model. 2018 Audi A8L
as shown: $84,795
seating/style: 5-passenger sedan
engine: 3.0-liter V6
transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic
driveline: Quattro AWD
fuel economy: 19 city/27 hwy
words. Rebecca Lindland
visuals. Rebecca Lindland
***this long form article first appeared on Forbes***
Your vehicle isn’t often known as a place of relaxation and wellbeing. In fact, being on the road can sometimes be the most stressful part of the day. Likewise, vehicle brands aren’t often known as curators of customer wellbeing. But Audi is working to change all that: not by eliminating your frustrating commute, but by making the cabin of the 2019 A8L luxury sedan a space of tranquility in a sea of road rage.
Audi recently debuted the 2019 A8 in Big Sur, California, a haven for Silicon Valley techies, humble creatives, and outdoorsy sorts, allowing me to experience, at least for a brief moment, the type of refueling holiday break its customers enjoy. Replete with organic food, personalized in-room treats, yoga sessions, fresh fruit (the pineapple was to die for), and miles of curvy roads, the Ventana Big Sur resort was the premier location to showcase the brand’s flagship luxury sedan and its Future Premium theme.
Utilizing the A8, which will be known in the States as the A8L, Audi wraps its owners in a cocoon of restorative quiet, preparing one for the professional demands of the office, or the personal demands of home. Part of this strategy is simplification: removing a host of individual buttons and instead focusing on a dual screen multi-media interface (MMI) with touch response, with varying degrees of haptic feedback depending upon preference.
The clean, straight lines of the A8L’s exterior are echoed in the modern, luxurious interior, with an elegant mix of hard and soft surfaces including real ash wood, piano black surfaces, brushed chrome, and rich leather. These are all accoutrements one expects in a luxury sedan. But the retractable vents, which lever out from the sleek dash, are enhanced by personalized mood lighting, individual fragrance selection, and massaging seats which heat and cool simultaneously, providing an extra level of comfort, convenience, and care to drivers and passengers alike.
The 2019 A8L also comes with a special trim package for rear seat occupants, all controlled through the rear center console. The remote control provides individual customization of both seating and infortainment preferences, including rear heated and cooled massaging seats – usually reserved for the front occupants - with the right rear passenger seat offering a heated massaging footrest, all designed to provide a sense of wellbeing and calm.
This trend in wellness is growing in a world of “self-care,” and luxury companies are pairing with wellness firms to provide a more restorative experience for clients. Singapore Airlines recently paired with Canyon Ranch to provide passengers on its long and ultra-long haul flights with techniques and materials to help with jet lag. (Coincidentally, the CEO of Canyon Ranch, Susan E. Docherty, is a former VP of Sales at GM). Qantas partnered with University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre to manage everything from in-flight lighting, cabin temperature, and nutrition to designing the lounge at Perth International Airport.
To that end, Audi brought in Kyra Bobinet, MD MPH, (which was alluring until I found out it referenced her Harvard University Masters in Public Health instead of an equally sexy achievement related to how fast she’s driven a car).
Dr. Bobinet is one accomplished woman: a medical doctor, the founder and CEO of engagedIn, the author of an excellent book, “Well Designed Life,” a professor at Stanford School of Medicine, and an avid horsewoman with an impressive collection of boots. More on Dr. Bobinet is available on her website, here.
As part of the overview of the Audi A8L, Dr. Bobinet, an expert in neuroscience and behavioral change, presented that brains haven’t evolved yet to keep up with technology, and cannot distinguish between how a voice-recognition device like Siri treats us and a person. It’s why it’s easy to have an emotional reaction to Siri or Alexa, including saying “thank you” when she does something helpful. Ironically, more technology is being developed to help our brains manage more technology, with a whole new class of strategies, techniques and products focusing on well being in a world managed more and more by artificial intelligence.
With the sunset over the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop and the Audi A8L showcased in subtle uplights, Dr. Bobinet, a beautiful woman in fabulous thigh-high suede boots (I might be obsessed by her shoe collection), explained the simplified interior of the A8L removes unnecessary thinking, preserving the slow, mindful brain and streamlines the experience of interacting with the vehicle. The German luxury sedan also passively curates a positive mind-body experience, treating you like a kind person, greeting you with lighting and sounds that are pleasant, and even cleaning the air for you.
“We tend to breath very shallowly when we are stressed,” says Dr. Bobinet. “Having the air cleaned is a very significant way to shift someone into a well-being state without even realizing it, sparing our brain resources and creating a sanctuary from the outside chaos of the world.”
Dr. Bobinet gave us techniques on how to manage the world around us through on-the-go, anytime and anywhere breathing techniques. First, she says, stop and say thank you to yourself.
“This is not California corny; it’s actually neuro-anatomy,” laughs Dr. Bobinet. “Another circuit in your brain is generosity. If you start with generosity to yourself, it will create blood flow to your brain. This helps shift your brain from the frenetic, chaotic mind and create blood flow to a calmer state.”
The second breath is one that cleanses, like deep breaths done in martial arts. This cleansing breath helps to clear your mind, including issues and demands weighing on yourself and helps clear distractions.
The third and final breath, since our brains are ideally suited to threes, is designed to draw in something positive. For some that may be the thought of their pet, or a loved one, or an intention or goal, or something you want to build or make. It’s very personal and specific to you.
I instinctively mimic her breathing techniques, feeling at once more relaxed and at the same time more aware of my surrounds.
This isn't a typical media car launch, overflowing with testosterone and torque talk. Audi deliberately cultivated an event designed specifically for its clients: luxury-minded, successful professionals trying to achieve that elusive work-life balance.
The best part of the event was that the vehicle lived up to the hype. The A8L is modern but warm, richly responsive but silky smooth, and a heck of a lot of fun to get yourself from A to B. All the feels aren't any good if the product doesn't deliver, and Audi definitely delivers a luxury sedan designed to fulfill the body, mind and soul.
The 2019 Audi A8L, equipped with Quattro all-wheel-drive and a turbocharged V6 with more powertrain options and a hybrid to follow, will be in showrooms this fall with a starting price of $84,795. Even here, Audi has simplified: there's one trim level, all vehicles are the long-wheel-base version, and a plethora of a la carte packages will be available to fully personalize your A8L. Now go forth, breathe deeply, and remember to thank yourself first.