The “L” Word – It’s A Car Thing
Is Bigger Better?
The L on the back of certain luxury vehicles might denote a few extra inches of legroom, but what else does the L gets you?
By Meg Hemphill
Curious what that L on the rear of that beautiful car means? In the case of the Audi A8L, BMW 7-Series Li, Jaguar XJL and Lexus LS 460L, it means long wheelbase. Wheelbase is the distance between the center of the front wheel to the center of the back wheel, so a long wheelbase model is one that has more length than the standard version. The main reason to buy a car with a few extra inches is for a more spacious, luxurious ride for passengers in the back. If everyone in your family shops in the petite section, it’s probably not as crucial for you. But if you like to be chauffeured in the height of luxury, or have tall passengers that will appreciate some extra space, a longer option may be a good one.
L models come with extras, whether they’re standard or optional (i.e. cost more), such as reclining seats, massagers, entertainment systems and fold-down trays that can be ideal for someone needing a mobile workspace. The wheelbase can also affect the drive on certain models: With a shorter wheelbase, a car is better for performance, whereas a longer wheelbase provides a more comfortable ride. Note that just because a car has an L in its model name doesn’t necessarily denote length. It can also mean luxury or a leather package. Four models where the L does mean your 6’4″ backseat passenger is sitting pretty are outlined here.
Lexus LS 460L
The length of the L model of this Lexus beauty is a total of 203.9-inches, which is 4.7-inches longer than the standard wheelbase version. This entire addition of space is added to the backseat, where passengers will also enjoy the standard Comfort Package that includes rear seat heater and power rear sunshade. There are other yummy options as well, like a power massage seat with ottoman, rear climate control (where a sensor reads the passengers’ body temperature and adjusts the climate!), and a rear seat entertainment system. This has a DVD player, wireless headphones and a remote control to power the extra-large 9-inch LCD screen that descends from the ceiling. Unlike the other long wheelbase models, Lexus sells more of the standard LS 460 models (80 percent of sales) than the LS 460L (20 percent.)
MSRP Price of the 2012 Lexus LS 460 AWD (All-Wheel Drive): $70,810
MSRP Price of the 2012 Lexus LS 460 L AWD (All-Wheel Drive): $76,355
The A8L comes with five extra inches more than the standard A8. That may not seem like a lot, but five inches could be the difference between an ok ride and an adult who can stretch out without fear of jamming knees against the front seat. Four of those inches are for the rear seat legroom and one inch in the front seat. As an Audi spokesperson pointed out, “This is suited for someone being driven around.”
The trunk space remains the same on the A8 and the A8L, so if you’re looking to haul more groceries and gear, this is not the way to go. The car has an optional four-zone climate control so each passenger can set the temp to his or her liking. There is also an optional rear seat entertainment system with a seat-back LCD monitor, which is operated from a control system in the arm rest. With this, the rear passenger can access Audi Google Earth to see where the car is at any given moment, and can access details about a destination. Also, this car is well-suited to backseat-driver types. It’s possible for passengers in the rear to control all of the media in the front, from in-putting navigation to selecting music. If you want to really create a deluxe atmosphere in the rear, the Audi W12 A8L is the way to go. This 12-cylinder version – which means it has a huge engine for great get-up and go – comes with a full chauffeuring package that includes a reclinable rear seat, foot rest, massage function and a champagne bucket.
MSRP Price of the 2012 Audi A8 $78,750
MSRP Price of the 2012 Audi A8L $84,700
BMW 7-Series Li
BMW offers four 2012 L models: the 740Li, 750Li, 750Li xDrive (all-wheel drive) and 760Li. These models, except for the 760, are all offered in the standard wheelbase (or simply “i”) models as well. What you get with an Li is 5.5-inches of rear seat legroom, the longest addition for any L model. (So if you have a future NBA star to drive around, this might be a well-appreciated option.) There is also an optional Luxury Rear Seating Package, which includes rear-ventilated seats with a massage function. There’s an optional sliding roof that makes the backseat feel even more spacious. If staring at the sky gets boring, there are two 8-inch monitors with a DVD player. Another added-cost item are the useful folding tables (think tray table on a plane) as a work surface. A BMW spokesperson says there are no noticeable differences between the short and long wheelbase models when it comes to driving. At the end of the day (or sales year), longer models prove to be most popular, outselling standard wheelbase models two to one
MSRP Price of the 2012 BMW 740 $71,000
MSRP Price of the 2012 BMW 740Li $75,500
The five inches of extra space in the Jaguar XJL is devoted entirely to the backseat. A spokesperson from the brand says that the performance in both the XJ and XJL is virtually the same, but the longer wheelbase makes the ride a little smoother. Not to mention the passengers in the back will enjoy heated and cooled seats, pull-up window blinds, fold-down business trays and a rear window sunshade.
Even the 20-speaker sound system was adjusted to compensate for the larger backseat area. If each wants to listen to something different, there are 8-inch screens in the headrests that come with individual controls and headphones for each rear passenger. The top end of the XJs is the XJL SuperSport, which has a massive 510 horsepower (i.e. enough power to make getting a speeding ticket likely) and rearseats that recline and have massagers. This is a big, long, luxurious car. Luckily rear cameras with guides for reversing help get this long ride out of tight spaces. When it comes to sales, XJLs comprise 60 percent of sales and the remaining 40 are for the standard length XJ.
MSRP Price of the 2012 Jaguar XJ $73,700
MSRP Price of the 2012 Jaguar XJL $80,700