Audi has pulled all the stops to make the new, fourth generation of its flagship luxury sedan, the A8. In its latest iteration, the car-maker with the four rings has slingshotted the A8 into the most modern of technologies (to be) legally allowed on the public roads.
The new A8 was unveiled at the Audi Summit in Barcelona, showcasing Audi’s new design language and has been developed for a high level of automated driving. Its wide Singleframe grille gives it a dominant stance of sophistication and sporty elegance. The HD Matrix LED headlights with Audi’s laser lighting tech and the LED light strip connecting the OLED technology taillights add to its presence, day or night.
But it’s what lies underneath that classy exterior that makes the new A8 well-equipped to take on its segment rivals. Step inside and you enter the luxurious lounge of the new Audi flagship and its bigger than its predecessor in both standard and long wheelbase form. It follows the Audi Space Frame principle with 58 percent of the body consisting of aluminium parts which offer increased strength while the rear panel is made of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer for more torsional rigidity. All of these structural improvements make for better handling, improved ride comfort and a quieter cabin.
The best seat in the house is the rear-right, which in the long wheelbase version comes with relaxation seat, features many adjustment options including a footrest that folds out the backrest of the front passenger seat. The relaxation seat package offers back-massage functionality, electrically adjustable headrests, footrests, a longer centre console, folding tables, four-zone air-con, and a rear seat entertainment system comprising of two Audi tablets and a touchscreen OLED-screen remote. Just thinking about it makes me feel a bit more relaxed.
Audi has also introduced a new touchscreen cockpit layout with multiple screens and fewer knobs and buttons. In the centre of the instrument panel lies a 10.1-inch touch display which controls the infotainment display, then there is the Audi Virtual Cockpit behind the wheel while a second touch display on the console is used to operate the climate control and convenience features. You can also input text via handwriting recognition but the driver can also activate an array of functions using spoken commands.
The real party-trick are its three new AI systems with the software and the plethora of cameras and sensors on board, which is why Audi claims the all-new A8 is the world’s first production automobile to have been developed for conditional Level 3 autonomy. I wonder if Tesla might have something to say about that claim…But let’s get back to these new AI systems. First up is the Audi AI traffic jam pilot which will handle driving in slow-moving traffic up to 60kph, including starting from a stop, accelerating, steering and braking too. It requires zero driver involvement but the AI pilot alerts him or her when hands are needed on the steering wheel. Almost a perfect solution for those tiresome grid-locks eh? Of course, the introducing this function to the car once it goes on sale requires clarity regarding legal parameters for each country and functions will be offered incrementally.
The other two new AI systems aren’t particularly new in this class of luxury, but are in their latest iteration: Audi AI parking pilot and Audi AI garage pilot, both of which can be remotely utilised. It is as it sounds, the new A8 can autonomously park – parallel or perpendicular and even into garages. And get itself out of parking too. Both systems can be used using the myAudi app from your smartphone too, without having to be inside the car. There are more than 40 driving assistance systems on the new A8, including one that detects crossing vehicles.
Mechanical upgrades on the new Audi A8 are also key to the experience. It’s quattro of course, but also with all-wheel steering, Audi’s version of AI active suspension and an electronic chassis platform. The active suspension is an electromechanical system, using electric actuators to alter the load on each of the four wheels individually as per the driving inputs and road surfaces to offer fluid and optimal body control. The AI suspension receives the signals for its adjustment from the electronic chassis platform. A safety function of this intelligent suspension comes into play when the 360-degree sensors pick up an impending side-impact at more than 25kph, it raises the body from that side by up to 80mm in half a second to protect the occupants better.
At the heart of the matter, the new A8 uses mild-hybrid technology for high efficiency, especially when coasting between 55kph and 160kph. It will get launched in Europe with Audi’s re-engineered turbo V6 units, the petrol making 335bhp and the diesel producing 282bhp. More engines are expected to follow in 2018, a W12 and a plug-in hybrid included.
Take a closer look at the all-new A8 in the gallery below: