Three exceptional European 2004 business sedans include Audi's A8 L, Jaguar's XJ Vanden Plas and Volvo's S80. Audi's superb new $68,500 flagship is built on a long wheelbase for a luxuriously stretched-out interior and exceptional riding comfort. Sophisticated and classically styled, with innovations including a multimedia interface to handle functions and controls, permanent all-wheel drive, six-speed Tiptronic transmission and an adaptive air suspension system, the A8 L debuts with a V-8 engine boasting 330 horse-power and 317 pound-feet of torque. The interior is pure elegance with leather, wood trim and an impressively large rear passenger compartment. And at 17.7 cubic feet, even the trunk is roomy.
The 2004 XJ model lineup, which includes the Vanden Plas, celebrates a makeover, with a new air suspension and a redesign for a taller, wider and roomier car all around. With a base price of $68,330, the Vanden Plas is a stately luxury four-door sporting a V-8 engine with 294 horsepower. High-quality luxury touches abound, from piping on the leather seats to DVD systems both front and back (optional). Rain-sensing wipers, optional parking-distance control, an electric moon roof and a 16.4 cubic-foot trunk combine for a car that outranks many in its class.
Volvo's less expensive but still prestigious $38,000 S80 sedan, launched five years ago, boasts technology and design improvements for 2004. Optional all-wheel drive means a smoother ride; and a new chassis technology, Four-C, measures the car's speed, wheel suspension movements, torque, degree of braking and lateral acceleration to handle any road surface. Engine choices include a V-6 with 194 horsepower and a twin turbo with 268 horsepower. Sculptured styling rescues the S80 from the typical boxy Volvo design. Trunk capacity isn't as roomy at 14.4 cubic feet.
Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 24 years.