For 2006, the Audi A8 receives several changes, the most noticeable being a new single-frame grille on all models that bring them in line with the company’s new corporate styling.

Other changes include a parking system with graphic display; adaptive front lighting; an available heated steering wheel with separate switch; a wood steering wheel standard on the W12 and available on the A8; new 18-inch wheel designs; a 19-inch performance tire available with the Sport Package; a standard rain sensor; a new design colour on the Driver Information Centre; a glove box lock; and an interior leather upgrade standard on the A8L. There are new exterior colours, Quartz Grey Metallic and Garnet Red Pearl Effect, while Atlas Grey is discontinued. The W12’s badges move from the moulding to the front fender and there is a W12-specific rocker panel. Finally, A8 models can be ordered with exclusive Red or Anis Yellow interior trim packages.

Audi’s largest model comes as the regular-wheelbase A8 or the long-wheelbase A8L. Both come with a 4.2-litre V8; the A8L is also available with the W12 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. All three models use Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive.

The A8 uses an all-aluminum frame with a fully pneumatic suspension system. Its 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.

Standard or available features on the A8 include self-levelling bi-Xenon headlights, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear fog lights, front and rear parking system, front and rear side airbags, knee protection airbags, first aid kit, 16-way power front seats with heat, ventilation and massage, heated rear seats, leather armrests and centre console, power tilt and telescopic wheel, four-zone climate control, power door close assist, electric rear and side window sunshades, navigation system, rear seat entertainment system and, on the W12, 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-Benz 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 does not offer; the Phaeton has it too, but a great many buyers find it tough to shell out A8-type money for a Volkswagen.

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