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The Audi A8 is often upstaged by rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz here in the Philippines in terms of popularity, which is a shame. The A8 is very popular elsewhere in the world, and is usually the limousine of choice for Ministers in the European Union. 

The model has made a few important appearances in movies, playing a pivotal role. In the 1998 espionage blockbuster Ronin headlined by Robert de Niro, the Audi, in S8 guise, was the vehicle of choice of the protagonists in one of the most epic car chase scenes in all of Hollywood. Later on, Jason Statham cemented the A8’s reputation in the second and third instalments of the Transporter movie franchise. 

Jason Statham as Frank Martin in the Transporter movie franchise
Photo lifted from pinterest.com

Jason Statham plays a retired commando who takes on high-risk, high-paying jobs delivering precious cargo and his steed of choice is the Audi A8. in the Transporter 2, Audi smartly utilizes the film to unveil the second-generation A8 in W12 guise. In 2008, Statham reprises his role as the ex-military commando and once again teams up with his A8 W12 to save the day (and the girl).

Driving the latest D5-generation A8L, wearing a blazer going to the office, I find myself channeling my inner Frank Martin (the character played by Jason Statham). The A8L is cool, suave, sophisticated, yet comfortable, composed and ultimately, supremely capable. 

As a transporter’s steed of choice, the A8L has to be fast. No surprises here, and despite being down on cylinder count and displacement from the W12 variants on the silver screen, the latest A8L introduced for the Philippine market uses 3.0 V6 direct injected and turbocharged engine, outputting a very credible 330hp and 500 Newton-Meters of torque. But all that power and torque would be useless unless it can be harnessed properly and put down to the ground effectively.  Hence it’s all sent to the Quattro all-wheel drive system via an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with paddle shifters delivering unsurpassed grip and stability even on slick, greasy and wet surfaces. 

The A8L is a huge car, very stately, but it flows beautifully from corner to corner, and glides serenely on the highway, smoothening out the ruts and bumps, thanks to the predictive active air suspension, which is perhaps the A8L’s neatest party-trick. 

The technology works by constantly monitoring the road ahead via a bunch of cameras, detecting road undulations and imperfections when Comfort Plus (+) is selected in the Audi Drive Select system. The result, the best ride imaginable this side of a Bentley as it automatically softens damping when a bump is ‘seen’ ahead but firms up immediately after you’ve passed the bumps. Specially developed 265/40R20 Goodyear Eagle tires on massive 20-inch aluminum wheels help further reduce NVH and improve ride by as much as 50% versus off-the-shelf tires. The suspension is another key ingredient to the A8L’s speed as you slow down less often, conserve fuel and brakes, and crucially save time. My fat doesn’t jiggle at all in the A8L. But, when the clock’s ticking, slot into dynamic mode, stick the gearshift to manual, flick the paddles and the A8L really transforms from a stealth plane to a highly maneuverable fighter jet.  

Next are the lights: the rear taillights sport OLED displays, allowing brighter illumination utilizing smaller lighting elements which consume less power, giving designers more freedom to express the A8L’s stately presence from the rear. It’s also a view most motorists will see as the A8L speeds away. The large Audi single-frame grill is highlighted by a pair of powerful LED matrix headlights that follows your steering inputs, lighting up around the bends and corners to help give added visibility particularly in poor weather. There’s also an automatic high-beam function that blazes its full high-beam power when the road ahead is dark and empty, yet dims down as soon as incoming cars approach its field of view. Which means I can floor it longer, and go faster more often. 

Of course, the A8L comes with all the other modern niceties one expects from a top-model limousine: ABS-EBD brakes with emergency assist, traction / stability control and six airbags (front, side and curtain bags). Of curious note are the brakes: powerful 6-piston callipers more suited to a thoroughbred sportscar are fitted on the fronts, on 350mm ventilated discs, delivering consistent and fade-free performance. As a Transporter, it’s crucial that the A8L stops and steers as well as it spears down the road.  

Inside, as a Transporter, I need to ensure my occupants feel safe and comfortable: plush tan Valcona leather seats contrast sharply with the black suede roof lining, and the panoramic glass sunroof opens up for an even airier experience. Two seat-mounted detachable computer tablets for the rear passengers keep them entertained on long drives, and there’s even a mini refrigerator in the back to store a few bottles of Perrier or a small bottle of bubbly. There are privacy shades to further minimize glare (and add a sense of secrecy) for the rear windows and rear windscreen, with rear passengers having controls for the Audi MMI infotainment system (now with Apple CarPlay and a powerful Bang & Olufsen surround sound system) and quad-zone climate control. An ionizer and perfume built into the climate control ensures air is cleansed of most germs, viruses and bacteria, and my sweat is masked by the sweet scent of the perfume (refilled at the dealer annually with regular use) when I’m running away from the baddies. 

Trunk space is generous despite the refrigerator which intrudes into the trunk, easily fitting a few large suitcases and a spare blazer or two should my VIP passengers request me to change after I save them from an ambush. Of course, before getting out and setting out, the composite 3D camera rendering / imaging allows me to view the immediate surroundings of the A8L from a third person perspective, allowing me to see and identify any threats before stepping out of the car. It’s also the perfect parking aid as I can toggle through different camera views aside from the 3rd person perspective. There are two front and rear camera options respectively (wide and normal view) and four side camera view options as well. You’d have to be blind not to see the threat (or obstructions) around you.

Fast, comfortable and ultimately very safe, the 2020 Audi A8L is the real star regardless if it’s Jason Statham or me behind the wheel.    

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