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Audi A8L

Audi's flagship sedan is both rewarding to drive and opulently comfortable. The sporty handling and effortless acceleration camouflage this car's considerable bulk. The cabin is plush and stylish, and the car's long list of safety features puts it on the leading edge of safety engineering. However, some controls are complicated to the point of intimidation.

Driving impressions:
While firm at low speeds, the ride is impressive overall, with an absorbent suspension that soaks up imperfections and few body motions. The precise steering is quick and communicates decent feedback. The adjustable suspension can be dialed to comfort, auto, or dynamic settings. The cabin stays very quiet. Handling is secure and agile, both around town and when pressed to the limits. The 372-hp, 4.2-liter V8 delivers powerful, effortless acceleration, with 0-to-60 mph sprints taking just 5.5 seconds-the same as a Ford Mustang GT. Expect 21 mpg overall on premium fuel. The impressive eight-speed automatic transmission shifts almost imperceptibly and the standard all-wheel drive gives a sure-footed feel on snowy roads. The wide turning circle, however, can make parking a chore.

Inside the cabin:
The immaculately finished interior is awash in real wood, suede surfaces, and brushed aluminum. Drivers will find ample space all around and a good view out. Seat support is excellent, with numerous massage settings, and the padding, which provides a pleasantly supple give, combines comfort with firm support. The rear is cavernous and the outboard seats are very supportive and comfortable, but the center perch is less comfortable. The backlit primary gauges are mostly easy to read. However, many audio functions take multiple steps, employing a multifunction knob, buttons, and a touch pad to scroll through menus on an in-dash screen. You'll find yourself frequently glancing down as you click, rotate, and scribble your way through seemingly limitless combinations.

CR's take:
The new A8 has emerged as one of the top luxury cars we've tested and one of the sportiest to drive. Our only major beef is that it's hard not to get distracted by the controls and the large in-dash screen.

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