DETROIT – Audi AG uses the North American International Auto Show to stage the world premiere of its A8L 6.0 quattro.
Audi introduces A8L 6.0 quattro.

The sedan features a 6L 12-cyl. engine under the hood and a new front fascia that becomes a central styling cue for future Audis.

The A8L 6.0 features corporate parent Volkswagen AG’s W12 engine, which produces 450 hp and 428 lb.-ft. (580 Nm) of torque, with more than 95% of the engine’s peak torque available between 2,300-5,300 rpm.

The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with tiptronic function for added performance. Audi’s signature quattro all-wheel-drive system is standard.

Using the same overall styling pattern set by the restyled A8, this sedan becomes Audi’s new flagship.

In addition to the engine, the A8L 6.0 also features a new front fascia that is distinguished by the new single-frame grille design. The outer chrome rim surrounds the grille’s horizontal chrome strips.

The rest of the vehicle follows the A8 line, with its luxurious interior, clear headlamp covers and aerodynamic design.

Audi plans to launch the A8L 6.0 in the German market in February, while the rest of Europe should receive initial shipments of the car this spring. U.S. customers will have to wait until the end of the year to take delivery.

Volkswagen says the U.S. delay is a result of the reversal of an earlier decision not to launch the 12-cyl. A8 in the U.S. market. The success of the current A8, which posted a 170% volume improvement over the previous model, prompted the auto makers to rethink their original decision.

“The U.S. is not really a 12-cylinder market is it? That’s what we thought,” VW Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder tells Ward’s. “(The A8) had a high growth rate when compared to its predecessor, so we gained the confidence that we shall give (a 12-cyl.) …to the U.S., too.”

He says Audi already has numerous orders for the A8L in Europe, which also caused the auto maker to delay launching the car in the U.S. market sooner.

As to whether the new A8L might steal some sales from VW’s Phaeton luxury sedan, Pischetsrieder isn’t worried.

“The segment the Audi A8 is sold in is more the type of customers who are actively driving themselves, while the Phaeton is more for the customers… who would rather be driven,” he says.

kekelly@primediabusiness.com