Luxury saloons such as the Audi A8 could be seen as an extravagance, but for many buyers, the numbers still have to stack up.
That's why Audi has introduced this new entry-level long-wheelbase model, the A8L 3.0 TDI. It has a 201bhp version of Audi's 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel engine and is available only with front- rather than four-wheel drive, which makes it more fuel-efficient.
Prices for the long-wheelbase version start at 57,650 3235 less than the previous entry-level model, the 254bhp 3.0 TDI quattro.
Whats the 2013 Audi A8L 3.0 TDI like to drive?
The key questions for this new entry-level A8 are: does it have the power and composure to make it a convincing luxury limo?
New entry-level Audi A8L costs 3235 less than the previous cheapest model
In answer, we'd say yes to both. Although there's 111lb ft less torque than the higher-powered 3.0 TDI provides, you don't feel short-changed. The pricier version is downright fast; this A8 is simply quick enough.
Smooth progress is ensured by an eight-speed automatic gearbox that shifts between ratios with the minimum of fuss.
Having only two driven wheels makes little difference to how the A8 drives. You're more likely to spin up the front wheels if you accelerate hard out of a junction, but A8L drivers aren't likely to do that too often. It would only upset those in the back.
The A8 is a big car, especially in long-wheelbase form, but it's easy to drive and feels reasonably agile for its size. The ride can be rather unsettled, but high-speed composure is excellent and the steering is well weighted, if not hugely informative.
Refinement is top-notch. The diesel engine, like all other sources of noise, is muted and unobtrusive.
Whats the 2013 Audi A8L 3.0 TDI like inside?
The A8's cabin is its greatest strength. It's a fabulous place to be, thanks to its beautiful styling and sumptuous materials.
It's stuffed full of high-tech features, too, with options such as a sat-nav system that uses Google Earth images.
Most of the A8's functions are controlled through Audi's MMI system, which links a pop-up screen at the top of the dashboard to a rotary wheel and a few buttons on the centre console. It's reasonably easy to get to grips with, but BMW's iDrive system is more intuitive.
While the quality of the A8's interior is befitting of a limousine, you need to opt for the long-wheelbase version to get space to match. The standard-wheelbase version is far from cramped, but rear legroom isn't as generous as you might expect.
Should I buy one?
As well as being cheaper than the higher-powered 3.0 TDI model, this A8 is more efficient: it averages 46.3mpg (a 2.8mpg improvement) and emits 10g/km less CO2, at 161g/km. As a company car it attracts a tax rating of 26%, rather than 28%.
Impressive stuff, until you realise that a BMW 730Ld the equivalent long-wheelbase model in the BMW 7 Series range averages 50.4mpg and emits 148g/km of CO2. It has substantially more power, too.
Still, the entry-level A8 costs more than 3500 less than the BMW, and is nearly 8000 cheaper than the equivalent Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which has CO2 emissions of 164g/km.
Overall, the sums add up. If you're in the market for an Audi A8, we think this is the one to go for.
What Car? says