► It's the new 2017 Audi A8
► Level 3 autonomous tech
► Prologue-inspired design
We’ve spied it out on the road countless times and it’s been teased to high heaven but it’s finally here: this is the all-new Audi A8 luxury saloon.
Audi has a tall order on its hands when it comes to this class of car; it has to take on the sharp-steering BMW 7-series and super-opulent Mercedes S-Class and come out fighting.
The headlines include a new, subtle design that Audi says ‘delivers on the promise made by the Prologue design study’ and the world premiere of Ingolstadt’s piloted-driving systems that ‘have been developed specifically for highly automated driving.’
Okay, tell me about all of this tech first
You’d better sit down – you’ll be here a while. The new Audi A8 is the brand’s first platform for its new Audi Ai technology, and includes the ‘world premiere’ of its Audi AI traffic jam assist that allows for Level 3 autonomy.
That means that the car can take over at the push of a button on motorways in traffic. It works at speeds of up to 37mph and takes control of accelerating (even from standstill), steering and braking of its own accord. That, according to Audi, means that the driver car can temporarily go about doing other things with their sudden amount of free time.
That doesn’t, of course, mean attempting to nod off at the wheel. There’s a camera facing the driver that activates when the traffic assist is on, which looks for signs that you’re falling asleep and attempts to jolt you awake again.
There’s also remote parking and remote garage pilot, which means that your shiny luxury car will waft into a parking bay or your own garage without you being in the car. You can keep an eye on it using the car’s cameras, which broadcast a live feed to your phone.
Next-gen sensing technology in the form of laser scanner adds a whole extra layer of awareness that the other 23 sensors, cameras and radars can’t already detect. The laser scanner is mounted in the front bumper and blasts out near-infrared light lasers that bounce off surfaces that radar or cameras can’t fully detect.
The optional City assist pack includes active pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic assist for when you’re reversing out of parking bays. Go for the Audi AI Park assist pack and that gets you the parking pilot, 360-degree cameras and even a curb warning if the car thinks you’re about to ding your wheel. If long-distance cruising is your thing, the Tour pack has the traffic jam assist along with adaptive cruise.
The A8 makes use of ‘Car-to-X’ technology by being connected to the cloud through its nav and infotainment systems. That means that it and other current Audis broadcast changes in speed limits or warn other drivers of accidents, broken down vehicles or adverse weather conditions. The service is provided by HERE, which even BMW and Mercedes are working to help improve and refine.
Woah, that’s a lot of tech – what’s the interior like?
Audi says it’s the biggest in its class. A 32mm increase in interior length has meant more space for both the A8 and A8 L.
The interior design looks as if it has been inspired by the Q8 concept and the e-tron Sportback concept revealed in Shanghai earlier this year. There are two large touchscreens that dominate the centre of the dashboard, along with a full-HD Virtual Cockpit display. The higher of the two infotainment screens looks after the navigation and entertainment systems, while the lower one is dedicated to the climate control settings.
In the rear, passengers are treated to first class airline levels of comfort. They can recline their seat electronically and rest their feet on a folding surface attached to the back of the front seat(s). The luxury seating includes heating, ventilation and massage functions and even the footrest can massage your feet.
New Audi A8 engines and performance
All of the A8’s engines are mild hybrids, with a 48-volt electric system picking up the slack. The electrical system means that your A8 can coast without using engine power at speed and provides a fast-acting start/stop system. It’s not just for efficiency, though; the 48-volt system powers some of the A8’s active drive systems, but we’ll come on to those bits later.
At launch, the A8 will be available with two 3.0-litre V6 offerings. The 3.0-litre TFSI petrol provides 282bhp and 368lb ft of torque, while the 3.0-litre TDI has 335bhp and 442lb ft on tap.
When 2018 rolls around, two 4.0-litre V8 engines – a 454bhp V8 TFSI petrol and a 429bhp V8 TDI diesel – will join the range and offer more choice and a range-topping 577bhp 6.0-litre W12 whopper will be made exclusively available for the A8 L.
Audi is also promising an A8 L e-tron quattro in 2018, which incorporates a 3.0-litre TFSI petrol engine and a 14.1kWh lithium-ion battery stored under the boot floor. An all-electric range of 31 miles is promised, and Audi claims that the e-tron model will predict when it can charge its battery when you have an active navigation route planned for maximum efficiency. Audi’s wireless charging capabilities will be standard, but you’ll obviously have to pay extra for your own charging pad.
The 4.0-litre TFSI, W12 and e-tron models have active noise cancellation as standard, while the 3.0-litre TDI, V8 and W12 engines have active engine mounts to help rid the A8 of any vibrations at idle.
Will the A8 handle like a cruise liner?
Audi hopes not. The brand’s quattro all-wheel drive system is standard across the range, which splits the power 40:60 front/rear in normal conditions but can deliver up to 70% of drive to the front and 85% to the rear if driving conditions demand it. All-wheel steering is optional, as is a sport differential for those who are regularly in a hurry.
Air suspension is standard, and Audi will offer ‘Audi AI active suspension’ from launch on the V6 petrol and V8 engines (it’s standard on the W12). The suspension system fully scans the road ahead to pre-warn the springs of any ruts in the road in comfort mode and reduces body roll in dynamic.
Plus, the active suspension system uses 360-degree sensors to prepare the car for an impending accident by raising the body by up to 80mm on the exposed side to provide more protection in a side-on crash. Audi claims that ‘deformation of the cabin and the loads acting on the occupants can be reduced by up to 50%.’
New Audi A8 price and release date
There aren’t any UK prices yet, but Audi says its new A8 luxo-barge will go on sale towards the end of autumn 2017, with a starting price on the continent of 90,600 euros for a regular A8 and 94,100 euros for the extra-long A8 L.
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