Monday, May 30, 2011

2011 Audi A8

2011 Audi A8 Those who know him consider him peculiar. Well, those who resent him, that is.

Those who want to know him might say "eccentric" instead. They'd mean "sexy, in a dangerous way."

He just considers himself…a bit more…discerning than most men in his position. And yes, he's quite aware there aren't many. Men in his position, that is.

So, for example, his suits are not Armani. They are not Zegna. They are, in fact, made for him by hand, by a reclusive (and surprisingly young) tailor whose name, and location, he does not feel inclined to reveal. Friends wonder, because the lining of each jacket and vest is so unusually bright, flashing when he turns suddenly…but they'll never ask.

His watch is, in fact, a Rolex. But not one you can buy. Not since before the First World War.

And then there is the car.

It's not a Mercedes S-Class – the car almost everyone in his position sees as proof of their success. It's not a BMW 7-Series – the car a few of his friends have chosen to show that they're still young and vibrant enough to enjoy speeding.

No, he's driving that new Audi. The flagship one. The A8, they call it. The new 2011 one. No one has seen very many of them, but he has one already, in a deep, mirror-glossy black.

It looks a lot like him. Buttoned-down and conservative? No, not really. Somehow, it looks dangerous, like it's only pretending to be buttoned-down and conservative.

The lines, for instance. It looks a bit like the old Audi A8. Everyone has seen a few of those around over the years, though they were never as numerous as the damned old Mercedes or the overweight big Bimmers with their overweight owners.

2011 Audi A8Only, like him, the Audi is somehow trimmer this year. It's lost weight and put on muscle. It's no smaller than the old one – bigger if anything – but it looks more capable of violence. It looks like the old A8 after a year of hard training. The deep character lines cut in the doors. The tightly-drawn sills hugging close to the road. Yes, it looks a bit like its master – capable of bench-pressing like a linebacker, but also doing gravity-defying handstands in an advanced yoga class. The car doesn't look like a brute. It looks like a black belt.

And there is, of course, that front fascia. The enormous grille, with its thin chrome cross-bars, and those LED-lined headlights with their aggressive squint. In the rearview mirror, it looks like it's going to eat you.

Those few who have been inside (all women. Make of that what you will) have seen that it's remarkably sumptuous. It seems to be designed with a nautical theme inside, with a selection of woods that goes beyond the old traditional walnut. Here, there are blonder colors, gorgeous coffee-dark leather, and a wide shift-lever that resembles the throttle from a motor yacht. The front seats seem to adjust infinitely. They massage ten different ways. They are heated and cooled.

The controls look, at first, like something out of an alien spacecraft. The MMI interface, which controls every entertainment and climate function through a series of menus on a nav screen that rises neatly from the center of the dash and hides when it isn't needed, looks too complicated to understand. It even has a touchpad, like a laptop. But, it turns out, it's actually intuitive to operate. His guests have learned it quickly, and he seems to work it efficiently, his eyes barely leaving the road.

The back seats (and here the women's eyes seem to soften just a bit at the mention) are, if anything, even more luxurious. They recline. They have their own climate controls, and are heated and cooled as well. Power footrests rise from the seats in front. A writing desk rises from the center console.

2011 Audi A8And there is that stereo. Extraordinary. Nineteen speakers, including a pair of tweeters that hide away in the corners of the dashboard and rise, balanced on little black stalks, when the car is started. (This, he will never confess, is his favorite feature). That stereo can render any music perfectly, whether it's a Mahler concerto or a devastating club mix he seems to have that, well, no one can find in any club.

Yes, it's luxurious car. But all men of his stature have those.

There is something about this one that, like its owner, seems secretive and, maybe, a little threatening.

All sedans in this price range have adjustable suspensions and performance profiles.

Most of them are jokes the engineers play on the blowhards who buy most six-figure sedans.

Go ahead, climb into any one of them and select the sporty mode, or the comfort mode, and see if you actually feel anything change. Of course, you don't.

But in his Audi, there is something to the system. Audi Drive Select, as it's called, has four profiles – normal, comfort, dynamic, and individual. In normal mode, the Audi feels almost like a BMW 7-Series. It's a bit sporty, but has a deep reservoir of road grip, thanks to its Quattro all-wheel-drive system. In comfort mode, it's as posh and gentle as any S-class. But when he throws it into dynamic, the damn thing becomes a beast.

It gets only 372 horsepower from its 4.2-liter V8, but it makes the most of every one of them. The steering is taut and firm. That Quattro system gives it so much firm grip that he can throw it into maneuvers that seem impossible in such a heavy car, and it will follow a precise line every time. It's like the big car shrinks around him when he throws into dynamic mode, and it's suddenly capable of extraordinary athleticism none of its rivals could ever match.

It makes you wonder what he's set the individual mode to do. But no one knows.

Yes, he's an eccentric man. Mysterious. Maybe a little intimidating. He's obviously phenomenally wealthy, with expensive tastes, and a hint of violence in his bearing. There aren't even whispers about what he does for a living, because everyone is afraid to voice their thoughts out loud.

They wonder what sort of man chooses the A8 when the S-Class and the 7-Series are the socially expected answers. The answer seems to be – someone with a secret capacity for inventiveness, cunning, and, perhaps, ruthless fun. Someone to be feared, or to the most daring women in his circle, enjoyed.

Someone...eccentric. And perhaps a bit more discerning than most men in his position


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