Audi’s New A8 Flagship Oozes Technology, Class
Four-Wheel Drive, Aluminium Body
Computer Detects Wandering Pedestrians, Illuminates Junctions
rating ***** out of 5
“you would think that a car with a base price so high might include things like leather seats, mobile phone package, multi-function steering wheel, sun roof and “through-load facility”. If you thought that you’d be wrong”
LE CASTELLET, France – The new Audi A8 flagship might look eerily like the old one, but the understated exterior hides a bunch of new technologies which enhance safety and driving performance.
The satellite navigation system talks to the engine management computer so that if you accelerate towards a corner, the computer won’t allow a higher gear on the eight-speed automatic to be engaged. When you approach a junction, the lights will automatically spread to illuminate a broader area to identify traffic which might appear from both sides of a cross roads. As you accelerate to cruising speed on a highway, the lights will focus much further ahead. If you are driving in town after dark, an infrared, thermal imaging camera will identify people up to 400 yards ahead. People, and presumably animals, are highlighted as yellow if they stick to the sidewalk, but became red and trigger a buzzer if they step out into the road. The adaptive radar cruise control slows the car when it sees slower moving traffic ahead, then accelerates again when the coast is clear. If you select sports mode for the transmission, the seat belts will tighten a little. The sunroof is well named; it incorporates solar panels which augment the batteries.
All A8s have four-wheel drive as standard, (although a two-wheel version will be available later) which gives it a unique selling point compared with the competition including the Jaguar XJ, BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S class and Lexus LS. In common with the Jaguar, the A8 is built mainly in aluminium. The new A8 is longer and wider than its predecessor and the wheel base has been stretched by 48 mm-1.7 inches, chiefly benefitting the rear seat passengers.
Impressive rate of knots
The engine choices are difficult because even the least powerful will whisk the car along at an impressive rate of knots. There’s the 4.2 litre V8 gasoline motor which produces 367 hp, propelling this massive beast from rest to 60 mph in about 5-1/2 seconds. You might go for the 4.2 litre V8 diesel, a 3.0 litre diesel or a 3.0 litre turbocharged gasoline engine. Expect a hybrid next year and a W-12 model too. The 4.2 V8 petrol is said to be 15 per cent more fuel efficient than the previous engine, and the V8 diesel is claimed to be 20 per cent more economical than its predecessor. That’s helped by the eight speed ZF automatic gearbox.
On the sweeping bends and highways around Le Castellet, a hamlet about 15 miles north of the Mediterranean port city of Marseilles where the launch was based, the A8 V8 petrol engine version felt potent but sure-footed. The steering was direct and precise. The all-round air suspension with electronic shock absorption control eliminated any roll. The double-glazing eliminates most extraneous noises, although Audi has made sure that the fabulous roar made by the V8 under hard acceleration is discreetly audible. The brakes were surprisingly slow to bite, unlike many German cars, which seem overly sharp and harsh. The V8 diesel was so beautifully engineered you couldn’t really tell the difference from the petrol version; at least from the inside.
Luxury the watchword
There, as you would expect from a car whose prices start at £63,340, simple luxury is the watchword, with beautiful leather and wood. The heated electric seats massage your back. The stitching on the leather upholstery is Rolls Royce like. The V8 petrol version at the launch was loaded with goodies which raised the price to an eye-watering £89,700, although you would think that a car with a base price so high might include things like leather seats, mobile phone package, multi-function steering wheel, sun roof and “through-load facility £340”.
If you thought that you’d be wrong.
The A8 4.2 TDI SE Exec started at £65,390, but soared on to £95,050 with a massive package of stuff including “Night vision assistant with pedestrian detection £2,000 “, “Seat ventilation and massage function for rear seats £1,400” and “Audi assist package with pre-sense plus £2,820”. I bet that if you had the kind of money needed to buy this car, you wouldn’t even bother to ask what that was.
The new A8 is a little bit longer and wider and not quite so high as the old one but looks very similar, with a few extra creases and design touches. Audi says its customers don’t like to show off their wealth, so the restrained, understated styling continues.
(Audi provided flights and hotel rooms)
Neil Winton – June 25, 2010