Audi A8 (2010): first official news and photos

Published: 30 November 2009

Just unveiled at the 2010 Detroit auto show, this is the new 2010 Audi A8, Ingolstadt’s flagship limo designed to take on the BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-class and Jaguar XJ. Like the previous two generations of A8, the new car is built entirely of aluminium, meaning it achieves some incredible fuel figures. There’s also a gorgeous interior, some very cool gadgets, and the promise from Audi that the A8 will be the sportiest luxury saloon in its class.

Is the new 2010 Audi A8 really tech central?

Yes indeed. And by far the most impressive feature is the new touchpad. Not happy twirling and clicking the MMI dial? Then you can write the name of your destination or the telephone number you want on the pad next to the gearstick and the car will recognise it – over 25,000 characters are stored in the A8’s memory banks (including all scripts from Russian, Chinese, and any which language you care to mention). The latest generation MMI system also has 3D graphics, and the multimedia system stores your music on its hard-drive and then displays your albums in the same style as an iPod.

There’s all the other expected tech too, including night vision with pedestrian recognition, adaptive headlights that work in sync with the sat-nav, adaptive cruise control that can brake the A8 to a standstill, plus speed limit detection, lane change warning devices, parking cameras, and a Bang & Olufsen sound system with 19 speakers and over 1400 watts of ear-bashing.

There’s also Audi’s new Pre Sense safety system, available in three guises. The basic version closes the windows and sunroof, tightens the seatbelts and flashes the hazard lights in the event of an extreme skid or emergency braking. More advanced versions help mitigate against front- and rear-end impacts, either working with the adaptive cruise control to apply the A8’s brakes, or moving the front seats into a position to help better protect the passengers. Very like Merc’s Pre-Safe, in other words.

The A8 is made of aluminium, bringing a lower kerbweight than its steel rivals and better performance figures as well, says Audi. It’s also 24% stiffer than its predecessor. The new regular A8 is vast: now 5137mm long, 1949mm wide and 1460mm tall, up from 5062/1894/1444mm, meaning it’s longer and wider than any rival. As for the looks, they borrow heavily from the A4 and A5, making the A8 look quite low and sleek, if not particularly visually exciting.

What about inside the new Audi A8?

Absolutely stunning. It’s similar to the current car but more curvaceous and welcoming. There’s a hint of Renault Laguna in the layout of the buttons on the dash, but there the similarity ends. The central screen that slides out of the dash measures eights inches, the screen between the dials is seven, and you control the ZF gearbox by either rocker switches on the steering wheel, or via a gearstick inspired by a yacht’s thrust lever. It’s shift-by-wire too, so the selector clicks back into its central position after you’ve selected P, N, D or R.

The cars at Audi’s launch party in Miami were all high-spec, with Alcantara door inserts and roof linings, plus gorgeous wood inlays on the dash, doors, front and rear centre consoles and on the backs of the front seats. A long-wheelbase A8 won’t be available until the end of 2010, but there’s more than enough room in the back already.

What’s under that aluminium bonnet to make it sporty?

From launch there will be three engines. They are:

4.2 V8, 366bhp, 328lb ft @ 3500rpm, 5.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 29.7mpg, 219g/km

3.0 V6, 247bhp, 406lb ft @ 1500-3000rpm, 6.6sec 0-62mph, 42.8mpg, 174g/km
4.2 V8, 345bhp, 590lb ft @ 1750-2750rpm, 5.5sec 0-62mph, 37.2mpg, 199g/km

The 3.0-litre diesel comes as standard with stop-start tech, offers a 22% mpg improvement over the outgoing car, and its 42.8mpg and 174g/km bests the BMW 730d’s 41.5mpg and 178g/km. The V8 petrol is also 13% more economical, and the eight-cylinder diesel is 19% more efficient. All three variants come as standard with Audi’s four-wheel drive Quattro transmission – split 40:60 front-to-rear – and an eight-speed automatic transmission.

A second 3.0-litre V6 diesel will join the engine range shortly after launch. It will be front-wheel drive and have 201bhp, so it achieves a positively parsimonious 47.1mpg and a stunningly low 159g/km CO2. Audi’s supercharged 3.0-litre V6 will appear towards the end of 2010 as an entry-level petrol engine, while top-dog V10 and W12 units will also follow in the next 18 months.

And to make the A8 handle, Audi’s Drive Select system is fitted to every car, letting you tweak the steering, auto ‘box, engine response and (standard fit) air suspension. The company’s Sport differential is also standard on the 4.2 TDI, and an option on the other cars.

How much will a new Audi A8 cost?

Prices start at £53,595 for the 3.0 TDI SE, which comes with 18-inch wheels, adaptive air suspension, Drive Select, a tyre pressure monitoring system, a DAB tuner, leather seats, cruise control, four-zone climate control, double glazing and customisable LED interior. Another £2500 takes you up to SE Executive trim, adding 19in wheels, electric boot closing, a rear parking camera and keyless entry. The 4.2 petrol is £59,500, the V8 diesel is £61,500, the new A8 can be ordered now, and the first deliveries will be in March 2010.

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy