Worth a flirt

AUDI’S top-shelf prod­uct passes the taste test. NEIL DOWL­ING re­ports

NT News - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

I DON’T go to bars any­more — an old war wound caused by a sur­geon, you un­der­stand — but to me they’re not much dif­fer­ent to a new car show­room.

You know be­fore you even reach the glass front door that you could ex­change a lot of money for fleet­ing thrills.

If it’s a lux­ury car, that thrill could cost you up­wards to $300,000 and the next morn­ing’s han­gover would be $50,000-plus in de­pre­ci­a­tion. So you want to get it right. Con­sider the Audi A8, Jaguar XJ andBMW750i.

Com­pared with the Jaguar XJ, the A8 is un­ob­tru­sive. Com­pared to the BMW 750i, the A8 is fem­i­nine.

Let me put this in bloke­speak. Sashay into a dim bar af­ter dark and you’d im­me­di­ately lust af­ter the XJ.

There’s no doubt that with the XJ ab­sent, you’d flirt with the A8 at the bar.

If it was the 750i, you’d be at­tracted but al­ways won­der what’s un­der the skirt.

But looks aren’t ev­ery­thing. VALUE: It’s un­likely Audi A8 buy­ers just won Lotto.

This, like the BMW and the Jaguar, is an Amex trin­ket de­signed for the ‘‘love ‘em-leave ‘em’’ cool­ness of the cor­po­rate world.

Value is, of course, sub­jec­tive to how much you have in your wal­let. Or the colour of your Amex.

The A8 is top of the wozzer for hi-tech equip­ment and is the only Audi sedan to get the 4.2-litre V8 en­gine and eight-speed auto box with all-wheel drive — an en­tic­ing pack­age. TECHNOLOGY: Let me im­press you— the A8 is a won­der of alu­minium cast­ings and tubes over which is stretched 11 taut body pan­els, also made of alu­minium.

The en­gine is also alu­minium and the bits that are left are leather, wool car­pet, slices of trees and rub­ber. There’s steel in there some­where but it’s not on show.

The V8 comes stan­dard—

the 3-litre V6 turbo-diesel is an op­tion — with its im­pres­sive eight-speed auto and chas­sis dy­nam­ics that let you dial in the air sus­pen­sion’s firm­ness and en­gine/steer­ing re­sponse.

It has a bril­liant sat-nav sys­tem and TV, plus lots of but­tons and strips of wood and per­fo­rated and quilted leather seats. DE­SIGN: It is con­tem­po­rary but con­ser­va­tively styled, ap­pear­ing that the de­signer wanted to ap­pease all pos­si­ble buy­ers.

Dur­ing the draw­ing process, he some­how found him­self stroll too far into an ac­coun­tant’s lounge­room.

The sum of the ex­ot­i­cal­ly­made parts is a shape that is taut, trim and ut­terly ef­fi­cient — but not se­duc­tive and doesn’t por­tray the sticker price or the technology be­neath its skin.

In­side, it doesn’t feel big and even the rear seat room isn’t li­mou­sine class - though there’s a long wheel­base ver­sion.

But— and it’s a big but— the work­man­ship is su­perb. SAFETY: Lots of airbags, heaps of elec­tronic aids and the size of the A8 go a long way in at­tempt­ing to pre­serve its oc­cu­pants.

There’s noth­ing want­ing here and, at nearly a quar­ter of a mil­lion bucks, there wouldn’t want to be. VER­DICT: Lovely job in terms of qual­ity and technology but buy­ers may be lured more to the more stylish of­fer­ings, such as the Jaguar XJ.

What we like: Qual­ity, fuel econ­omy, com­fort

What we dis­like: Bit bland, ex­pen­sive, de­pre­ci­a­tion.

Rat­ing: 89/100

Pic­tures: KATE FREESTONE

FAST FACTS AUDI A8 Ori­gin: Ger­many Price: $225,904 En­gine: 4.2-litre, V8 Power: 273kW@ 6800rpm Torque: 445Nm@ 3500rpm Top speed: 250km/h Fuel: Pre­mium un­leaded Econ­omy (tested): 10.6 litres/100km Green­house: 219g/km Trans­mis­sion: Eight­speed...

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