2013 Audi A8L: Nvidia Graphics, Wi-Fi, LED Lights, And Google Earth

Audi's Infotainment System

Right off the bat, we were introduced to Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) touch with handwriting recognition technology. This requires a bit of explanation, so sit tight.

Tucked beneath a wood trim flap is a seven-inch LCD display that pops up every time the vehicle starts. It sports a resolution of 800x480, which is fairly typical in the cars we've reviewed. Of course, that's not a high-definition output, but it gets the job done for traversing Audi's user interface. That screen itself is not what responds to touch.

Many of Audi's competitors do use touchscreen displays. But we've noticed that more luxury-oriented offerings are the product of extra investment into user control. So, we tend to find physical control interfaces with more satisfying tactile feedback. Not surprisingly, then, the company so well known for its smart interiors exposes a number of buttons corresponding to the infotainment system. 

A main rotary knob cycles through content displayed on-screen, while the silver buttons around it are associated with functions displayed on each of the user interface's four corners. There are even dedicated buttons that take you straight to infotainment features like navigation, telephone, and car settings. Audio control over media, the radio, track navigation, and tone settings are right next to the control knob, easily accessible. Audi also adds a dedicated volume control knob in the same little cluster.

Really, this is ideal for infotainment control. It gives us full access over Audi's MMI with an arm rested comfortably over the center console. A full complement of physical inputs make it easier to flip through menu items and dial in adjustments without taking your eyes off the road. I'll admit that it takes some time to learn the location of so many buttons without looking. But once you get your bearing, you're at a big advantage to someone stabbing around at a screen in traffic.

As a bonus, the MMI touch system ties in to the A8L's climate control, displaying settings on-screen. Audi wisely leaves the physical buttons and knobs for that subsystem in place, which we very much appreciate. Again, I really like the physical input and the tactile feedback it provides. You know exactly what's going to happen when you press. Some manufacturers (we’re looking at you, Lincoln and Cadillac) think it looks cooler to replace those buttons with capacitive touch functionality. Although a nice smooth panel looks good, it's a nuisance to drivers.

The star of this show is Audi's handwriting recognition panel that, as its name suggests, recognizes written letters. You can spell everything out with just your index finger. It's a cool novelty that works very well, and you may even find the touchpad more useful than voice commands. Once you get the hang of it, entering navigation instructions is easy. My only concern is for left-handed drivers, who might have a tough time using the pad.

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56 comments
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  • cypeq
    Tom's add regular Refirgerator reviews they also get touchscreens built in.
    3
  • vertexx
    Aren't 2014 models out by now?
    3
  • Zeh
    One can always dream...
    3
  • cozmium
    Another prime example of how B&O are only made for big wallets and not discerning audio enthusiasts. Bowers and Wilkins, such as in the Jaguar XF, sound utterly fantastic. In a car you have a minefield of acoustic problems to overcome, and it takes more than slapping in fancy looking speakers.
    1
  • Flicules
    I would like to see an article about the new Infotainment system on the Mazda 3(MY14)
    1
  • Nintendo Maniac 64
    *reads title*...so basically all the things Tesla already had in 2012?

    (wifi hardware was present but the software wasn't enabled since the first year of 3G was free)
    -3
  • vertexx
    The 2014 A8 L features a Bose sound system, or perhaps that's the standard option.
    1
  • Metalrenok
    Car reviews? Seriously Tom's?
    -3
  • Metalrenok
    Car reviews? Seriously Tom's?
    -7
  • bhaberle
    So umm. It is important to know that even lower end Audi's like the S4 (standard) and the A4 (optional) have these features, such as wi-fi, etc. And yes the wifi hotspot was available in last year's versions of these cars (which actually is the 2013 ones.) The a4/s4 versions are not touch though, which is not really an issue.
    2
  • user 18
    Kind of sad that such a nice car seems to only come with an auto transmission.
    1
  • holmes4
    Regarding USB and audio inputs - Audi typically puts a connector for these in the glove compartment. You may need to buy a custom adapter cable depending on your device. At least on my 2013 A4, it can control an iPhone through the MMI this way, though I just use the Bluetooth integration.
    1
  • tuanies
    Anonymous said:
    Another prime example of how B&O are only made for big wallets and not discerning audio enthusiasts. Bowers and Wilkins, such as in the Jaguar XF, sound utterly fantastic. In a car you have a minefield of acoustic problems to overcome, and it takes more than slapping in fancy looking speakers.


    I've never heard the B&W in the XF. The Meridian system in the XJL is quite good though. The Acura Krell system in the RLX is the best system I've heard so far.

    Anonymous said:
    I would like to see an article about the new Infotainment system on the Mazda 3(MY14)


    It's on the list of vehicles to cover. It's a very good vehicle and the new system is a massive improvement over the terrible TomTom system in the 6 and CX5.

    Anonymous said:
    *reads title*...so basically all the things Tesla already had in 2012?

    (wifi hardware was present but the software wasn't enabled since the first year of 3G was free)


    Audi had it in the A8 since 2011

    Anonymous said:
    The 2014 A8 L features a Bose sound system, or perhaps that's the standard option.


    Bose is standard on Audi's. B&O is a $6300 option.

    Anonymous said:
    Car reviews? Seriously Tom's?


    Yes
    1
  • tuanies
    Anonymous said:
    So umm. It is important to know that even lower end Audi's like the S4 (standard) and the A4 (optional) have these features, such as wi-fi, etc. And yes the wifi hotspot was available in last year's versions of these cars (which actually is the 2013 ones.) The a4/s4 versions are not touch though, which is not really an issue.


    Yes the A4 has MMI as well, but the touch pad is quite excellent. Also the interior ergonomics and overall package are different. The next gen A4 will have touch. Audi has a combo touch / control knob that debuted in the A3. I imagine it will make its way to the next A4.

    Anonymous said:
    Kind of sad that such a nice car seems to only come with an auto transmission.


    Unfortunately driving with a third pedal will be a forgotten art. However, the 8-speed ZF is a very good transmission. I love manuals and everything, but will gladly trade a third pedal for adaptive cruise control with stop and go and the 8-speed ZF for daily driving.

    Anonymous said:
    Regarding USB and audio inputs - Audi typically puts a connector for these in the glove compartment. You may need to buy a custom adapter cable depending on your device. At least on my 2013 A4, it can control an iPhone through the MMI this way, though I just use the Bluetooth integration.


    You are correct. Ours only had the iPod connector, a 30-pin one at that. It's highway robbery that Audi sells the cables for about $70 to use a feature that should be standard by now.
    2
  • xenol
    I'm probably going to get downvoted for this but...I find it annoying people were all "make Google Glass illegal to wear while driving" because of the potential to distract the driver. And yet I see the smarts of this car having the same potential.
    0
  • tuanies
    Anonymous said:
    I'm probably going to get downvoted for this but...I find it annoying people were all "make Google Glass illegal to wear while driving" because of the potential to distract the driver. And yet I see the smarts of this car having the same potential.


    People will always find ways to distract themselves if they aren't focused drivers. You can have all the electronic nannies and lock outs you want, but that doesn't stop a parent turning around to yell at their kids before plowing into the car in front of them IMO.
    1
  • CaedenV
    that is a lot of buttons... way too many buttons...Don't get me wrong, I love me some buttons to press, but if complicated games that have 100 different things going on can get by with using just a few of the 16 buttons and 2 sticks available on your average controller, then surely a car's navigation and infotainment system can make due with far less for a much simpler experience.Wake me up when cars get a proper HUD to control the car with rather than overly complicated center consoles that are needlessly complicated and difficult to operate while driving.
    0
  • Anonymous
    I've never had 100 grand to drop on a vehicle, but I'd be satisfied with a car that doesn't require thousands of dollars in repairs after a few hundred thousand kilometers
    1
  • 3ogdy
    Quote:
    Car reviews? Seriously Tom's?
    Upper part of the page, right under the Tom's Hardware logo:"The authority on TECH". So, what were you saying your problem was?
    1
  • cypeq
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Car reviews? Seriously Tom's?
    Upper part of the page, right under the Tom's Hardware logo:"The authority on TECH". So, what were you saying your problem was?
    Nothing it's obvious sponsored advertisement article move a long nothing new.
    -1