Audi’s slogan Vorsprung durch Technik fits the new Audi A8 like a glove. The new flagship limousine is jam-packed with cutting edge technology and innovative features. We had an opportunity to test it in the Spanish city of Valencia.
The fourth generation of the Audi A8 saw the limelight at the Audi Summit in Barcelona in July of this year. It’s not only sports a brand new design language but also sets a new benchmark in terms of technology and innovation, in the Audi line-up and beyond.
At the market introduction the new A8 is available with two different V6 turbocharged engines: a 3.0 TDI with an output of 286hp and a 3.0 TFSI with 340hp. Additional engine variants including a W12 version and plug-in hybrid will follow in 2018. All new A8s feature quattro all-wheel drive and an 8-speed tiptronic as standard.
The design largely follows the example set by the Audi Prologue concept car shown in Los Angeles three years ago. The rear is timeless elegant and features stunning OLED rear lights. The front is quite conservative and a bit too boring in comparison to the Prologue concept. The side profile has an almost coupe like look but the sharp lines make it loose some of its beauty and appeal.
Inside Audi truly sets a new benchmark. Modern, sophisticated and clean. It is not quite as opulent as the interior of an S-Class but in terms of simplicity and high-tech there is no match on the market today. The plethora of infotainment, MMI and climate control buttons have been reduced to three clean (touch) screens with only the bare essentials remaining as buttons. The software is redesigned from scratch and the screens feature audible and haptic feedback making them intuitive and very user friendly.
The rear seat passenger have a dedicated tablet to control their seats, lights, sun blinds and entertainment screens. The extended wheel base version of the A8 can be equipped with a relaxation seat that includes massage programs and extra electronic adjustments.
Audi also placed significant efforts in making the A8 quieter than ever before. At the same time they introduce active noise cancelling and the Bang & Olufsen Advanced Sound system with 3D sound. It contains 23 loudspeakers that replicate high quality music pieces as if there are performed live on stage right in front of you. The 3D sound is generated in real time by the digital sound processor of the 1,920 watt amplifier.
A lot of effort also went in to the development of a new adaptive air suspension with some particularly interesting optional extras including the Audi AI active suspension. Electric actuators on all wheels allow the car to adapt to bumps in the road before you reach them effectively keeping the car stable and smooth. This is similar to the Magic Body Control offered in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but unlike the S-Class it can also be ordered in combination with all-wheel drive and all available engines. It also enables some nice features like raising the car about 4 cm when opening the door so it is easier to get in- and out of the vehicle. And in case of a side accident the vehicle rises 8cm in a split second on the side of the impact to protect the passengers.
The Audi A8 is the first vehicle to feature a laser scanner, long range radar, four mid-range radars, 360 degree cameras and up to 12 ultrasound sensors. All these allow the vehicle to create a real-time image of it’s surroundings. These are used by over 40 driver assistance systems which include new iterations of some of our favorites like adaptive cruise control and lane assist but also completely new systems like curb warning and maneuvering assist which automatically brakes when you are about to hit something at low speeds.
All data is fed into a new central driver assistance controller known as zFas. This little automotive supercomputer has more computing power than that of a dozen cars of the previous generation combined. The availability of computing power also through the graphics chips provided by Nvidia allows for some very cool new features. One of my favorites is the new 3D image of the car in the parking screen. In addition to the front, rear and side cameras the new Audi A8 can also show a helicopter view of itself complete with its surroundings. The car is also full animated showing indicators, lights and steering angles. Wow!
Although the new A8 grew in size once again and Audi added a tonne of new technology to it’s flagship limousine, the engineers did manage to make it slightly lighter than it’s predecessor. On the road there is yet another innovation that has the biggest impact on the driving dynamics though. The Audi A8 is the first Audi to come (optionally) with dynamic all-wheel steering. This not only increases maneuverability of the flagship at low speeds significantly and reduces the turning circle tremendously. It also adds high speed stability, reduce body roll and has another hidden aspect. Thanks to the rear wheels turning up to 5 degrees the A8’s turning point will be closer to the rear passenger reducing lateral G-forces and providing a more comfortable ride in the backseat.
Last but not least you might wonder why I haven’t mentioned the A8’s halo feature; the Audi AI traffic jam pilot which would take over all driving tasks in traffic jams up to 60 km/h. It would be the world’s first level 3 autonomous driving system. The answer is as simple as trivial; because it was not available on our test cars and it remains uncertain when customers can order it as the legal base for autonomous vehicles is not cleared yet in countries around the world.
The new Audi A8 truly wow’ed me on many levels. ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ is embraced in the best possible way. There are so many highlights that it is impossible to mention them all but the new interior, adaptive suspension, rear wheel steering and new assistance systems clearly stand out. I find it just a shame that the front design is nowhere near as daring as the new technology onboard.