Audi W12: A Lot of Money a Lot of Car

By The Car  Family

Besides a 12-cylinder engine Audi’s flagship is stuffed with features, but at a price over $120,000 that is what you would expect. What is a surprise is that this hunkered down purposeful appearing beauty just doesn’t handle or perform much better than its less powerful brother, the Audi 8L.  Of course the additional cost of the big brother does bring some significant upgrades when fully loaded.  You get what you pay for as there are massaging, heated and cooled 12-way power leather front seats, four different climate zones, remote start, DVD player with remote control for those in backseats, adaptive cruise control, satellite radio, a terrific audio system, a steering wheel that warms to the touch on cold days and a solar powered fan that cools the interior on hot days, and, yes, a small refrigerator in the rear arm rest area. The air suspension allows the driver to select ride comfort levels as well as height and there are also a rearview camera, parking sensors, and fabulous adaptive headlights that should be an industry standard.

To this mix add rear bucket seats, all wheel drive, and a 12-cylinder engine that produces 450 smooth horsepower. Unfortunately, that engine also gets tagged with a

$1700 gas guzzler tax as the 121-inch wheelbase all wheel drive sedan needs plenty of juice to get the DOCH 6.0 liter engine to push the Quattro power through the six speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.

All these features are difficult to ignore, but the reality was that even though this is the ultimate Audi sedan, the lesser equipped A8 L sells for tens of thousands less and is nearly as good.  It gets better fuel mileage, and is about as quick, and its exterior is extremely similar to its more luxury-laden big brother. Audi knows there is a limited market for this German cruiser and is not making many W12 units, but if you can afford one they are well worth a test drive. Overall the uber Audi is fashionable, fast, and understated. This is a unique car with few equals if you live where inclement weather and uniqueness are prized.


Mom’s view: I adored the 12 cylinder Bentley, but the Audi just didn’t leave me with the same feeling. No doubt it will appeal to those who like to blend in and still enjoy the opulence of the Audi’s interior and electronic features. I love to drive and the 12-cylinder engine didn’t give me the push in the back of other cars in this price segment. It certainly has a nice ride and you can’t fault the massive feel or handing of the big Audi. However, the gas mileage was nearly the same as the far faster Bentley at 17 mpg and the transmission wasn’t nearly as smooth under pressure. Personally, I would get the A8 and be quite happy, if a bit slower. If I desired more legroom for my rear passengers the A8L, which is over five feet longer than the standard A8, would be the answer. With the W12 you can order rear bucket seats, which is nice, but we couldn’t even take a friend to dinner in this abundance of aluminum and leather conveyance because it only holds four people with this seating option. Overall, a splendid looking sedan with a stunning interior and thoughtful features such as make-up mirrors with two settings and a superior sound system.

Dad’s view: This is an elegant vehicle that does not pretend to be sporty even with all wheel drive and a 450 horsepower engine. It is a grand touring vehicle with a 23-gallon tank and enough gadgets to keep you occupied on the longest of journeys. There are some shortcomings; nevertheless, such as brakes with little feel, a transmission that needs to be poked too hard to kick down, and a needlessly complicated control system. On the other hand the xenon headlights are fabulous and offer great vision to the front and side. The seats are heated and cooled and comfortable and adjustable and leather and they even give you a massage. I would not order the bucket seats in back as it limits the use of the Audi, but I did find the optional refrigerator in the rear armrest cool.

Audi calls this a W12 to describe the engine’s appearance, and it works as the 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine provides 450 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. Excellent numbers, but most of the V12 competition does better. Despite all these numbers the 4700 pound sedan feels underpowered until you are underway. Anyway you cut it the A8 L Audi is almost as good.  The  W12 is one understated ride that reveals in the treatment of its passengers and is eager to please.

Safety wise you can get front and rear side airbags, front knee airbags, and curtain side airbags, ABS, traction and antiskid control, a navigation system, an excellent rearview camera, front and rear obstacle detection, keyless entry/starting, and adaptive cruise control.

Audi has built a terrific vehicle, no doubt, but do you really need a V12? That was our only qualm about this extensively aluminum bodied luxury sedan. After all, even though you get 450 horsepower is it worth the extra cost and fuel over the V8 that comes in the standard A8? Well, since you get so much more with the V12 it is impossible to measure what that extra $50,000 buys outside of more power. Terrific rear seats, a stereo systems that is virtually unmatched, vibrating seats, a touch close rear hatch, and much more are difficult to justify and explain to those who own more pedestrian products. We constantly head, “I could buy a house for that.” However, those who can afford such a vehicle probably have a couple of houses anyway and an art collection to boot. They want the best and this Audi is prepared to answer their request.
Rating this Audi against the rest of the German super sedans places it second to the Mercedes and well ahead of the BMW V 12 when it comes to interior, comforts, and amenities.  The Mercedes is a hammer with the ability to crush distances. The BMW lives for the corners, but neither offer the hospitality of the Audi.

Working woman’s view: I found the transmission reluctant to downshift, even when using the manual shifter, and I also didn’t like the electronic doodads that control most everything. On the other hand, the interior is stunning and the ride road flattening. You press a button and the truck lid closes by itself, you click another button and a screen covers the rear window and tones down bright headlights and the sun’s rays.  The
 6,250-rpm redline takes a while to reach, but the power is consistent, if not overwhelming probably due to its significant weight. Getting to 60 mph in under six seconds shouldn’t be difficult, but your gas mileage is going to suffer significantly as I recorded some 12 mpg figures at times. The Audi’s 23.8-gallon tank is needed for long distance traveling. Figure 400 miles between fill-ups.

I was rather surprised that the A8 L W12 does not come fully loaded. Such special features as the adaptive cruise control and solar sunroof are options. You can add to that
$1500 for the refrigerator for $1,500 another $2,000 for the 20-inch rims and tires. Regardless, this is a stunning interior. Everywhere you look there is something to be proud to show-off and that is what this car is all about.

College going male’s view: The air suspension provides a soft, yet sporty feel and the wealthy people who can afford this sedan aren’t going to find much to complain about in terms of performance. I felt the brakes were too soft and needed too much pressure to yield a quick stop probably due to the long pedal travel or the weight (4800 pounds) of the vehicle.  It is not a quick vehicle, but the flow of propulsion is well above reproach. It is grand touring car, not a sports touring one despite the space frame style construction and use of vast quantities of aluminum. To get the maximum out of the large engine you need to keep the rpms in the 4000 range and that is best done with the shift paddles mounted in back of the steering wheel.

Inside, the rear view camera is remarkably clear and the comfortable ventilated seats even have a massage feature. However, it is not nearly as good as the one in the Bentley. The fact that this review is comparing the massage feature shows you the direction comforting drivers of luxury vehicles is heading. The Bang & Olufsen audio system sound system with 5-channel surround sound, subwoofer, and a center fill speaker is superb as well as fairly easy to operate. However, the navigation system isn’t as good as that on a Honda or Infiniti even though it has a neat retractable screen. Perhaps best of all are the headrest mounted monitors so that those in the backseats can enjoy their DVDs without having a screen dangling from the ceiling liner . This Audi is impressive, but not overwhelming even with the best night lighting and exceptional use of LEDs.

No doubt that the exterior of the Audi is going to draw interest. With that grill shell hanging conspicuously out in front and the way large SUV drivers park by feel there is no doubt that there is going to be money in replacement grills as long as they make Hummer H2s, Cadillac Escalades, and Lincoln Navigators.

I would have to say that this “who’s your daddy” Audi is an appealing vehicle for those that appreciate the joy of all wheel drive, the linear power of a 12 cylinder powerplant, and the fun of having enough electronic toys to keep the most attention deficit afflicted inhabitant amused.

Family conference: There is an abundance of fun in this Audi, but the admission to the amusements is high. It is well worth a drive if you can afford the entrance fee, but don’t expect it to be the fastest ride. For a list of all vehicle websites go to