Audi A8 long-term rental review

Regarding my equipped-with-active-suspension dream machine, from our reader/hero Scott Locklin:

I rented a 2018 Audi A8 for 10 days on the Autobahn [459 euro through kayak, 19 percent of which was VAT]. The electronics, as someone noted were pretty good. The HUD with speed limit and directions indicator was a cool feature, though it doesn’t work with polarized sunglasses. Wonder what HUD using pilots use for helmet shades these days; never thought of that before.

Oh yeah, one of your commenters identified that the 3D map view was mighty cool.

The ‘cruise control’ was, as you noted, awful and dangerous. I also disliked the collision avoidance system intensely, and couldn’t figure out how to turn most of it off. Basically it was a simple algorithm hunting for the lines on the road. Unfortunately there were a lot of dangerous ‘damped oscillator’ solutions to this, which boggled my mind, as there should be fairly simple ways to overcome this. The wheel jerking from this algorithm was alarming and possibly dangerous; there was an incident where there was a semi broken down in the traffic lane on the autobahn, and I needed to fight the steering wheel to avoid it. There was no time to signal a lane change which would have prevented the monkey vs machine steering wheel battle. I think the ‘collision’ software might have slammed on the brakes at the last minute had I continued, but that would have been a disaster also.

Another bizarre thing; the ‘collision radar’ in tight parking garages was incredibly loud and had me stopping 2 meters short of where I needed to be in this giant car in tiny euro sized parking spots. I couldn’t turn that off either.

The active suspension, meh, it was OK. Nothing special. It sucked you lower if you press the perf button, and was more billowy otherwise. No real complaints about the ride or steering in either configuration. I prefer the ride of a BMW for fancy car feels. The Audi was less precise. Probably more comfortable. My daily driver is a Subaru, so I’m not exactly cognoscenti tier here.

The was hit and miss; they had me in a cow pasture at one point looking for a famous statue. Off road performance was pretty good though I didn’t realize until I returned it that it goes for $85k and has the “most advanced” autonomous vehicle features in it. Seemed like driving a larger, high performance German Ford LTD [Editor: Ouch! Looks like we’ll be sticking with the Honda Odyssey]

3 thoughts on “Audi A8 long-term rental review

  1. Can’t really comment about the Audi, and slightly off topic, but I have been having a blast with this project: It takes some commodity hardware and open source software and turns my 2018 Camry into Level 2 Self Driving vehicle. I just did a few hours on the Mass Pike and had my hands off the wheel for most of it – only needed to briefly take control to change lanes or take the exits.

    The openpilot control system is typically helped by a little vehicle specific tuning, but there is an active community that is really into that, so all I need to do is pull a branch I like and go driving.

    The hardware plugs into the vehicle CAN bus wiring used by the Lane Keep Assist camera near the rear-view mirror.

  2. I bought a 2018 S5 about six months ago with all the same blinky bits and it’s interesting to read Scott’s take. I bought the car mainly because I wanted an all-season convertible with enough torque to scare passengers and I really dislike the design of the Benz C43. I added the full avionics–er, autononics?–package just for the sake of early-adopter geekery.

    The cruise control/lanekeeping combo is imperfect but my experience has been that it really reduces driver fatigue in any kind of highway traffic, which in the current terrible economy is pretty much all the time. The two things that I don’t like about it are that it waits longer to start braking than I do, and the lane-assist system is a bit funny in that sometimes you can feel it steering almost completely, and other times it will wait until you’re over the lane markings to activate the stick shaker and scold you. You do learn to always use your turn signal (something we don’t do in the Commonwealth) as that disables departure warning. The collision warning *sometimes* feels a little conservative to me but on the whole not annoyingly so. The active cruise control generally works better than I expect it to in tricky situations, like someone merging in close ahead of you. I like that you can use the gas and brake to gently correct it without it completely shutting off.

    Overall it feels very much like an autopilot to me in the sense that it reduces workload but doesn’t take over fully. I strongly suspect that many of the system’s limitations are very deliberate in order to force a certain amount of ongoing attention on the driver’s part. I have definitely had circumstances where I think the system has increased safety and could see it doing so more generally, and have not had it put me in a worse position. It is a bit weird at times to feel the wheel moving on its own but the force to override it is very light and you get used to it after a while. If I had the chance to repeat my choice today I would choose the same thing.

    As for the HUDs and sunglasses, I’ve always preferred non-polarized glasses for flying as they are better for seeing other aircraft, at the cost of a little less glare reduction. I moved mine from the flight bag to the car console. I would love to have the Alt/AI/Airspeed/Vector display on a HUD in the plane. Maybe Garmin can do it in the next decade for slightly less than the cost of the car I just bought.

  3. Are you friends with Scott? I’ve been reading his blog for ten years. His intelligence is inspiring. Is this a review he posted somewhere, or just a message sent to you?

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