Following the introduction of the long-wheelbase Audi A8L in 2004, the company introduces two new models to the A8 line for 2005: the A8, with a regular wheelbase, and the A8L W12.

The regular-wheelbase is 130 mm shorter than the A8L, but both use the same 335 hp 4.2-litre V8 engine. The W12 is a twelve-cylinder, created by joining two narrow-angle V6 engines at the crankshaft, with a 72-degree angle between the banks. This gives it a shorter height and length compared to other V12 engines, and allows room for Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive, which is used on all three models. The W12 makes 450 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque.

The A8 uses an all-aluminum frame with a fully pneumatic suspension system. An aluminum four-link front axle and trapezoidal-link rear axle suspension has air spring struts at each wheel, with sensors that continually monitor and adjust the damping, and automatically level the car.

All models use a six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with manual mode, and available wheel-mounted paddles. Audi’s MMI (Multi Media Interface) control system looks similar to BMW’s iDrive but is slightly less complicated, and can be used to monitor or control such things as the radio, phone, climate control, stereo or lighting profiles of the LED illumination in the door trim and foot wells.

The A8L W12 features Audi’s new “corporate face”, a huge grille that extends down into the front fascia with an outer chrome ring and horizontal chrome strips. Perhaps the cynic will take to it in time, but at the moment it’s a great deal of nose. The rest of the design is beautiful, though, and flows back to muscular haunches and a cleanly-designed tail. The W12 also features LED driving lights; adaptive bi-xenon headlights that turn with the front wheels; 19-inch, twelve-spoke forged alloy wheels; premium Valcona leather with 16-way power adjustable front seats with heat, ventilation and massage; heated rear power seats with electric lumbar adjustment in four-seater models (a five-seat configuration is available); polish wood inlays; leather-covered armrests, centre console and lower dash; Bose surround-sound system; front and rear parking system; power door and trunk lid closers; electric side and rear window sun shades; and rain-sensing wipers. A rear-seat entertainment centre features two LCD monitors in the front-seat headrests and a remote-controlled six-disc DVD changer in the trunk. Like the BMW 760Li, the W12 can be ordered with a two-bottle refrigerator located behind the rear-seat armrest.

BMW is right in Audi’s aim; the A8 competes with the 7-Series, and with the Mercedes S-Class. All offer V8 and V12 power with comparable amenities, although when it comes to the name game, Audi still doesn’t rank quite as high with well-heeled buyers. The A8 has the appeal of all-wheel-drive, which BMW and Mercedes do not offer; the Volkswagen Phaeton has it too, but a great many buyers find it tough to shell out A8-type money for a VW that looks like a large Passat.

The A8 is built in Neckarsulm, Germany.

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