All flagship cars with pricetags nearing six figures have luxurious interiors. And they all are loaded with special features and technology, but few balance both perfectly.
Either they go overboard with old-school polished wood and leather, and end up resembling a stodgy men’s club from the 1950s, or they overwhelm with electronic features that challenge even tech-savvy drivers.
The Audi A8 separates itself from the pack by blending luxury and technology into one sumptuous, driver-friendly cocoon.
“It makes $94,000 seem like a bargain. For all of its great bits and pieces, the A8 stands out most for how it combines old-world luxuries of wood and metal with high-tech wizardry,” says Ward’s editor James Amend.
On the design side, rich, supple materials and eye-pleasing textures and colors are everywhere. Alcantara inserts and aluminum trim accent the doors, and the instrument panel flows in a beautiful arc from A-pillar to A-pillar. Simple architectural details are crafted into highly stylized design elements.
Some are regally named. Audi calls the intersection where the door and instrument panel meet the “Koenigsfuge” or “King's Joint.”
Four different materials and design lines intersect at this juncture, melding deep wood inlays, aluminum accents, leather dashboard covering and plastics into a beautiful piece of automotive sculpture.
Audi brags the design of this visual element was not compromised to make it easier for the manufacturing folks to produce. “Designers were free to draft the A8’s environmental lines with a focus purely on creating a flow around the passenger,” the auto maker says.
The Kings Joint is one of several examples where Audi engineers and designers deliberately used a more difficult solution to show off craftsmanship and manufacturing quality.
On the technology side, however, functionality and ease of use trumps everything else. “Put it in reverse and the volume cuts out on the radio. Smart!” says judge Tom Murphy.
What’s more, the gear shift lever, modeled after the throttle on a yacht, is cleverly designed to act as a hand rest while operating some electronic controls.
The A8's central electronic controller is the industry’s simplest to use and features a touch-sensitive pad that recognizes handwritten letters and numbers for navigation destinations.
Anyone who has struggled with tiny buttons, dials or other types of controllers used to input destination data will appreciate this system's simplicity.
Most interesting from a design and engineering standpoint, the system recognizes a wide variety of languages, including Cyrillic, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean characters.
“In any language, touchpad MMI sets a new benchmark for user friendliness,” writes one Ward’s judge.