Car Reviews

Audi finally gets controls right — mostly — in luxurious 2019 A8L sedan

The 2019 Audi A8L sedan. Audi

Group-think is alive and well in the product-planning departments of German luxury brands, but for a change, that’s good news for drivers. The Audi A8L sedan proves it, but also demonstrates German engineers can be mulishly stubborn even when you think they’ve learned their lesson.

For nearly two decades, Audi, BMW and Mercedes followed each other down the rabbit hole of counterintuitive multifunction rotary controllers to manage everything from radio presets to chassis setup. Now, with a near-synchronicity that might merit a raised eyebrow among U.S. companies, recent models from all three showcase the virtues of touch screens.

The 2019 A8L, Audi’s graceful big sedan is that latest beneficiary, with multiple — maybe more than it needs — user-friendly touch screens. There’s plenty more to like, including lean new exterior looks, Audi’s hallmark Quattro all-wheel-drive, and a high-style interior.

Behind the wheel

2019 Audi A8L Quattro

All-wheel-drive, five-passenger luxury sedan


Price as tested: $100,100 (excluding destination charge)

Rating: Three out of four stars

Reasons to buy: Looks; comfort; handling

Shortcomings: Acceleration; shifter; climate controls

What’s new?

The A8L is the first car to use Audi’s new design theme. It’s 1.3 inches longer than the old model, 0.1 inch wider and 0.6-inch taller, but the new design makes it look lower, surprisingly lithe and sporty for a big car.

Features include a standard adaptive air suspension and an optional electromechanical suspension that scans the road and can raise or lower any wheel slightly in 0.3 seconds to improve handling or ride.

When a side collision is imminent, the active suspension can also raise the car 3.1 inches in half a second to make sure the oncoming vehicle strikes the strongest possible part of the A8’s chassis.

A new turbocharged 3.0L V6 generates 11 percent more torque and about 1 percent more power than the supercharged 3.0-liter in the previous A8L.

The L stands for long wheelbase, but Audi doesn’t sell the regular-wheelbase model in the United States. The regular A8 is 5.1 inches shorter than the A8L and Mercedes S450 4Matic. The Cadillac CT6 and Porsche Panamera are smaller — neither offers has a long-wheelbase model — but worth a look from anybody who wants a top big sport sedan.


More powerful and expensive V8 models are likely, but no details are available.

Specifications as tested

Engine: 3.0L turbocharged V6

Power: 335 horsepower at 5,000-6,500 rpm; 369 pound-feet of torque at 1,370-4,500 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Acceleration: 5.6 seconds 0-60 miles per hour

Top speed: 130 miles per hour

Wheelbase: 123.1 inches

Length: 208.7 inches

Width: 76.6 inches

Height: 58.5 inches

Curb Weight: 4,715 pounds

How much?

Prices for the 2019 A8L start at $83,800, up $1,300 from the old model.

Key competitors include the BMW 740i xDrive and long-wheelbase Jaguar XJL AWD.

I tested a car loaded with adaptive cruise control; Apple CarPlay; Android Auto; voice recognition; heated, ventilated and massaging 22-way power front seats; heated, power rear seats; 11 air bags; driver assistance features; twin touch screens; and more.

The vehicle I drove cost $100,100. All prices exclude destination charges.

A8L prices compare well to similarly equipped versions of the BMW 740, Mercedes S450 and Jaguar XJL.

Competitive base prices

(Excluding destination charges)

(Automatic transmission, all-wheel drive models.)

Audi A8L Quattro: $83,800

BMW 740i xDrive: $86,650

Cadillac CT6 3.0L AWD: $65,195

Jaguar XJL Portfolio, AWD LWB: $87,800

Mercedes S450 4Matic: $94,250

Porsche Panamera 4 AWD: $89,600

Source: Autotrader

What’s good

The controls use a big 10.3-inch touch screen mounted high in the dash board for most features. It’s big, clear and easy to use

The optional outstanding 23-speaker, 1,920-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system is outstanding. I never approached maximum volume, but heard instruments and parts I’d never noticed before in music I know well.


Responsive handling and quick steering make the A8L feel like a smaller, sporty car.

What’s not

The A8L is one of the biggest cars in its class, but also — unusually for an Audi — the heaviest a 4,751 pounds.

Combined with middle-of-the-pack power, the substantial curb weight led to a leisurely 0-60 miles-per-hour time of 5.6 seconds. That’s slower than the BMW 740i xDrive and Mercedes S450 4Matic, the A8L’s most direct competitors.

Dials and buttons for climate control are replaced by handsome twin touch screens low in the center stack, just ahead of the shifter. It looks terrific, but you have to look at it for longer than you would with dials and buttons. Audi’s delight at touch screens’ easy use may have made the company overambitious about using them.

The shifter doesn’t provide enough feedback for various gears. I repeatedly thought I was in reverse when the A8 was still in neutral. Uncommunicative shifters have gotten automakers in trouble before, when vehicles roll off unexpectedly.

EPA fuel economy ratings

(Automatic transmission, all-wheel drive models.)

Audi A8L Quattro: 19 miles per gallon city/27 highway/22 combined. Premium gasoline

BMW 740i xDrive: 20/29/23. Premium

Cadillac CT6 3.0L AWD: 18/26/21. Regular gasoline

Jaguar XJL Portfolio, AWD LWB: 17/25/20. Premium

Mercedes S450 4Matic: 18/28/22. Premium

Porsche Panamera 4 AWD: 2{7/23. Premium


Bottom line

If you can afford an A8L, get it. The big sedan’s looks, features and comfort more than make up for its minor shortcomings. The A8L is the first in a new generation of big sedans coming from Germany’s top luxury brands, but its value, handling and features should age well even as newer competitors arrive.

Key features on vehicle tested

Standard equipment: Anti Lock brakes; stability control; 11 air bags; low speed automatic front braking; LED daytime running lights; LED tail lights and turn signals; push button start; Apple CarPlay; Android Auto; front and rear parking sensors; heated power side mirrors; four-zone climate control; headlight washers; power trunk; power sunroof; power sun shades; three months SiriusXM satellite radio service.


Options: Chrome exterior trim; 22-way heated, ventilated massaging front seats; heated steering wheel; head-up display; 360-degree camera; Alcantara headliner; black brake calipers; Valcona leather interior; low-gloss wood trim; HD Matrix LED headlights; OLED tail lights; power adjustable, heated rear seats; blind spot alert; lane departure assist; 20-inch, 20-spoke tires.