Value is an integral purchasing factor for many car buyers, and it's often a simple equation. If a consumer has $2,000, $20,000 or $200,000 to spend on a vehicle, what can they fairly expect get for their dollars?
But as the price increases into the luxury vehicle category, is there a point of diminishing returns?
If a consumer has $75,000 to spend on a vehicle, the Audi A8 L Quattro, for example, do they care if it requires premium fuel? Do they care in that some consumer guide tests it fell far short of its touted 17 mph city driving estimates?
Or does the purchaser of the Audi A8 L Quattro prefer to revel in its extreme quietness, its front and rear seat spaciousness and comfort and its superior ride quality as the flagship sedan in Audi's fleet?
If the latter is a priority, then my weekly test drive was as good as it gets.
A redesign for 2004, the Audi A8 includes a 2.5-inch longer wheelbase, an inch more leg room and and increase of 20 horsepower to 330 horsepower. The engine remains the same, a 4.2 liters with five valves per cylinder. A 6-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift gate replaces a 5-speed automatic. Other changes include optional 18 or 19 inch wheels instead of standard 17-inch wheels from the previous generation, and optional heated front and rear seats and steering wheel.
Having not driven an Audi Quattro in its previous edition, I obviously couldn't make any comparisons. Nonetheless, it was hard not to be impressed with the vehicle from its platinum beige pearl exterior and perfectly matched leather beige interior to its elegantly designed and positioned birch wood trimmings.
In short, the Audi A8 exudes elegance and drives accordingly. Steering and handling and ride quality were all extraordinary in city and freeway conditions. It accelerates well and seemingly commands respect on the road.
The vehicle also has the OnStar emergency contact system and HomeLink system to remotely engage houselights upon near arrival. Plus, the Quattro also features the Parktronic system. It provides a beeping noise when one backs out or enters parking spaces. The feature seemingly was engaged whether anything was in front or behind the car.
But with a base price of $68,500, a vehicle should have a lot more to offer, and the Audi does. The standard feature list is long, not the least of which ia permanent all-wheel drive, 16-way front seats and eight airbags, powerglass sunroof (tilt and glass) and a 12-speaker sound system.
But my vehicle also included various options that added nearly another $6,000 to the price. Those features included the aforementioned 19-inch wheels ($1,900), a Launch Convenience Package (electronic rear sunshade, rear vanity mirrors and tire pressure monitoring system, $1,200) and Cold Weather Package (heated front and rear seats, ski rack and heated steering wheel, $1,100). Two other options and a destination charge brought the car's price to slightly more than $75,000.
A buyer interested in purchasing two vehicles, could do well while spending $75,000 or even considerably less. But as the adage goes, if money is not an object, the Audi A8 L Quattro is a fine luxury car with little, if anything, not first-rate.
2004 Audi A8 Quattro
Safety features - Driver and front-seat passenger front-seat airbags; Two rear-seat mounted side airbags, two front knee airbags, headlight washer system, front and rear fog lights.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) - 17 (city), 24 mpg (highway).
Warranty - Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, 12 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance, 4 years/ 50,000 miles.
Base price - $68,500.
James Raia is a syndicated journalist in Sacramento, Calif. , who writes about sports, fitness and business topics as well as the free electronic newsletters Endurance Sports News and Tour de France Times and The Weekly Driver, a car review column.
Samples of Raia's writing can be viewed on his web site: ByJamesRaia.com . His car reviews and newsletters can be viewed at The Weekly Driver , Endurance Sports News and Tour de France Times