which communicates refinement and strength, and is a welcome punctuation to the quietness of the cabin. It is a tad more subdued than the notes played by the more steroidal Audi S8 (reviewed here last month), which is in keeping with its limousine stance.

What is a little strange is that the S8 is fitted with predictive active air suspension, but not the A8L.

This system adjusts damping firmness on the fly, so that occupants enjoy a ride which is almost completely void of choppiness. It also raises the car automatically to make getting in and out easier.

In the A8L, this is a $30,291 cost option which, if added, would bring the price of the car to almost the level of the beefier S8.

Despite the absence of this sophisticated suspension, the A8L remains one of the most comfortable cars in town.

Car review: Audi A8L still an unlikely limo

The cockpit has plenty of positive tactile and visual cues, with the right blend of tech, luxe and utility. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

The limousine glides over tarmac, filtering out the ruts and potholes along the way.

Similarly, it attacks bends with calmness, each of its 20-inch wheels digging into the bitumen and betraying not the slightest squeak when provoked. This has to be the car’s all-wheel-drive system working with a self-locking centre differential to cleverly apportion driving force to four corners to maintain equilibrium.

What Audi should rectify is the car’s tight front footwell. For decades, this has been a sore point and the only thing which prevents the car from being absolutely peachy. But just as you shift your left foot to get comfortable for the umpteenth time, a U-turn approaches, and you are pleasantly surprised by how neatly the massive car executes the 180-degree manoeuvre. And just like that, the car redeems itself – for the time being.

The A8L V8 comes with a slew of premium amenities, including four ventilated seats with massage function, soft-closing doors, adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping, wireless phone charging, head-up display, motorised blind for rear windscreen, and a 360-degree parking camera. And if you still find it cumbersome to park, the car can do it for you.

Car review: Audi A8L still an unlikely limo

The second row offers Business Class comfort, with individual infotainment screens suitable for work or play, and its own sunroof. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Rear occupants get to enjoy their own entertainment via two seat-mounted screens. Or they can sit back and enjoy the clouds fly by through their own sunroof while getting a massage. What it could benefit from is a bigger boot. At 505 litres, the stowage is not extraordinary for a big car.

Car review: Audi A8L still an unlikely limo

The stowage comes at 505 litres, but the car could benefit from a bigger boot. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

At the end of the day, it is still the Audi’s understated and authoritative styling which makes it stand out among peers which are increasingly flashy, ornate or soft. Those who are not familiar with the A8 will look past it, but folks who are more astute will notice it coming from afar, its prominent shield-like grille glittering between dynamic headlights which cut through the murkiness but do not blind. Just like the car itself.

Audi A8L V8 Quattro

Price: $697,675 with COEEngine: 3,996cc 32-valve twin-turbocharged V8Transmission: Eight-speed Tiptronic with paddle shiftPower: 460hp at 5,500rpmTorque: 660Nm at 1,850-4,500rpm0-100kmh: 4.5 secondsTop speed: 250kmh (electronically limited)Fuel consumption: 12.4 litres/100km
Agent: Premium Automobiles

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