Trey Songz Takes the 2015 Audi A8 L TDI for a Test Drive

The refreshed top-end model competes directly with the BMW 7 and Mercedes S550. "You can feel the power," says the Grammy nominee

This story first appeared in the Sept. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

THE CAR The Audi A8 L TDI, like the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series with which it competes for market share and bragging rights, is a high-margin tentpole car that represents the pinnacle of German luxury automaking. Mercedes' $1 billion revamping of the S-Class in 2014 -- sales are up 107 percent through August this year while the A8's are down 12 percent during the same period -- makes Audi's refresh of its flagship especially timely. The $85,100 long-wheelbase, diesel-powered incarnation of the A8 stretches a titanic 17.3 feet but delivers performance, handling and mileage (24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway) in line with more demure brethren like the A7.

THE STAR The 29-year-old Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Trey Songz released Trigga, his sixth album, this summer.

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WHAT'S NEW The refreshed A8 receives a redesigned fascia with LED headlights, a heads-up display with night vision -- a thermal-imaging camera scans the road and flashes a warning if it detects a pedestrian -- and sensors that warn of an imminent collision and apply maximum braking if the driver fails to react. The cabin gets a major upgrade with ventilated front and rear seats, a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround sound audio system, a DVD player and 10-inch airline style LCD monitors for rear-seat passengers.

THE DRIVER'S BACKSTORY Songz drove to his senior prom in Richmond, Va., in his mother's Galant; his first car was a Honda Accord. With a platinum album under his belt and Chapter V hitting No. 1 in 2012, Songz's personal aesthetic has evolved to include Versace suits, Audemars Piguet watches and a Bentley Flying Spur in his motor pool. "I believe in quality," declares Songz.

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THE DRIVE Flashy vehicles figure prominently as status signifiers in R&B and hip-hop's canon. Songz personally chooses the cars that appear in his videos -- "SmartPhones" features a Lamborghini supercar -- partially as a hedge against the temptation of actually owning one. "I stay away from purchasing cars like that because I like to drive very fast and kind of crazy." Songz kicks back in the A8's diamond-stitched Valcona leather driver's seat and launches onto a winding road in the hills outside L.A. "When I finish a song, I listen to it in a big professional recording studio -- but I won't know if I really like it until I play it in my car," he says. Songz guns the 3.0 liter turbocharged diesel and the A8 leaps ahead, the throaty exhaust note muted to a purr by the cabin's soundproofing.

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THE VERDICT "Real smooth," says Songz. "You can feel the power, but it's very quiet." Regarding the A8's limousine-like length (the "L" on the badge stands for "long wheelbase"), "I can definitely feel how much of the road I'm taking up, but it still feels sleek even though it's massive" -- an unwitting acknowledgement of the big Audi's body, constructed almost entirely of lightweight aluminum.

THE (ALMOST) DEAL-BREAKER Songz inspects the A8's Gulfstream-like rear cabin, with 22-way adjustable seats, drop-down tables, a cigar lighter and a secret refrigerator big enough for a bottle of bubbly and chilled glasses, and preens, in mock mack-daddy mode, "What's the cupholder situation … for my bia-tches!?"

Top Notes on Audi A8 L TDI

PRICE $85,100

ENGINE 3.0 liter V-6 TDI diesel, 240 hp

MILEAGE 24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway

ZERO TO 60 MPH 6.3 seconds

TOP SPEED 130 mph