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Anti-Show-Off: The 2009 Audi A8

When I was a kid, people in the neighborhood who had money liked to show it off with the cars they drove. (Okay, nobody in my neighborhood had money, but you get my drift.) Back then they usually drove: a.) Cadillacs; b.) Lincolns; or, if they were eccentric, c.) Mercedes-Benzes.

But that was then and this is now. For those with an over-abundance of coin jingling in their pockets, there are many more automotive choices by which to show off said coin. There are the obvious choices: a.) BMW; b.) Mercedes-Benz; and, if you’re the trucky type, maybe c.) Land Rover. The Cadillac name doesn’t mean quite what it did back in the 1950s and 1960s; Lincoln even more so—or would that be less so? Even Mercedes’ image has changed over the years. You certainly see more of them now than you did back then. And they’re not being driven only by what we used to call folks with old money. Lawyers, athletes, local utility company executives—now everybody’s driving ’em.

So what do you do when 74 grand is burning a hole in your pocket but you want to stand out from the crowd? Visit your local Audi dealer and try the A8 on for size. Or, if it’s more like 120 grand, you head straight for the A8 L W12, a name which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but drive one down the street of your neighborhood and you’ll leave plenty of tongues dragging in your wake.

The “L” indicates—are you ready—the longer version of the A8. With a wheelbase of 121 inches, more than five inches longer than the A8, the A8 L has a back seat you could live in. I imagine part of the idea for the L was that it would be a “professionally driven” car. That is, Jeeves would do the driving while you did your business in the back seat. And I suppose in some cases that’s how it is. Then again, maybe you’d just like a roomy back seat for those trips to the drive-in on triple-feature night. Either way, you’ll be riding in understated style. The whole Audi line these days is extremely handsome without screaming out loud “Look at me!”

The A8s (and the more sporty S8) are the top of Audi’s sedan line. And it goes without saying that the A8 line is chock-full o’ features. The standard A8 engine is a 350-horsepower, 4.2-liter V-8, while the L is also available with a 450-horsepower W12 that can go from zero to 60 in five seconds. Whichever engine you choose, it will be driven by a six-speed Tiptronic® transmission and quattro® all-wheel drive. The V-8 is EPA-rated 16/23 miles per gallon city/highway, while the W12 is a rather dreary 13/19. Safety was not an afterthought as evidenced by a ton of airbags that will come at you from every direction in the event of a crash. Also in the interior you’ll find real wood inlays with three choices of wood, and six interior colors from which to choose. Other standard equipment includes: bi-xenon adaptive front lights; DVD-based nav system; rearview camera; 12-speaker Premium Bose® Surround sound system; LED “puddle lights” in all four doors, which illuminate the ground when the door is opened; power door-close assist; window sunshades (power on the W12); and, this I don’t understand in a car of this stature, heated front seats are standard, but rears are optional. Apparently Jeeves gets his buns warmed in every A8, but you pay extra if you want yours taken car of—and they’re not even available for the rear seats of the limo-like A8 L. Go figure.

Price and gas mileage notwithstanding, the A8 is one hell of a car. Whether you’re driving or driven.

Read more You Auto Know at AV Daily.

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