Last January, I said “If you want a Bentley, buy an Audi A8 and load it up”. This week, I put that to the test.
Stepping into the Audi after driving the Bentley, one thing is clear – the Audi is no Bentley. Sure, the diamond stitching is similar and some of the switchgear had a familiar feel. And, don’t get me wrong, the Audi A8 is really nice…but the Bentley interior is…Spectacular.
So let’s drive. This was a GT Speed…and the first thing I noticed was the seats. Wonderful, supportive, but not hard. Honestly, Audi seats are on the firm side. There is a bit of accelerator travel before you get on the gas…but when you do…the car leaps alive. It’s actually almost a little scary. Big heavy car, shooting off like a rocket, when you bury the pedal. Around corners, it was quite secure, but you always remained a bit vigilant. I never felt that way in the longer Audi, but then the power was not up to Bentley standards. Bentley brakes are great. So grippy it will surprise you the first time you tap the pedal. In sport mode, there’s a hushed snarl that becomes a growl under acceleration. Nice. Not in the Audi A8. It sounds like a Tesla. Almost a member of the Silent Service.
It takes about five minutes to feel out the GT, but once you do, a feeling of “I could get used to this” sets in. One gripe though – the paddle shifter sits about where the turn signal feels like it should be. So you hit the paddle more times than you care to. Audi wins that one. Audi paddles are fixed behind the steering wheel at the perfect position.
The Bentley is really a big, heavy, luxurious amazing Grand Tourer. The Audi A8L? Really, a step backward from the Bentley’s hand wrought opulence.
So, which would I pick for everyday? While I would love to give the Bentley a good home, an Audi A8L is a better daily companion. Sure the interior is not as good, and the Audi lacks the Bentley’s sporty willingness to dance, but the Audi is very good at what it does do – deliver you in style and comfort…with secure handling and linear pedal travel. And, A8’s can be athletic in an Intramural Sports sort of way…one of the more competitive leagues. Then there’s A8’s big brother S8 Plus. He’s not afraid to go Pro.
Verdict – Actually, still Audi. 3/4 of the way to Bentley’s package, half the price. (But if you do have the money, buy the Bentley anyway)