By John LeBlanc
BEIJING – China may be the world’s largest new car market, but no one wants to really drive here. Especially in the larger cities, like here in Beijing (population 22,000,000) or Shanghai (19,210,000.) The uninitiated are stunned by the telepathic confluence of cars, trucks, pedestrians, motorcycles, rickshaws and bicycles, where traffic lights and lane markings are mere suggestions on the jam-packed streets.
True story: On the way to the show on Friday, I saw a car drive towards our bus the wrong way on a four-lane boulevard. Right by a police car. No one blinked.
So it’s no wonder that chauffeur-driven cars are the cat’s pajamas here. Status symbols, too. It seems like every executive car is a black Audi A6
stretch sedan of some vintage or another. That’s why almost every Western automaker shilling here in China here offers a lengthened version of a standard sedan.
Stretched versions of BMW
(E Class) and Volkswagen
(Phaeton) sedans, all made world debuts at this year’s Beijing show. But the most impressive may have been Audi’s new stretched version of its new-this-year flagship A8
The long-wheelbase A8L
is about 150 mm longer than the regular-length A8 that debuted earlier this year, and 500 hp W12 will be the sole engine at launch.
Audi Canada’s Cort Nielsen says, expect the long wheelbase A8 to arrive in Canada before Christmas this year, about three months after the regular length version goes on sale at the end of the summer.