By Jenny Peters
There’s a reason that Audi Racing keeps winning competitions like the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race – they have won that 13 times in the last 15 years – and Jet Set Jen found out firsthand exactly why.
It’s because of the top-notch German engineering that Audi puts into every one of their vehicles, from those incredible R18 e-tron racers to the sleek new 2015 A8 models we got the chance to test drive through the mountains above Aspen, Colorado.
The A8 model line includes five vehicles, the A8 3.0T, 3.0 TDI and 4.0T; the S8 4.0T; and the W12. Each is a beautifully appointed luxury sedan with serious legroom in both the front and back seats; most have some key updates for 2015 and are on sale now in Audi dealerships across the U.S.A. They range in base starting price from $77,400 to $137,900 (with optional features additional, including a long wheelbase model for the three A8s).
We love the now standard (and completely redesigned) LED headlights on the complete A8 line, as they illuminate the darkness with a sharpness we’ve not seen from most other headlights. And the optional Night Vision Assist is pretty cool, as it detects both pedestrians and animals on the road ahead and alerts the driver to slow down with plenty of time to avoid a nasty accident.
The A8s and S8s also have a new front-grill design that adds strength to the look of the muscular sedans and, for those who like their cars to do their driving for them, they have two new features created to keep you on the road. The first is Audi “active lane assist,” which actually moves the car back into the lane if you allow it to slide across lane markings without a signal. The second is Audi “side assist,” which alerts you to vehicles approaching in the neighboring lane or to a car already there as you begin to change lanes.
Those are nice features, but we really like to handle the driving on our own, so we did that as we zoomed up into the Rocky Mountains from Aspen, trying out each of the new models on different sections – from the city itself to flat highways, and on up past national forests, pristine lakes and finally way, way up, winding along single-lane mountain roads to the top of the world, ending up at the Continental Divide.
Each one of the A8 models was extremely comfortable inside, with the W12 so spacious and powerful (500 hp) that it almost felt like rolling along in a limousine. The A8 TDI has the best gas mileage of the group, because of its clean diesel engine, achieving 28 MPG combined city and highway.
But it was the S8 that captured our hearts, a swift, elegant eight-speed V8 with 520 hp that drives like a sports car, hugging the hairpin mountain curves with pinpoint accuracy. Yet the interior feels like the luxury sedan it is, making the S8 a complete winner for those who love to drive a bit aggressively.
With such top-notch automobiles in their stable, it’s no surprise that the Audi Group delivered 1,575,500 vehicles to customers globally in 2013, and broke all-time company sales records for the fourth straight year in the U.S. As we discovered, it’s because the company truly represents German engineering at its very best.
Photos courtesy Jenny Peters and Audi of America.