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AUDI A8 • ACURA RLX


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By Kelly Foss, MyCarData.com

AUDI A8| Starting price: about $75,100

In the rarified air of world class full size luxury sedans, the Audi A8 has secured a well-deserved place. The latest iteration of the brand has to do battle with the likes of the Mercedes S Class, Lexus LS, Jaguar XJ and BMW 7 Series. This is no arena for lightweights or amateurs but the A8 stacks up very well against the best competition in the world.

The A8 is offered in four models: the A8, the S8, the A8 L and the A8 L W12. The base model has a starting price of “only” $75,100. The W12, which is a long wheelbase max lux model, has in essence two V6 engines combined into a 500 horsepower W12 and starts at $135,900. With all the option boxes checked including the $6,300 Bang and Olufsen Advanced Sound System, the total escalates to $150,750.

My test car was a humble A8 L meaning it had the long wheelbase, the standard engine and a sticker price of $84,245. It was a fantastic car!

Though Audi exteriors are very stylish, their interiors and their driving dynamics are what sets them apart. True to form, my A8 had a masterfully crafted passenger cabin. The atmosphere that Audi creates with a deft combination of style and luxury materials is hard to describe yet is universally lauded. The feel of the leather, the tactile touch of the nobs, the shape of the steering wheel —  all verify Audi’s extreme focus on the occupant experience.

A8’s even offer three distinctly different black exterior colors and two different whites. Buyers can choose from three  different real wood inlays: Vavona, a redwood; ash; and burl walnut. Our test vehicle had the Quartz Gray Metallic paint job with the Nougat Brown Valetta leather interior. Normally you wouldn’t think that a medium gray car with a dark brown interior would look good, but again, magically, Audi pulls it off in style.

Four engines are available: the base supercharged 3.0 V6; a 3.0 liter clean diesel; a turbocharged 4.0 liter V8; and the aforementioned W12. All A8’s come standard with an 8 speed automatic transmission and Audi’s renowned Quattro all-wheel drive system. Our test car, which had the base supercharged 3.0 V6, had abundant power on tap and was capable of sprinting to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds.

Because of the extensive use of aluminum in the body structure, A8’s are lighter than their competitors. Consequently the car feels nimble and more responsive to driver commands than its class mates. The A8 has that rare combination of a luxury atmosphere and a highly connected feel. The car drives “smaller” than it is and the driver feels very tuned in to the vehicle.

The A8 is more than mere luxury conveyance. For drivers who want to experience the joy of driving, the A8 holds special appeal.
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ACURA RLX| Starting price: about $48,000

The newly introduced flagship Acura is the RLX model. It replaces the RL which was introduced in 1996 and was due for retirement. The RLX is classed as a luxury midsize sedan competing with E Class Mercedes, BMW 5 Series, Cadillac XLS and Lexus GS. Its cabin, however, is noticeably more spacious than its competitors.

The RLX is totally new from the ground up. In keeping with the Acura tradition of form-follows-function, it is a wonderfully useful appliance that is also very satisfying to drive and elegant to spend time in.

The exterior is dignified-looking and exudes a substantial presence. The lines are not flashy or garish but rather bespeak a certain confidence and heft. The most radical design element is the Jewel Eye LED headlamp system which has 16 lenses that are on all the time. At night they illuminate the road marvelously and in the daylight they serve as the unmistakable identifier of an oncoming RLX.

The interior is instantly inviting and comfortable. The luxury grade materials and controls are very well done. The seating comfort and driver’s position is just about perfect. The vehicle is full of technology that is bundled in packages; Navigation, Technology, Krell Audio and Advanced. That usually works well, except that each package is a prerequisite to the next one. Let’s say you wanted the Advanced Package because it contains the latest safety items like Collision Mitigation System, Lane Keep Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. In order to get them you have to buy the Krell Audio package first, whether or not you wanted to spend an extra $2,500 on an advanced audio system. In fairness, Acura isn’t the only manufacturer to take this approach but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to the buyers. My fully loaded test RLX had an MSRP of $60,450.

Suspension refinements also grace the new RLX. The ride is very comfortable yet controlled. You can feel in a muted way what the car is doing and what’s going on in the world outside the passenger compartment, but it’s not annoying or intrusive. The side benefit is that the vehicle has extremely capable handling and you feel in control of the vehicle. The car’s Precision All-Wheel Steering both pulls and pushes the car around corners. The RLX is a hefty 4,000 pound sedan but it is extremely nimble and sure-footed in spirited driving.

A refined 3.5 liter V6 engine lives under the hood. It produces 310 horsepower and is mated to a 6 speed automatic transmission. Though many automakers build 3.5 liter engines they are not all created equal. Acura’s 3.5 has the rare combination of delivering both large quantities of useful power and excellent fuel economy. The engine has loads of torque right from idle and can sprint to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds! Additionally, during highway cruises, its Variable Cylinder Management system will allow the car to run on just 3 cylinders and the transition is totally indiscernible to the passengers. The EPA fuel economy rating is 20 city and 31 highway with a combined 24 mpg number. My week of testing averaged 24.9 and I was not light on the gas pedal. During steady 65 mph freeway cruising the onboard computer was indicating 35-37 mpg all the time.

This is a car that owners can easily fall in love with. It does everything so well. And with Acura’s reputation for reliability and high resale value it will likely be an attractive lease vehicle.

Visit MyCarData.com for more information on these models.


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